Updated i3 fast tracking to NZ

It’s ‘s’ for sport, but in a small way, in respect to a new i3 edition arriving soon to head the revised model line.


POTENTIAL for a new performance version of the i3 zapping up local interest in BMW’s baby electric has been expressed by the national distributor.

BMW New Zealand has offered comment about the new i3s in the wake of head office in Germany revealing details of mid-life revisions to the i3.

The full public debut of the freshened line comes at the Frankfurt motor show on September 12 and it might be here as early as January.

The new ‘s’ model lends a slight performance edge to the eco-first i3. It has an updated electric motor that gives 10kW more power and 20Nm more torque than the regular unit - which continues in the 125kW output it was fizzed up to last year – which takes 0.4 seconds out of the 0-100kmh time and also lifts the top speed by 10kmh to 160kmh. It also has sportier looks and a sharper chassis.

The derivative is the headline attraction of a general spruce-up that delivers a fresh look and some equipment upgrades.

BMW New Zealand spokesman Paul Sherley suggests it is a car that could do well here.

"We see New Zealand buyer tastes certainly favouring a sportier option compared to other markets around the world," he says.

"Given that the i3s brings not only a sportier appearance but also a change in performance and dynamics, this model would be a welcome addition to the local range."

Sherley has further suggested the updated i3 will be the first ‘new’ local market BMW of 2018, saying: “We plan to kick off 2018 with the new i3 and i3s."

The i3 in present form comes infull electric (BEV) and petrol engine-included range extender (REX) formats, respectively for $74,300 and $85,300 respectively. Conceivably, the i3s would be more expensive still. Sherley says he cannot offer comment one way or the other: “ … at this point we’re yet to finalise details of the range, specification or pricing.”

Even though Kiwis are showing increased interest in buying into pure electric cars, Sherley says the REX variant continues to win support so there is no thought of dropping it.

“Both the BEV and REX variants have catered to their respective buyers, and since launching the i3 94Ah we have seen a ratio of around 50:50 between BEV and REX.  

“That both models are standard with DC rapid charging and the continuing roll-out of a fast charging network across the country by Charge Net, has meant that perceived range anxiety is definitely being overcome with the i3 BEV model and its 200km real-world range capabilities. 

“Of course, the REX provides another 150km of range, providing even more assurance for extended driving.”

The bodyshape has not altered at all; presumably the construction methods and the materials would have made the cost prohibitive, given the car’s relatively modest global uptake. However, there are some detailing changes.

All versions of the BMW i3 gain some notable revisions to the front end, mostly as a result of upgrades to the technology of the lights. On the current car, the main headlight units are LED items and the high-beam lamps were actually the round circles lower down in the BMW's face. For the new car, BMW has incorporated LED main beam into the larger clusters at the top, meaning the round lamps are gone, in favour of slim front indicator units instead.

This change to the illumination necessitates a subtly different design of front bumper and detailing.

Around the back, various measures aim to emphasise the i3's width. Accordingly, it takes a 40mm wider inlay in the lower bumper. Pushing the 'eDrive' and 'i3' badges further outwards on the hatchback is another visual trick to make the car look broader.

Apart from its own specific badging, the i3s can be identified by a bespoke bumper look, high-gloss black spats over its wheel arches and a black roofline.

It also gains bigger, wider wheels – the ‘s’ car is on 20-inchers, whereas the regular i3 continues on 19s.

The update inside there's a new upholstery choice and a new infotainment system.

The 10.25-inch iDrive infotainment display is now a higher resolution and it features the six configurable tiles feature for the home screen, while additional functions include Apple CarPlay.

The only technical alteration BMW has carried out to the regular i3 drivetrain is a tweak to the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) management, specifically calibrated to EV running.

This has the Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) 'halfway-house relaxed' function now incorporated, with BMW saying an owner can now enact 'controlled drifts' around corners.

The i3s outputs are up to 137kW and 270Nm. This decreases the 0-100kmh time to 6.9 seconds (an improvement of 0.4 seconds) and increases the top speed by10kmh, to 160kmh all in.

To cope with all that extra zip, it has 20mm wider rubber and also gets 10mm lower sports suspension, a 40mm wider rear track, its own adaptation of Sport Steering, an additional Sport driving mode and a revision to the ASC anti-skid system.