The 2018 BMW i3s Is a Bit Less Efficient, But a Lot More Fun [Review]

2018 BMW i3s review
2018 BMW i3X (European model shown). [Photo: BMW]


The BMW i3 bowed as the company’s first mass-produced electric vehicle in 2014. It featured the first-ever mass produced Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) passenger cell in the automotive business, which played a major role in the car’s overall efficiency. Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic is equally as strong as steel, while being 50% lighter, and 30% lighter than aluminum. While BMW’s major focus has been efficiency, there’s now a sportier BMW i3s model for 2018.

Visually, the 2018 BMW i3s has an exterior that continues to display a tall, narrow futuristic design. In profile, it features short front and rear overhangs and a shoulder line that dips just aft of the front door and rising again on the rear door. Those doors are also hinged at the rear for ease of entry and exit for both rows of seats.

2018 BMW i3s review
The 2018 BMW i3s offers the same cockpit layout as the standard i3. [Photo: BMW]


The BMW i3s has a comfortable and accommodating interior, but takes a little getting used to. For instance, the gear selector is mounted on the steering column. That’s not all too unusual, but it comes in the form of a large rotary knob. On top of that, the 2018 BMW i3s features modest styling enhancements that emphasize the car’s width and sportier persona.

The 2018 BMW i3s also features new sports suspension, with specially developed springs, dampers and anti-roll bars. Drivers are also able to select different modes using the Driving Dynamics Control switch. Switching to Sport mode initiates a more direct accelerator response and tighter steering characteristics. Other modes include Comfort, ECO PRO and ECO PRO+. The last two modes limit the car’s speed to between 50 and 56 MPH to maximize battery life.

The Technology and Driving Assist package adds a host of convenience and safety technologies. There’s BMW Assist with Bluetooth connectivity, USB support and BMW Apps. Safety features include Forward Collision Warning, Pedestrian Protection and City Collision Mitigation. The Parking Assist package includes a rearview camera, Park Assistant, which helps take advantage of tight parallel parking opportunities, and Park Distance Control.

For added practicality, a two-cylinder gasoline range extender is available for all BMW i3 models. The generator produces power as required to feed electricity to the high-voltage battery when you’re running low on electric charge. When it kicks in, the range extender draws out the car’s overall range in everyday use by 87 miles, to a maximum of 180 miles.

2018 BMW i3s. [Photo: BMW]


Just 6.8 seconds is enough to see the BMW i3s burst past 60 mph on its way to a top speed of 100 mph. The 2018 BMW i3s provides a sportier interpretation of silent mobility – range extender notwithstanding – featuring a 184 horsepower electric motor that also generates up to 199 lb-ft of torque.

The car is particularly enjoyable to drive, exhibiting a sporting character in terms of handling and acceleration. Its instantly available torque off the line is hugely appealing, and the steering gives the i3 a nice degree of agility. The ride is on the firm side over rough road surfaces, but things smoothen out on better pavement. The i3s’ Sport mode proved to be enjoyable, if not the most efficient.

The 2018 BMW i3s has a range figure between 80 and 100 miles in most circumstances. Under ideal conditions, you can eke 120 miles out of the battery. That’s a decent amount of range for a city runabout, but that figure nearly doubles with the optional Range Extender and 2.4 gallon fuel tank. When the battery reaches about five percent, the Range Extender starts and maintains the battery’s current state of charge. The 2018 BMW i3s is able to recharge in about 3 hours using a 220V AC charger. However, with 50 kW DC Combo Fast Charging, the i3 charges up to 80% in about 30 minutes, and 100% in about 45 minutes.

Fortunately, you don’t have to completely rely on plugging in thanks to regenerative braking, which feeds power back into battery. Lifting off the accelerator automatically applies the brakes, providing the same effect as engine braking in a conventional vehicle. At lower speeds, the 2018 BMW i3s will actually come to a complete stop on its own. It makes the car a bit more efficient, and can be fun once you get used to it.

2018 BMW i3s
[Photo: BMW]


The 2018 BMW i3s is a capable, four passenger commuter vehicle for most people, albeit it is a bit pricey. It’s one of the most well-rounded electric cars available in its class in today’s marketplace. Since it is an electric car, you can also get a range of federal, state and local tax credits for buying one. For those worried about battery degradation over time, BMW offers an 8 Year/100,000 mile warranty on its battery packs, in line with other EV manufacturers.

The base price for the i3 with the range extender starts at $51,500. Optional features and equipment boosted the final total to $58,695. Options included the $1,800 Giga World trim and the $2,500 Tech & Driving Assist Package with navigation and Active Drive Assist for a start. BMW also charges $300 for a bright blue seatbelt strap and $750 for Park Distance Control. Finally, you also have to pay $300 for Apple CarPlay compatibility. Features like DC fast charging, a 1-year SiriusXM subscription, a universal garage door opener and keyless entry are no-cost options.

Watch our Colorado test of the BMW i3s, as we take it on a mountain commute to the 12,000-feet summit of Loveland Pass! Subscribe to The Fast Lane Car and TFLnow for more news, views and real-world electric car reviews.

SPECIFICATIONS: 2018 BMW i3 S w/Range Extender

On Sale: Now
Base MSRP: $51,500
Price as Tested:
Engine: Synchronous electrical traction engine w/ 94 Ah (Amp-hour) battery pack

Optional: 650cc, two-cylinder gasoline Range Extender

Drivetrain (Layout): Rear engine, rear-wheel drive
Horsepower: Maximum output: 170 hp
Torque: Maximum output: 184 lb-ft
Transmission: Single speed direct drive w/ brake energy regeneration
Suspension: Front: MacPherson strut

Rear: Multi-link rear suspension

Brakes: Power-assisted four-wheel discs
Tires: Bridgestone EP 1000 P175/70 R20 89T

Rear: Bridgestone EP P195/50 R20 93T

Fuel capacity: 2.3 gallons (Range Extender)
Fuel economy (EPA): 109 Combined MPGe
Electric range: 97 milesGas only: 35 Combined MPG


Wheelbase: 101.2 inches
Length: 158.1 inches
Width: 70.5 inches
Height: 62.6 inches
Turning Circle: 33.8 feet
Curb Weight: 3,278 pounds