By Wayne Gorrett (first published in Beautiful South magazine)
BMW has upgraded its i3 electric car range for 2017. But at first glance you’d be hard-pressed to spot the difference, as BMW have secreted away the upgrades literally under the carpet.
As before, the car’s battery bank lies under the floor, but the new 94Ah (ampere-hour) suffix denotes the amount of power those batteries can store. Whereas the previous BMW i3’s held only 60Ah, the new 94Ah models store half that much again, offering an encouraging 50 percent increase in the all-electric range to 195 miles.
Go for the petrol-powered range extender (REx) version and BMW says you’ll be looking at a reassuring 276 miles from a single charge. Despite the additional range, the technical dimensions of the new battery pack are exactly the same as its predecessor.
As far as real-world distance figures go, it would be safe to anticipate approximately 160 and 220 miles respectively, which is still very impressive. Remember, in a city or semi-urban environment, there’s more frequent regenerative braking taking place than that experienced out on the motorway.
On the i3 REx, the range extender motor delivers a maximum output of 38hp and powers a generator in order to produce electricity. It operates on a needs-based and highly efficient principle. As soon as the charging level of the lithium ion batteries drops to a certain level, the range extender kicks in to keep the charging level constant thus extending the range in everyday conditions.
The 2017 i3 94Ah also benefits from improved efficiency and DC rapid-charge as standard. AC charging is now multi-phase allowing charging of 3.7, 7.4 or 11 kW, this represents a 50 percent increase compared to the previous BMW i3 60Ah. This means the charging time for the new 94Ah model is less than three hours, in spite of the significantly larger battery capacity. It can also be charged at home using a standard three-pin plug or by specifying a BMW i Wallbox.
You definitely wouldn’t miss the BMW i3 on the road. It is quite funky and draws admiring looks from passers-by. With the environment in mind, every effort has been made to keep it as light as possible and the choice of materials reflect that.
On the road, it’s interesting – but in a good way. It’s no sporty B-road slayer but it is no shrinking violet either. It is sharp and zippy with 250Nm of seamless torque available as soon as you prod the accelerator. The sprint from 0-62mph takes 7.3 seconds – much the same as a Mazda MX-5.
Enter a corner with a tad too much enthusiasm and the car’s height, narrow tyres and front-wheel drive layout make it roll and understeer, but the trade-off is ride quality. It’s a comfortable machine, with suspension that’s firm without being jarring, and soft seats that offer more support than you’d expect just from looking at them.
The one-touch accelerator slows the car down quickly as soon as you ease off the power – and will do so even to a stop. The strong (but adjustable) regenerative braking takes getting used to but is easy enough to figure out in just a few miles. Indeed, with due diligence of the road conditions ahead, you could drive this car with just the accelerator pedal.
In a bid to reassure buyers who may be nervous about living with unfamiliar electric drive technology, BMW provides an eight-year and 100,000-mile warranty for the lithium-ion battery pack. The rest of the car – including the electric power system and the motor itself – is covered by a standard three-year guarantee, much like the rest of the BMW range.
The new BMW i3 makes a great second car for anyone who regularly drives into the city centre, but even with the extra range, it’s of limited use as a tourer. Nonetheless, if you want a nippy, environmentally friendly hatchback to complement your main set of wheels, but don’t want to sacrifice the premium feel, the upgraded BMW i3 is the car for you.