The 2018 BMW i3 is the automaker's only electric vehicle and, thanks to its unique design, its powertrain isn't the only thing that allows the hatchback to stick out among its gasoline-powered stablemates. Available as a pure electric vehicle and an electrified vehicle with a range extender, the i3 is a compelling choice for consumers wanting to explore owning an EV. Despite having an electric powertrain, the i3's agile handling makes it stand up to BMW's original slogan of making “The Ultimate Driving Machine".
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2018 BMW i3 Overview
What's New for 2018
The i3, which arrived in 2013, hasn't changed much since its debut. That changes, though, for 2018, as the EV gets a few revisions and a new variant – the i3s. The compact EV gets full LED headlights as standard, while the front and rear bumpers have been updated for a sportier, wider look. There's a new horizontal chrome strip that runs across the i3's rear tailgate for a more upscale look. The badges have also been pushed to the side of the vehicle, highlighting its girth. New exterior paint schemes, Melbourne Red and Imperial Blue, round out the exterior changes for the i3.
The changes on the inside are even harder to spot. The Giga World trim has two new available seat trims, Giga Brown natural leather and Carum Spice wool cloth, BMW’s latest iDrive interface has been added, the 10-inch touchscreen has an increased resolution, and the car’s voice recognition system has been optimized to use cloud-based speech processing.
The big news for 2018, though, is the addition of the i3s to the lineup. The EV is more powerful than the regular i3, has a wider track, is lower, gets larger 20-inch alloy wheels, and features bespoke accents on the inside and outside. While the i3s looks noticeably different from the regular model, the changes between the two are more than cosmetic, as the compact vehicle has a sport suspension setup, a better zero to 60 time, and a higher top speed.
Choosing Your BMW i3
The BMW i3 continues to be powered by a 33 kWh lithium-ion battery pack that generates 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The battery pack's power is put down through a single-speed automatic transmission and is sent to the hatchback's rear wheels. According to BMW, range is limited to 124 miles on a single charge, while a Level 2 charger (240 volts) will refill the battery pack from zero to 100 percent in 4.8 hours.
Consumers wanting a little more range can opt for the i3 with Range Extender that incorporates a two-cylinder gasoline combustion engine into the mix. With the combustion engine, the hatchback can travel up to 205 miles.
The new i3s models have the same 33 kWh lithium-ion battery pack as the regular i3 lineup, but produce more power: 184 hp and 199 lb-ft of torque. BMW hasn't released official range figures for the i3s, but we expect them to be similar to those of the non-performance models. Just like with the regular i3, the i3s with Range Extender adds a two-cylinder engine and an onboard generator to boost the vehicle's range.
BMW also offers packages, which it calls “Worlds” that bring different interior materials to the i3. The Deka World (standard) comes with gray cloth seats, dark paneling, and blue accents. The Mega World ($1,400) features Andesite Dark Matte trim and cloth seats with a mix of SensaTec upholstery in gray. The Giga World ($1,800) brings Light Eucalyptus or Dark Oak Wood trim, as well as contrast stitching, natural leather, and light gray cloth. Finally, the Terra World ($2,600) comes with a lot of the same materials as the Giga World, but includes Tera Dalbergia Brown full natural leather upholstery.
There are four i3 models to choose from:
The base i3 starts at $45,445 (prices include the $995 destination fee), and comes with LED headlights, heated exterior mirrors, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and 19-inch wheels on the outside. The interior of the i3 features cloth seats, seating for up to four, a 6.5-inch high-resolution screen, a rearview camera, an automatic-dimming rearview mirror, three-stage heated front seats, automatic climate control, keyless entry, and power front windows. The Technology + Driving Assistant Package ($2,500) is the only available package for the i3 and brings a navigation system, adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, advanced real-time traffic information, and ConnectedDrive Services. Noteable options for the i3 include a moonroof ($1,000), a Harman Kardon surround sound system ($800), and Apple CarPlay Compatibility ($300).
The performance-oriented i3s is priced from $48,645 and brings a host of performance components to the EV. The model has more power with an output of 184 hp and has a sportier ride thanks to sport suspension. On the outside, the i3s features 20-inch bi-color wheels, black a-pillar and roof trim, and flared wheel arches. Interior wise, the i3s has a lot of the same features as the regular i3. The Technology + Driving Assistant Package ($2,500) is the only available package for the i3s.
Adding a combustion engine to the i3 brings the starting price of the hatchback up to $49,295. The i3 with Range Extender shares a lot of the same features as the electric-only i3. The model also features the same available options and the Technology + Driving Assistant Package ($2,500).
The i3s with Range Extender is the top-of-the-line trim for BMW's EV. Pricing for the model starts at $52,495. Just like on lower models, the i3s with Range Extender combines all of the features, options, and package from the all-electric i3s with the range-extending powertrain.
Unlike other EVs on the market, the BMW i3’s range is a limiting factor. Consumers looking for an urban car to go around town in will find the 124-mile range to be enough. For those wanting to travel longer distances with the i3, the near $4,000 premium to get into a Range Extender model is worth the cost, but the system still doesn’t make the i3 a long-distance vehicle. The Technology + Driving Assistant is also worth the price of entry, as it brings the latest safety features to the EV at a reasonable price. The i3s, with its performance parts, really is a sprightly EV that has the looks to match its sporty nature.
2018 BMW i3 Review
BMW’s road to electrification goes right through its heralded ‘i” line. The more mainstream and affordable of the two currently available models is the i3, a compact vehicle with a roomy interior. The 2018 BMW i3 comes as a pure electric car or adds a range extender. If you can get past its polarizing style, you’ll find a competent vehicle with smooth acceleration and agile handling.
The 2018 BMW i3 comes in standard or S models, each of which are available with a range extender. Next, you'll choose from one of four trims: Deka World ($0), Mega World ($1,400), Giga World ($1,800), and Tera World ($2,600). The further up the trim ladder you climb, the more exotic the sustainable features included are.
Even before you shop for the i3, you need to wrap your mind around this vehicle and answer this question: what is it? Beyond its 114-mile electric-only range plus another 66 miles of gas-powered backup, if you order it as a range extender, the i3 is a high-roof hatchback. It has a distinct BMW nose and its outline suggests an SUV, but the i3 is a sedan with room for four.
Here's how we'd build ours:
- Model: 2018 BMW i3 Range Extender
- Engine: 125-kilowatt electric motor; 650cc two-cylinder gas engine, 33-kWh battery
- Output: 170 hp / 184 lb-ft from the electric motor
- Transmission: Single-speed automatic
- Drivetrain: Rear-wheel drive
- Fuel Economy: 35 mpg combined with gas / 109 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) with electricity
- Options: Mega World trim ($1,400, light-colored cloth, synthetic leather upholstery), Protonic Blue Metallic Paint ($550), Technology plus Driving Assistant Package ($2,500, navigation, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, active driving assistant, real-time traffic information, connected drive services)
- Base Price: $49,295 (including a $995 destination charge)
- Best Value Price: $53,745
Step on the accelerator and torque is smooth and constant as this electric vehicle (EV) picks up speed. Power is willing right from the start, bringing this model to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds (6.8 seconds with the i3s). The range extender adds weight and slows this vehicle’s zero-to-60 mph time to 7.6 and 8.0 seconds for the i3s REx and i3 REx, respectively.
For maximum efficiency, drivers can work with the drive mode selector to choose one of four modes: Sport, Comfort, Eco Pro, or Eco Pro Plus. With Eco Pro selected, you'll then choose the i3’s top speed, ranging from 50 to 80 mph, although this model can reach 93 mph (99 mph with the i3s). Switch to Eco Pro Plus and the top speed is restricted to 56 mph. When operating in Eco Pro or Eco Pro Plus mode, you'll enjoy one-pedal driving as the car self brakes. You can override these restrictions at any time by pressing hard on the accelerator.
We found the i3’s handling crisp and nimble. Its excellent turning radius is ideal for an urban environment, but keep in mind that its skinny tires give up grip easily when turning aggressively. You'll also feel jitters and occasional skipping over broken pavement. When driving on twisty roads or taking corners, body roll is evident.
As for the gas motor, it's actually a 650cc motorcycle engine. It delivers 38 horsepower and 41 pound-feet of torque, but this power has no effect on vehicle performance. Instead, the engine powers a generator. Models with the range extender can travel up to 180 miles. A tiny 2.4-gallon fuel tank, though, really shouldn't be relied upon for long trips.
The i3 has a few BMW styling elements, including a twin-kidney grille dressing the front. But the grille is only for styling uniformity, as this EV doesn't need the cooling assistance of a true grille.
As for the rest of the design, the look is different, even odd. It has a distinct wheels-at-the-corner stance, a stub nose, and high roof pillars. From the side views, the i3 appears almost van like. This is due in part to the reverse-hinged rear doors, which almost suggest sliding doors. As for the rear look, it's a mishmash of lines, cut-outs, colors, and quirky touches. We cannot quite figure it out.
Move inside and you enter the world of BMW, tech style. The cabin is functional, even friendly with generous room for four. A shelf-like dashboard includes a big tablet sitting in the central dip. Measuring 10.2 inches, the screen is controlled by the iDrive knob on the center console. You'll find woven textiles throughout the cabin, adding elegance and a dash of whimsy. The materials are in keeping with this EV’s environmental-friendly mission.
The Best and Worst Things
City dwellers know how important it is to maneuver tight areas. The BMW i3 makes tackling lower Manhattan streets an attainable proposition. On the other hand, the small rear seat and limited cargo space (15.1 cubic feet) underscore that this vehicle is for short distance drives and not much more.
Right For? Wrong For?
The i3 may be the right model for current BMW owners, individuals who prize the comfort, and tech leadership of this brand. For people needing a long EV range, the i3 is overshadowed by models from Tesla, Chevrolet, and Hyundai. The range-extender provides assurance some drivers want, but it may not be enough of an extension for others.
The Bottom Line
The 2018 BMW i3 is a technological marvel with smooth acceleration and agile urban handling. That said, it's been surpassed by EVs with longer range, including some with a far more pleasing canvas. Deals are strong so use them to your advantage.