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BMW | Car Reviews / 11-19-18

2018 BMW i3s with Range Extender

Tickling the Giant


By Kevin C. Limjoco Photo by by Andréas N. Delos Reyes

 

I already love the standard BMW i3 from the way it is built, what it represents, and how it retains the core driving essence as an offspring from the stable of ultimate driving machines. It may be unconventional but its packaging and engineering are simply fantastic. The application of a carbon-fiber composite passenger cell to a generously aluminum chassis, coach-like rear passenger doors, fusion with organic eco-friendly elements from the kenaf hemp-reinforced interior plastics, to the treated natural-fiber eucalyptus wood (or dark oak wood) cabin trim, to leather seats tanned with olive-oil extracts, a key fob produced with a castor-oil-based polymer and the list goes on, all make the ultra-modern BMW such a compelling premium alternative fuel solution.

The i3 is tall and airy but capacity is enjoyed by only 4 adult passengers, its only real poke-in-the-eye for the model. For this year, BMW introduced this special “S” (in oddly lower-case) variant which mildly addresses the desires of the brand’s fans who want more oomph in their daily commuter. Thankfully,the very handsome cabin is almost completely carried-over. Handling, braking, and thrust improvements are fairly mild but nonetheless tangible. The new exterior changes are a mixed bag, the drag coefficient actually degraded from a high of .29cd on the standard i3 to .33cd on our test unit. There are two new exterior colors offered combined with black A-pillars that extend through the roofline with a matt chrome accent bar, one being Imperial Blue, along with the new redesigned 40 mm wider flared bumpers on both ends, although the rear swells around the equally wider rear track of the 20 mm wider wheels. Our test unit had the in-your-face Melbourne Red Metallic shade. All the new lighting is full-LED. The new sport suspension drops the ride height by 10 mm. So that combined with the new 20-inch mixed alloys (175/55R20 89T front and 195/50R20 93T rear Bridgestone Ecopia EP500 tires), which are both 20 mm wider than in the standard hatch’s wheels, made the i3s surely grip better for more spirited handling but at a sacrifice of a touch less ride compliance.

Outright performance gains are unusual, the standard pure-EV i3 is actually still quicker from 0-100 km/h in a straight-line by 3-tenths of a second,but you will have range-anxiety. The quickest i3 is the pure electric “s” model which is almost 4-tenths quicker than the standard hatch. But if you are like me, I would want to enjoy the i3 with the 274-pound range extender two-cylinder gasoline generator that does increase weight that effectively reduces some acceleration from rest but it conversely creates a richer driving experience with more confidence thanks to the additional 112 kilometers distance. The actual weight gain from the i3 to i3s extended range model is only 40 pounds (20 kg.) so you do get a lot of new equipment and ability for the extra ballast. The stronger powerplant (from 168 hp to 181 hp and torque from 184 to 199) particularly improves acceleration throughout the real-world powerband with the most profound gains achieved from 80 km/h to 120 km/h by almost a full second. Top speed was also marginally increased from 149 km/h to 160 km/h.

The BMW i3s does drive very well but total range still needs improvement; supposedly, a higher capacity 120Ah battery should be available within a year’s time. It still does tramline thanks to the still narrow tires but it is nonetheless a very desirable, enjoyable, and elegant urban road warrior.

Specifications

Engine

EnginePermanent-magnet synchronous AC, 33.2-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, 25 kW Generator (driven by a DOHC 8-valve 647-cc inline-2, 38 hp, 41 lb-ft)
Displacement647-cc
Fuel InjectorDOHC 8-valve
Max Power (bhp @ rpm) 184 hp
Max Torque (lb/ft @ rpm)199 lb-ft
Transmission1-speed Direct Drive

Performance

Top Speed160 km/h (100 mph) Governed
0-100 km/h | 0-62 mph7.1 seconds

Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions

Fuel Milage (km/l)MPGe 109 combined (Generator: 33 mpg City / 36 mpg Highway)

Ratings

Price as Tested (PHP)US$ 58,695.00
What's GreatClassy, core BMW personality intact, outstanding use of modern and organic materials
What's Not So288-kilometer maximum range even with the range extender, I expected it to be even more dynamic
C! Editors Rating9.5/10