The BMW i3 has a new sportier stablemate with the ‘S’ model. The Chunkier EV is 40mm wider thanks to flared wheel arches filled with more rubber and its ride height is 10mm lower giving the ‘S’ a more purposeful stance.
The tall and quirky i3 could never be accused of being sportscar like in profile, but it is distinctive – especially with the new S treatment. Behind the wheel there is little visual change but under your right foot there is more power available at 184hp despite the battery’s capacity remaining at 33.2kWh. Being an EV the zip is there immediately when you accelerate, unlike an internal combustion engine that need a build up of revs, and this makes the rear wheel drive BMW i3S is a lot of fun.
The i3S is a striking car to look at. The i3 sits on 19 inch rims with very skinny 155/70 tyres while the S sits on 20 inch wheels with wider 195/55 tyres that develop more friction with the road surface and better cornering grip. Revised springs and shock absorbers/dampers give a firmer ride that benefits when cornering but can otherwise make the ride quality a little unforgiving on poorer surfaces. The extra power and grip means there is a range penalty compared to the stock i3 but I still managed about 160 kilometres range on a single charge and that test run included sections of motorway… the nemesis of Evs!
The rear opening back doors are still very cool and cabin space is great and airy for four adults. The cockpit and cabin is still innovative with recycled materials proudly on show. BMW parts and switch gear add a degree of familiarity. The automatic has a stubby steering column mounted gear drive selector and start button assembly that immediately makes you aware of the car’s extraordinary credentials.
Like all Evs there driving experience is simple, effortless and refreshing. Instant urge is on hand when you press the pedal on the right with 0-100km/h taking just 6.9 seconds. With Evs there is that lovely feeling you get when you lift off the accelerator and enjoy the reciprocal regenerative braking. This feeling is one of the best EV drivers enjoy and make you feel that bit superior to conventional car drivers who waste so much energy as they slow down using stone age friction brakes. (That said I do love carbon brakes in high performance cars – especially when doing 280km/h on the autobahn).
Behind the wheel the i3S has a tall driving position that is commanding and a byproduct of the battery pack sitting under the entire cabin area. The i3S has a bit more punch with more horsepower and torque delivered to the electric motor driven wheels. I’ve seen the original i3 being built in Germany and remain massively impressed by the engineering, construction and materials used in the i3. The plant itself is whisper quiet as all that the machines do is glue and bond materials with the occasional hydro-forming of materials adding some noise. The i3 and i8 were both developed and built with no expense spared by BMW. Materials such as the highly innovative twist on F1 carbon fibre ‘CFRP’ carbon fibre reinforced plastic help reduce weight yet are strong.
In Ireland the entry BMW 170hp i3 can be bought as a pure EV (from €47,950) or with a 650cc petrol powered range extender (from €52,480). The modified motorcycle engine is perfect for range anxious buyers or those traveling further distances regularly as it will always keep you mobile and on the go if the batteries run too low. The BMW i3S starts from €52,130 (€56,660 with Range Extender) and while that is quite a bit even for a premium brand, the i3S delivers quite a bit too. Ireland has some great Electric vehicle incentives between SEAI grants and zero per cent BIK (benefit in kind tax) and there is even a 100 per cent year one capital write down to tempt coompanies down the EV road. Annual road tax is €120.