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Driven: Updated BMW i3 raising EV tech awareness
BMW to keep leading EV technology revolution with new sportscar-like i3 range
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16 Feb 2018
BMW Group Australia has reaffirmed the role of its pioneering i3 electric vehicle moving forward, following the local introduction of the facelifted model line-up that is now topped by a sportier i3s variant.
Speaking to journalists at the i3s national media launch in Warrandyte, Victoria this week, BMW Group Australia CEO Marc Werner said that the i3 – and now the i3s – plays a critical role in the German car-maker’s ongoing shift from an automotive brand to a technology company.
“When the BMW ‘i’ brand was launched (in) 2014 here in Australia – but on a global level we already launched it in 2013 – the i3 was very clearly the spare hat of that innovation and of that technology that cemented our technological leadership, and that will continue to be the case,” he said.
“I mean it is a very unique vehicle made of carbon-fibre, as you know. And very clearly we launched that vehicle when no one else was even thinking about launching such a car, and it is has definitely created not only the necessary awareness for this kind of technology but definitely helped to really boost confidence in the BMW i brand.”
When questioned by GoAuto if the new i3s was trying to attract performance-focused customers, Mr Werner said: “Yeah, you can call it a Life Cycle Impulse on one side, but on the other side these i cars are a lot of fun to drive, and with the i3s it is even more fun to drive.
“To give it more of a sporty appeal, as well, I think that suits the vehicle extremely well. And when you drive it, the acceleration is really breathtaking – 6.9 seconds zero to 100km/h, and that’s almost like a sportscar.”
Priced from $68,700 before on-road costs, the entry-level i3 Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) is $700 dearer than before, while its Range Extender (REx) counterpart cops the same price rise, now costing $74,700.
Opting for the i3s adds $1200 to the sticker price of the regular BEV and REx, checking in at $69,900 and $75,900 respectively.
The i3 facelift – or Life Cycle Impulse (LCI) in BMW language – ushers in revised styling, technology and infotainment upgrades, and a more potent powertrain option.
While the i3 and i3s both have a 94Ah high-voltage battery, the latter steals the headlines with its 135kW/270Nm electric motor, besting the former by 10kW/20Nm.
These outputs help the i3s BEV sprint from zero to 100km/h in 6.9 seconds while on the way to a top speed of 160km/h, enough to outpace its BEV sibling’s 7.3s and 150km/h figures.
However, the i3 BEV bests the i3s BEV efficiency-wise, offering up 300 kilometres of pure-electric driving range on the NEDC cycle against 280km.
Nevertheless, both provide 200km of range in everyday use, according to BMW.
Claimed electric power consumption on the combined cycle test is 13.6kWh per 100km for the i3 BEV and 14.3kWh/100km for the i3s BEV when they roll on 20-inch alloy wheels.
Compared to the i3, the i3s’ electric motor features an updated drive system with modified motor control and specific taper roller bearings that help to optimise power delivery and the performance curve at higher speeds.
The optional range-extending 28kW two-cylinder petrol engine can increase both model’s everyday range by up to 130km but blunts the i3 and i3s BEVs’ triple-figure sprint times by 0.8s thanks to a 120kg weight penalty.
Fuel consumption on the combined cycle test is 5.9 litres per 100km for the i3 REx and 6.1L/100km for the i3s REx, while carbon dioxide emissions for both are 12 grams per km. However, electric power consumption improves by 1.7kWh/100km and 1.8kWh/100km respectively over the BEVs.
The i3s further distinguishes itself with a sports suspension that drops ride height by 10mm and includes specially designed springs, dampers and anti-roll bars.
An i3s-exclusive Sport driving mode allows the driver to opt for sharper throttle response and tighter steering feel, with both necessary to fulfil the sporting brief.
Both the i3 and i3s include a revised, faster-acting dynamic stability control system which features a “globally unique” form of wheel speed limiting that provides increased directional stability, according to the car-maker.
This is most noticeable under dynamic acceleration and on the overrun with strong regenerative braking, with BMW promising confident handling in all driving conditions.
The dynamic stability control system has also been given a tickle, with wet-road traction improved, including boosted agility at higher speeds and during sporty cornering. Significantly, mild drifts are allowed when grip levels are reduced.
Externally, the i3’s front and rear bumpers have been restyled to appear sportier, with the former designed to look like it features air intakes when viewed from distance while the latter has a chrome strip that accentuates width.
The i3’s street presence is enhanced by a 40mm increase in track width that is complemented by blacked-out wheelarches, while this same black treatment is applied to the A-pillars and roof lines.
An array of LED lighting has also been added, covering the headlights, daytime running lights (DRLs) and indicators.
Paint colour options have been expanded to include Melbourne Red and Imperial Blue metallics, while the Capparis White and Fluid Black solid hues, and Protonic Blue and Mineral Grey metallics return.
Projected onto a high-resolution 10.25-inch display, the sixth-generation version of BMW’s iDrive infotainment system has been added inside, including voice control and satellite navigation as standard, while wireless Apple CarPlay support is available optionally.
The Lodge interior package is now standard with its new Solaric Brown seat coverings, while the alternative Loft and Suite packages are optional, with the latter featuring full natural leather upholstery.
BMW’s suite of i ConnectedDrive and Connected+ services – including real-time traffic and public charging station information – are enabled by a 4G-compatiable SIM card.
All examples of the i3 and i3s are equipped as standard with a new Type 2 charging system that takes advantage of the expanding DC charging infrastructure in Australia, while three-phase AC charging is also supported.
Charging times for the 94Ah/33kWh battery range from less than 40 minutes when using a 50kW DC charger to 15 hours when plugging into a 1.8kW domestic outlet.
i3 sales improved last year, with 118 examples sold to the end of 2017, representing a 28.3 per cent increase over the 92 deliveries made in 2016.
The i3 placed eighth last year in the premium small passenger-car segment, trailing the Audi A3 (5117 units), Mercedes-Benz A-Class (4768), BMW 1 Series (2105), Mercedes-Benz B-Class (1330), Volvo V40 (908), BMW 2 Series (639) and Volvo V40 Cross Country (236).
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