BMW delivered two totally different takes on plug-in cars when it introduced the i8 and i3 in 2014. The i8 was a futuristic-looking sports car with a plug-in hybrid powertrain, while the i3 was an all-electric hatchback with an optional range-extending gasoline engine. As BMW’s lineup of plug-in vehicles continues to grow, the new 2018 BMW i3s injects a little sportiness into the updated hatchback. Although the i3s makes no promises of being an electric M3, BMW says that the i3s was given a high-performance motor and a sport suspension. Color us intrigued!
To see how BMW’s wild little EV holds up against the likes of the Chevrolet Bolt, Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model 3, we spent a week in the 2018 BMW i3s equipped with the optional Range Extender, commonly referred to as REx.
2018 BMW i3s Exterior
The 2018 BMW i3s is easy to distinguish from the standard i3 thanks to its fender extensions, more aggressive front and rear fascias and the 20-inch lightweight alloy wheels. What’s even better about the i3s is its aggressive stance, which has been lowered by 10mm (about .4 inches) and gets an extra 1.6 inches of track width.
Regardless of whether you’re looking at the i3 or the all-new i3s, this is a truly unique-looking vehicle. With its signature kidney grille and expressive LED headlights, it’s unmistakably a BMW, but at the same time, it’s one of the cutest subcompacts on the market. This tester came in the Melbourne Red Metallic (a new color for 2018), which was complemented by a two-tone effect — thanks to Frozen Grey body accents — and gloss black wheels.
2018 BMW i3s Interior
While the exterior is certainly polarizing, it’s hard to find any legit complaints about the interior. For starters, despite its subcompact stature, the interior is roomy enough for four adults, and that’s a huge credit to the pillar-less door openings. This vast open space also results in excellent cargo capacity with 15.1 cubic feet available behind the rear seats and 36.9 cubic feet with the rear seats folded.
Showing its greener side, the cabin is decked out with recycled plastics, renewable raw materials, and natural fibers. BMW says that over 80 percent of the surfaces visible to the passengers are made from recycled materials or renewable resources. These surfaces look cool and are great for the environment, but they don’t exactly have the feel that buyers will expect from a car starting at $44,450.
Our tester was fitted with the optional Giga World interior, which included a mix of leather and cloth on the seating surfaces, and light eucalyptus wood trim on the instrument panel. As a splash of color, this car also came with iPerformance Blue seatbelts (a $300 option only offered on the i3s) to match the blue accents found on the BMW badges.
2018 BMW i3s Powertrain
All 2018 i3 models get an upgraded lithium-ion battery (previously an option on the 2014-2017 model) for added driving range, but the big news is definitely the new i3s model. With an output of 184 horsepower and 199 lb-ft of torque, this model produces 14 more horsepower and 15 more lb-ft than the standard i3. BMW states that the i3s is capable of accelerating from zero to 60 mph in as quick as 6.8 seconds, but adding the range-extending engine drops that to 7.6 seconds, Either way, you’re looking at about .4 seconds faster than the standard 2018 i3.
The best part about driving an EV is the instant torque and quick acceleration, and while the i3s probably won’t win many drag races, it’s still really fun to drive! Even better, you don’t have to hypermile to get EPA-rated EV driving range of 97 miles,* but that range drops considerable if you run the HVAC (turning on the A/C immediately dropped the estimated range by 16 miles). Charging times vary from as little as 40 minutes — for 80 percent charge — using a DC fast charger to about 11 hours using a standard 240-volt outlet. When the battery is depleted, that’s when the 0.6-liter two-cylinder range extender comes in handy. Paired with a 2.3-gallon gasoline tank (premium recommended), the i3s almost doubles its range to 180 miles, but it also drops fuel economy to an average 35 mpg.
On the road, the bigger, wider wheels (175/55R-20 in front and 195/50R-20 at the rear versus the 155/70R-19 tires found on the i3) have given the i3s improved handling, but the car still tends to track a bit on wavy roads. Overall, the 2018 BMW i3s has received enough enhancements to make it more entertaining to drive — especially once you master its one-pedal driving capability.
2018 BMW i3s Safety
The 2018 BMW i3 has yet to be tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That being said, it comes loaded with plenty of standard safety features, and this tester added Park Distance Control (a $750 option) as well as adaptive cruise control and active drive assist, which were part of the $2,500Tech + Driving Assist Package.
2018 BMW i3s Overall
If you’re looking for an urban vehicle that’s both fun and responsible to drive, the expanded 2018 BMW i3 lineup – including the new i3s – is a great choice. This car definitely isn’t for everybody, but with a carbon fiber body riding on an aluminum chassis and all-electric powertrain paired to a range-extending gasoline engine, it’s about as futuristic as we probably could imagined ten years ago. Being so advanced, we really can’t fault BMW for pricing the 2018 i3 starting at $44,450,** but it’s worth nothing that’s before any government incentives or rebates. The i3s is priced a little higher at $47,650 ($51,500 with the optional engine),** and this well-equipped – yet not fully loaded – tester had an as-tested price of $58,695.**
Make sure to visit your local AutoNation-affiliated BMW dealership and test drive the 2018 BMW i3s today!
*EPA values are estimates. Actual mileage will vary and depends on several factors including driving habits and vehicle condition.
**Vehicle MSRP of $69,900.00 excludes taxes, title, transportation, options, and dealer fees.
*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.
**Based on 2018 EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.