BMW has revealed a sporty addition to its i3 electric small car range with a more driver-focused i3s that will join the pure electric i3 and its range-extended version as part of the model’s mid-life update.
The more purposeful-looking and performance-enhanced BMW i3s will make its public debut at the Frankfurt motor show next month alongside its lightly updated sibling that has been doing the zero-emissions rounds since 2013.
For the i3s, the car maker has boosted its power by 10kW and 20Nm over the standard i3's output (which remains unchanged with the update), for a new figure of 135kW and 270Nm. As a result, the i3s’ zero to 100km dash now takes 6.9 seconds compared with 7.3sec for the standard i3.
The more potent version of the i3 shares the same battery as its existing sibling, with the extra grunt liberated through a redesigned and optimised drivetrain and motor controller. The control electronics of many EVs and hybrids account for significant losses, and BMW says its new i3s offers a 40 percent improvement in that respect over the non-s i3.
Handling and road holding is also improved with a sports suspension that has unique dampers, anti-roll bars, and 10mm lowering springs, as well as a 40mm widened track for greater stability and dynamics. The sharpened chassis is complemented by 20mm wider tyres on 20-inch rims.
With a more competent chassis, the i3s is also allowed a higher limited top speed and a V-max of 160km/h, compared with the 150km/h limit of the non-s i3.
Drivers of the i3s can also select a new Sport mode using its Driver Experience Controller, which sharpens the accelerator’s sensitivity and makes the steering tighter.
Among the likes of BMW’s potent M-cars and the i8 high-performance hybrid, the i3 has not previously received much recognition as a driver’s car, but BMW says the new version has a fresh stability system that even allows modest power oversteer or drifting.
Like the standard i3, the new i3s will be available as either a pure EV with a 94Ah lithium ion battery and a range of up to 280km, or a range-extended version that uses a 28kW twin-cylinder petrol engine and small fuel tank to boost effective range depending on the driving style, wheel size, and conditions - BMW estimates around 150km of extra range.
The car maker describes the "everyday driving" range (the feasible distance possible when driving in urban areas in 20 degrees and using auxiliary features such as air conditioning) as around 200km for the EV version, or 330km for the range extender.
Visually, the new i3s can be distinguished with a unique bodykit including redesigned front and rear bumpers, wheel-arch extensions, and gloss black trims.
The standard version also has a new look with the update and it too gets a different front and rear styling, including all-LED headlights and a palette of special colours.
It’s the same story on the inside with a selection of new tones and materials, including a new blue seatbelt option. According to BMW, 80 per cent of the i3’s materials visible to occupants are made from renewable resources.
There’s new tech inside as well with the latest iDrive6 version of the infotainment system plugged into a 10.25-inch central screen with Professional navigation, and a higher 1440x540-pixel resolution display.
The i3s marks the first time BMW has introduced a performance-enhanced version of the i-family vehicle and paves the way for a similar move with the i8 sports car, which was launched a year after its i3 sibling.
The new i3s and updated i3 range are expected to share the floor at Frankfurt with the new X7 concept and a significant spread of the company’s latest metal.