Re­vamp im­proves range and pace


Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS - Michael Tay­lor

Now that the diesel back­lash has be­gun in Europe, the de­ci­sion by BMW to build the i3 looks even clev­erer than it did in 2014. And now its first ground-up elec­tric car is get­ting even stronger, with more range and pace.

The facelift of the i3 elec­tric car adds straight-line speed and swings in ex­tra power and han­dling with the i3s, plus the ex­tra range from a new 94Ah/33kWh bat­tery pack.

It re­mains a brisk city car, rather than a blast­ing cap like the Tesla Model S, and it has noth­ing of the Cal­i­for­nian brand’s mar­ket­ing speed gig­gles, like its Lu­di­crous mode. In­stead, the stock i3 reaches 100km/h in 7.3 sec­onds and that makes it eight­tenths of a sec­ond quicker than the range-ex­ten­der model.

The stan­dard syn­chro­nous elec­tric mo­tor de­liv­ers 125kW and the from-idle torque peak of 250Nm, with BMW lim­it­ing its top speed to 150km/h.

But that’s not as fast as the i3 range gets, with the new i3s model adding 10kW of power to that fig­ure and stack­ing on an­other 20Nm of torque. To get there, BMW gave it new ta­per roller bear­ings in the elec­tric mo­tor and an up­graded mo­tor con­trol sys­tem.

It pulls the sprint to 100km/h down to 6.9 sec­onds from the rear-drive four-seater, with the heav­ier range-ex­ten­der ver­sion los­ing 0.8 sec­onds mostly through adding 120kg to the 1,265kg i3s. It rips to 60km/h in 3.7 sec­onds and its top end is also 10km/h faster than the stan­dard car at 160km/h.

Like the base i3, the i3s elec­tric mo­tor can re­cu­per­ate en­ergy un­der de­cel­er­a­tion or down hills at up to 50kW. The i3s doesn’t stop there, though. BMW has pushed its rear wheel track width out by 40mm, its ride height is 10mm lower, its wheel rims are 20mm wider and it also uses spe­cific anti-roll bars, dampers and springs.

It de­liv­ers 14.3kWh per 100km driven, which is just a touch worse than the 13.1kWh/100km the stan­dard car de­liv­ers. That’s partly be­cause the i3 uses 155/70 R19 tyres front and rear, while the i3s prefers 175/44 R20 front and 195/50 R20 rears.

Both mod­els have the op­tion of the con­tro­ver­sial range­ex­ten­der on both the stan­dard and i3s mod­els, with the twocylin­der scooter mo­tor stretch­ing the stock i3’s claimed re­al­world range from 200km to 330km. The 650cc range­ex­ten­der, or Rex, adds 28kW but never di­rectly drives the wheels. In­stead, it drives the gen­er­a­tor that pro­duces elec­tric­ity for the bat­tery, adding an­other 150km of range to the bat­tery pack.

Like be­fore, the rear-drive i3 sticks with its sin­gle-speed trans­mis­sion, run­ning at a 9.665:1 ra­tio and com­bines it with a five-link rear sus­pen­sion and a MacPher­son strut front end with a turn­ing cir­cle of just 9.86m. Its 353V lithium-ion bat­tery recharges to 80% of its ca­pac­ity in just 39 min­utes from a 50kW charger or, at worst, 11 hours from a house­hold do­mes­tic socket. There are also two lev­els of BMW’s own wall charger, with the 3.7kW/16 amp ver­sion tak­ing 7:50 for an 80% charge and the 7.4kW/32 amp unit tak­ing half that time.

BMW still won’t fol­low Tesla with an over-the-air sys­tem for soft­ware up­dates for the i3, though it is do­ing it for nav­i­ga­tion data. An­other up­grade comes via its elec­tronic safety sys­tems, now more ac­cu­rate with spe­cific wheel-speed con­trols, along with the abil­ity to run Level 2 au­tonomous in traf­fic jams at up to 60km/h.

It also has the op­tion of park­ing as­sis­tance, which will lo­cate free car parks and do ev­ery­thing to place the car into them.

There’s also a Driv­ing As­sis­tant Plus col­lec­tion of op­tional as­sis­tance sys­tems, which will de­liver the i3 a City Brak­ing func­tion (which in­cludes pedes­trian warn­ings), speed limit in­for­ma­tion, ac­tive cruise con­trol and a stop-go func­tion.

While the ex­te­rior de­sign tweaks are more mod­est than the first two full pages of BMW’s press re­lease would in­di­cate, they do their best to push the vis­ual width of the nar­row car (it re­mains 1,775mm wide, though the i3s moves to 1,791mm) and give it some length.

As be­fore, more than 80% of the i3’s in­te­rior sur­faces are made from re­cy­cled ma­te­ri­als and BMW has swung in three in­te­rior equip­ment lev­els.

There is a new, op­tional larger mul­ti­me­dia screen, pushed out to 10.25 inches and it comes with the Nav­i­ga­tion Plus pack­age. It cov­ers all of the stan­dard in­fo­tain­ment, com­mu­ni­ca­tions and nav­i­ga­tion func­tions and there’s Ap­ple CarPlay, which it didn’t have be­fore.

The i3 also scores on-street park­ing in­for­ma­tion, which it can use with real-time traf­fic in­for­ma­tion in Nav­i­ga­tion Pro­fes­sional, if you want to pay even more money and if it is avail­able here.

We have no idea on how much more the new mod­els will cost , but ex­pect more de­tails closer the launch of the new i3 in SA in the sec­ond half of 2018.

De­sign re­vi­sions give the i3 a bet­ter over­all look, but the big news is the re­veal of the more po­tent i3s.

The in­te­rior gets com­pletely new trim op­tions.

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