With the looks of a concept car, the build quality of a supercar, and some of the most advanced technology in the automotive spectrum, the 2018 BMW i3s seeks to take the compact electric segment to a new level. The i3s is not what you’d call a performance-based electric, but instead a daily driver and city car that comes with the piece of mind of a range extender generator. With room for four adults along with ample storage, it goes about the business of delivering quiet and smooth transportation with an overall feel that’s pleasurable to live with on a day-to-day basis.
2018 BMW i3s Exterior
There are very few cars out there that evoke a reaction like that of the 2018 BMW i3s. People stared and admired the saloon-style doors, and innovative shape, and asked plenty of questions about the carbon fiber tub. The i3s sits on a 101.2-inch wheelbase and rolls on staggered 20-inch BMW i-light alloy wheels. The low rolling resistance tires are true pizza cutters, with a 175/55-series up front and 195/50-series in the rear. At first glance they look like wagon wheels, yet on the i3s their appearance is perfectly at home, as they were designed to maximize overall efficiency.
Our 2018 tester came finished in Melbourne Red Metallic paint covering the main body panels, and gloss black gracing the hood, roof, lower body cladding, and rear hatch. Some people viewed the i3s with intrigue, while others dismissed it as an eco-friendly toy. And while it is boxy, that squared-off shape makes for some amazing outward visibility, liberal amounts of storage, and an interior that’s nothing short of outstanding. A stout front end with a revised lower fascia, signature kidney bean callouts and LED-wrapped headlamps gives the i3s a bit of aggression. Out back, large LED tail lamps and a blacked-out lift gate help to round out the unique design.
2018 BMW i3s Interior
With an interior that’s like nothing else in production, the BMW i3s seeks to impress by incorporating innovative design along with large amounts of lightweight and ecologically friendly materials. The dash, for instance, is constructed of CFRP (carbon fiber reinforced polymer), wood and plastic. The high-back heated front seats utilize a combination of leather trim and fabric inserts to offer a fair amount of lateral and lumbar support. The cabin is airy and spacious with larger drivers like myself (6’4”/240-lbs) appreciating the substantial amounts of overall head and legroom. And while the rear seats are comfortable, those over six-feet tall may find themselves cramped. Cargo capacity is generous, with 15.1 cu ft. with the rear seats up and 36.9 cubic-feet available with the rear seats folded flat.
Once seated, both driver and passengers alike will notice two readout screens on the dash. Screen one sits dead center behind the steering wheel, and displays overall battery charge, speed, and remaining EV range, along with a fuel gauge for the range extender generator. The center screen is used in conjunction with BMWs iDrive system (think audio, navigation, back-up camera, in-car settings).
Intuitive climate and audio controls fit nicely into the center dash, while a small console houses a few cup holders, the armrest and the iDrive control panel. Many will view the i3 as a compact car, but trust me when I say it’s anything but. The interior designers have done a masterful job of creating a cabin that fills one with a sense of tranquility from the moment they enter. It’s beautifully constructed, comfortable and when combined with one of the three different trim packages that BMW offers (Deka World, Mega World, Giga World or Tera World) can be made to suit even the needs of the most demanding owner.
2018 BMW i3s Performance:
With 11 additional horsepower and 15 lb-ft of additional torque over the standard i3, BMW seeks to infuse a bit of sport into their rear-drive, eco-friendly standout. With 181 horsepower and 199 lb-ft of torque now on tap, the 2018 i3s with range extender scoots to 60 mph in just 7.6-seconds (6.8-seconds for full electric). There’s also a new SPORT-driving mode that, when combined with the i3s’s stiffer overall suspension, results in a more planted feel both around town and on the highway. But keep in mind that the i3s is not a sports car, but instead, a more refined version of a base i3. And while the handling is decent thanks to 50/50 weight distribution and a low center of gravity, understand that you’re still driving in a car with a curb weight of over 3,100-pounds on ultra-skinny tires.
On the road, the i3s is actually quite entertaining. It will cruise along at 75 mph without issue, with very little in the way of wind or road noise. Lifting off the throttle activates the regenerative braking system. It happens abruptly and makes the i3s decelerate from speed so quickly that it feels as though you’re applying the brake pedal. That quick deceleration does activate the brake lights (even though your foot may not be on the brake pedal), so keep that in mind when you’re behind the wheel.
The i3s with the range extender generator is EPA rated for an overall range of up to 180 miles. That means up to 114 miles on pure electric, with another 66 or so miles available from the two-cylinder gas generator. Charging time varies depending on your charge method. Level 1 Charging consists of 110v or 120v outlet (standard home outlet) and will generated up to four miles of usable range per hour. Level 2 Fast Charging (home or public) utilizes a 220v outlet, and generates up to 26 miles of usable range per hour, while Level 3 Charging (public stations only) utilizes a 480v charger and will give the i3s up to 80% of its range in just 30-mins (90 miles or so).
2018 BMW i3s Safety
Equipped with the latest in safety technology, the i3s comes equipped with such features as airbags throughout the cabin, dynamic stability control, anti-lock brakes, adaptive brake lights, electronic stability control, traction control, daytime LED running lights, a rear view camera and more.
Additional safety features can be seen at BMWUSA.com.
2018 BMW i3s Overall
With an outstanding interior, funky styling, and an eco-friendly footprint, the 2018 BMW i3s kept me smiling from the moment I got into it until the end of my journey. This is one of those rare vehicles that stimulates conversation and causes people to ask interesting questions about electric vehicles. And while its “as tested” price of $58,995.00 won’t please everyone, those lucky folks that do opt to go this route will embark on one of the best EV driving experiences today’s market has to offer.
Drop by your local AutoNation-affiliated BMW dealer today to check one out!
*Fuel economy values (mpg) are EPA estimates. Actual mileage will vary and depends on several factors including driving habits and vehicle condition.
**Vehicle MSRP of $58,995.00 excludes taxes, title, transportation, options, and dealer fees.