Driving electric still has a lot of prejudices. Range anxiety, long charging and so forth. But are those things still relevant in the latest electric car coming from Munich? The BMW i3s with optional range extender has all the answers we need.
The BMW i3s is the brand’s sportier and more powerful version of the recently face-lifted i3. The most notable feature of the facelift is an improved and bigger battery. The 33 kWh battery now offers up to 300 km of range throughout the i3 range. The model we tested was the BMW i3s with the optional range extender (referred to as Rex from now). The Rex adds a 647cc two cilinder engine that acts as an electric generator. This 120 kg generator makes the i3s rex’s range drop from 280 km’s to 220 km’s but the benefit of the generator is that it gives you a total real life range of 330 km’s which is really neat. But we’ll get into that a little later.
Beauty is in the i of the beholder
While a lot of people argue on how the car looks. It really has some nice and well thought design features. Probably one of the more eye-catching features is the lowered rear seat windows. And while some might not find it attractive. It allows kids to look outside easier and lower the chance of getting car sickness.
From the front, the car has these aerodynamic wings on the bumper that set it out from the regular i3. The next striking feature is the wide-body arches which is one of my favourite design features added to the i3s. It really sets the car apart and gives it the sporty look it needs.
Freude am fahren
The BMW i3s doesn’t show the biggest power increase at first. The power increases from 170 hp and 250 Nm’s to 184 hp and 270 Nm’s But there’s more than meets the eye.
The i3s gets a more sporty suspension standard that lowers the car 10 mm. And thanks to the wider arches, the BMW i3s gets a 40 mm wider track plus exclusive 20-inch tires that are 20 mm wider than standard. As the result, the car feels firm enough on the road to throw it trough some corners but still comfortable enough to drive it on a daily basis.
But the best thing about the i3s is its electric power. Yes, every i3 is electric but you don’t realise how wonderful instant torque can be once you’re in a big city like Brussels where traffic is so dense and people don’t really care about things as giving way or any regulations for that matter. 0-100 takes 6.9 seconds but you don’t really care about that number. The instant torque that you’re getting makes it feel like you’re flying and easily gets you out of the trickiest spots.
Combined with the sub-10 m turning circle smaller than a Ford Fiesta and you’re looking at one of the best and most fun city cars on sale today.
But it’s not just fun in the city, it’s also very enjoyable on an empty backroad. The i3s will turn in quickly and accelerate out of a corner in a way not many cars can. It’s addicting how the car accelerates every time you get out of a corner. You just want to keep on going until the battery is drained.
As mentioned earlier, the facelift i3s has a 50% bigger battery pumping up the range from 130 km to 280 km. A big leap in battery capacity. And if that doesn’t convince you, you can opt for a 647cc two cilinder petrol engine that acts as a generator. It’s called the Range Extender and what it does is generate electricity to charge up the car’s battery. When activated, the car will switch on the small generator and create the necessary energy to keep the battery in a steady state up until 90 km/h, then the battery gets drained too much to keep the battery charged (hence the name ‘Range Extender’).
The Rex can be activated in the menus as soon as the battery drops down to 75% of its capacity. However, optioning the range extender means you’re increasing the weight of your i3s with about 120 kg’s and that has a negative effect on the range. It drops from 280 to 220 but the added Rex gives around 100 km’s of extra range that you can be refilled in the tiny 9L petrol tank.
It gives you a significant advantage over a full electric BMW i3s because you get less dependent on the range of the electric batteries. We’ve had a real world range in the batteries of about 180 to 200 km’s and an added range of around 90-120 km’s with the Rex.
The final piece to free you of your range anxiety is the public charger map that’s built into the i3s’s navigation. You’ll be amazed by how many chargers are available these days. There’s a few chargers that are still missing on the map but a quick google search on your phone finds the remaining ones available.
One of my favourite things about the BMW i3s was the interior. The Lodge-style interior is a combination of wool-fabric and natural ‘Solaric Braun’ Leather finished with eucalyptus wood. The dashboard is made from composite materials and is very big.
It’s such a nice interior since you have all these soft materials and it feels so big inside thanks to the large front windscreen and far reaching dashboard. Driving to work or the shop is so relaxing, it’s so quiet and peaceful inside.
The steering wheel feels nice (it’s a BMW, what do you expect?), but for the i3s, a sportier option would have been nice. And the same thing can be said for the seats: they are very nice and comfortable but a little more side support would be nice when you’re attacking a backroad.
Also I still find the backseat a little awkward to get in and out of. Because there is no fixed B-pillar, the seatbelts for the front seats are mounted on the rear suicide doors. So to get out of the car from the back, the driver needs to undo its seatbelt every time. Granted it does give you a lot of space to get in and out of the car very easy.
Is the i3s a worthy replacement for a conventional car?
The BMW i3s is one of the most perfect daily drivers that I’ve driven in a long time. Thanks to the electric torque and short turning radius it’s the perfect car in the city. You can drive it calm and peacefully on normal roads but also thoroughly enjoy it driving faster when you engage sport mode. The instant torque really is addictive and its range is big enough to cover most of your day to day trips.
However starting at 42.850 € for the pure electric version and another 4.600 € extra for the Rex, the BMW i3s is not what you would call cheap and there’s a lot of different cars (faster too) that you can get for that amount of money.
But I’m sure you won’t find a better all rounded car than this one for that kind of money.