BMW i3s

BMW’s first all-elec­tric car gets sportier

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About four years back, we had driven the first i3 in Am­s­ter­dam sur­rounded by the beau­ti­ful scenery splashed with wind mills all around. Since then BMW has sold over 65,000 i3 cars glob­ally mak­ing the car­bon-fi­bre bod­ied i3 the third best sell­ing elec­tric car of all time, be­hind the Nis­san Leaf and the Tesla Model S. It was al­ready con­tem­po­rary, with cut­ting edge tech­nol­ogy, one of the most ad­vanced chas­sis seen on any roads till now along with a bat­tery pack that lasted the life of the car. So what could BMW pos­si­bly do more to give the car a fresh lease of life in its first gen­er­a­tion? And why would we want to drive it once again con­sid­er­ing that the i3, un­like its only other “i” sib­ling, the

i8, never made it to India? Well, first, BMW has made the car more sporty by tin­ker­ing with its sus­pen­sion and its pow­er­train, given it cos­metic changes and added the lat­est from the BMW bin of parts as we dis­cover and given the direc­tion the In­dian govern­ment is head­ing to­wards the need for elec­tric cars, it makes sense for us to drive the car again, not to for­get that BMW might be launch­ing the i3 in India.

As far as the cos­metic changes go, the car has a re­designed front bumper and some mi­nor changes to the front end, so it does not look rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent from the i3 that also gets some of th­ese changes. How­ever, the larger wheels are ap­par­ent as not only has the size in­creased from 19in to 20in but the pro­file has de­creased from

70 to 55mm and the width has also in­creased to 190mm. This makes the car look sporty as does the 40mm wider track and the fact that the car sits 10mm lower than the reg­u­lar i3. The badg­ing has also been changed and is not a rather dis­tinc­tive i3s badge. Over­all, the ef­fect has been to make the i3s look more sporty by mak­ing it lower and wider and equip­ping it with a wider rub­ber.

There is not too much dif­fer­ent in the in­te­ri­ors of the car. It still re­tains all the pos­i­tives from the i3 as the es­sen­tial ar­chi­tec­ture is the same as be­fore. The mo­tor sits at the rear and drives the rear wheels and if one opts for a range ex­ten­der then the en­gine sits at the rear as well. This ar­chi­tec­ture lib­er­ates a whole lot of in-cabin space that makes the i3 spa­cious and BMW has from day-one made the in­te­ri­ors funky and they con­tinue to be so. It feels like sit­ting in a lounge with a lot of space all around. What has changed though in terms of equip­ment is the in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem and now the i3s gets the same 10.3in screen (larger) that we re­cently saw in the BMW 5-se­ries along


with the up­graded soft­ware with larger icons, a more in­tu­itive lay­out and a smart­phone kind of de­sign with apps to scroll through for the var­i­ous func­tions.

Apart from all the changes al­ready de­scribed, the car re­tains the same 33.2kWh bat­tery pack that pow­ers the nor­mal car but both power and torque have in­creased marginally, though the car re­tains the same range as be­fore. Max­i­mum power has gone up by 13bhp to 181bhp and peak torque has also in­creased to 270Nm. The dif­fer­ence is there to feel–and the drive ex­peri- ence is a whole lot more sporty not that the car was a slouch in the first place. But the best part is the con­fi­dence the broader tyres im­part to the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. One can push the car harder with­out feel­ing that the car is on spindly tyres and now has plenty of grip. Nor do you feel that you are sit­ting too high up though seat­ing is still on the higher side but with a wider track the car feels more planted.

How­ever, there is a big com­pro­mise on ride qual­ity which wasn’t great to start with. On some of the cob­ble­stoned streets that we en-

coun­tered on the drive, the ride qual­ity was harsher than what we ex­pe­ri­enced on the M5, as we drove the cars back to back. And the en­gi­neers at BMW have also pre­ferred to min­i­mize body roll mak­ing the over­all pack­age a sporty one. The ac­cel­er­a­tion is spec­tac­u­lar as be­fore and with more con­fi­dence in the dy­namic abil­i­ties of the car one was able to push it much harder as well, es­pe­cially on the wind­ing roads near the Es­to­ril cir­cuit. How­ever, con­tin­u­ous spir­ited driv­ing and de­mand for max power through high per­for­mance can be limit- ed by the load on the bat­tery, as we dis­cov­ered. When the dis­charge rate of the bat­tery crosses a cer­tain thresh­old, the ECU re­stricts the sup­ply of cur­rent and the car goes into a sort of a limp mode that is good enough for nor­mal driv­ing but re­stricts sporty driv­ing.

For those who do not like this trans­for­ma­tion of the elec­tric car into a sports ma­chine, the i3s is also avail­able as the i3 with­out many of th­ese sporty trans­for­ma­tions but with the cos­metic changes as well as the up­grade to the in­te­ri­ors.

1. For a small city car, with a strange 3.5-door lay­out, there is plenty of space in­side. 2.

The iDrive has to share the nar­row con­sole be­tween the front seats with a cup holder and the elec­tric park­ing brake. 3 & 4. Twist and go – it’s with this knob or gear lever that is on the steer­ing that one can select the drive mode – it’s as sim­ple as that

Yo­gen­dra Pratap Ed­i­tor yo­gen­dra.pratap@in­to­ @Yo­genPratap


For those who thought that the i3 was not sporty enough, did not have the looks or the grip lev­els to go with what the mo­tor could de­liver, BMW has pro­vided an an­swer and the i3s takes care of all those short­com­ings. There is al­ways the range ex­ten­der avail­able to take care of the range anx­i­eties that any­one may have. For those look­ing for a sporty al­ter­na­tive to a city car, the i3s ticks all the boxes. But one has to re­mem­ber that elec­tric cars are ex­pen­sive and the i3s counts it­self at the premium end of elec­tric cars.

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