As expected, BMW has unveiled the facelifted i3 ahead of its world premiere at the Frankfurt Motor Show next month. The propeller-badged electric vehicle receives a number of upgrades both visually and under the skin, as well as a new, oft-rumoured sporty variant called the i3s.
On the outside, changes on the standard model are minimal and include a mildly-revised front fascia with LED indicator strips. Full-LED headlights, previously optional, have also been included in the standard kit list, so all front exterior lighting now uses LEDs, as has been the case at the rear.
Speaking of which, the rear body-coloured bumper panel has been made wider as well, and there’s also a chrome strip that runs the width of the vehicle. Along the side, the A-pillar and roof have been painted black and feature silver highlights to enhance the sense of elegance and dynamism. Two colours from BMW’s mainstream range, Melbourne Red metallic and Imperial Blue metallic, join the palette.
Inside, the optional Loft, Lodge and Suite equipment lines remain, with Lodge now featuring Solaric Brown upholstery that combines natural leather tanned using an olive leaf extract with a wool-based textile material. There’s also a new blue seat belt option.
The iDrive infotainment system has been revised with a larger 10.25-inch display on the higher-end Professional navigation system, and like the G30 5 Series it also gets a new tiled interface with live information, along with an updated voice recognition system that responds to natural language. Buyers can also now specify Apple CarPlay connectivity as an option.
The ConnectedDrive suite of services has been expanded as well to include On-Street Parking Information search, while new services under the Connected+ banner, such as intelligent route planing that includes charging and petrol station stops, location sharing, personalised in-car information display, route information transfer to a smartphone or smartwatch, and contacts syncing, were introduced in July.
Chassis electronics have been upgraded with a faster-responding Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) that uses a new form of wheel speed limiting, aiding directional stability – both under hard acceleration and when lifting off with strong regenerative braking. Traction off the line in wet and snow conditions have also been improved, and the new Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) boosts agility and even allows for mild drifts.
Contrary to previous reports, the facelifted i3 retains the use of a 170 hp/250 Nm electric motor and the larger 94 Ah lithium-ion battery introduced last year. This provides a range of between 290 and 300 km on the European NEDC cycle or up to 200 km in real-world usage, BMW claims. On the other end of the spectrum, zero to 100 km/h is dispatched in 7.3 seconds on the way to a 150 km/h top speed.
Those looking for an extra turn of zero-emissions speed can look to the i3s, which bumps outputs to 184 hp and 270 Nm. This slashes the zero-to-100 km/h sprint time down to 6.9 seconds and raises the top speed to 160 km/h, all while cutting the NEDC-rated range by only 10 km to 280 km.
The improvements come courtesy of modified motor control and specific taper roller bearings, which further optimise power delivery and the performance curve at higher revs – at the limits of the motor’s speed range, power and torque is up 40% over the standard i3.
Both models are available with an optional 38 hp 647 cc two-cylinder range extender engine that boosts overall range to 330 km, with the all-electric NEDC range dropping to between 225 to 235 km for the i3 and 220 km for the i3s. With the petrol two-pot mill, combined fuel consumption is rated at 0.6 litres per 100 km for the i3 and 0.7 litres per 100 km for the i3s.
Under the skin, the i3s features specially developed springs, dampers and anti-roll bars, plus a 10 mm lower ride height. There’s also a Sport mode on the Driving Experience Control selector that engages a more direct throttle response and tighter steering.
Setting the i3s apart from the regular variant are more aggressive front and rear bumpers, along with a gloss black front apron and grille. There are also gloss black fender extensions that hide a 40 mm wider track, along with unique 20-inch black or two-tone alloys that themselves are 20 mm wider than usual. Specially-badged front floor mats on the inside complete the visual modifications.
On both models, charging has been improved with a new optimised charging cable that also incorporates a temperature sensor. The latest BMW i Wallbox can now supply up to 11 kW, providing around 180 km of range in just three hours, while the new i Wallbox Connect provides intelligent charging for optimal cost efficiency, and allows customers to make the best use of self-generated solar energy.
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