Tesla Model 3, Chevrolet Bolt EV
Looks like: BMW's electric hatchback gets some modest styling changes but remains as quirky-looking as ever
Drivetrain: 170- or 184-horsepower (i3s) electric motor with one-speed transmission and available range-extending gas generator; rear-wheel drive
Hits dealerships: Late 2017
The BMW i3 electric car debuted as a 2014 model, and BMW has freshened the distinctive-looking hatchback for 2018 with updated styling, new technology and a new performance-oriented i3s model with a higher-output electric motor, sport suspension and other changes. The 2018 i3 arrives in the U.S. later this year following its September debut at the International Motor Show Germany in Frankfurt.
Related: BMW i3 'Spaghetti Car' Inspires Food-Car Combos
With its floating roofline, scalloped beltline and extra-skinny tires, the i3 is a distinctive-looking hatchback with styling that's a big departure from the BMW norm of sleek, low and understated. The design aspects that make the i3 stand out are still here, but changes for 2018 give the car a slightly different look.
Up front, BMW has restyled the i3's lower bumper and added a trim piece that follows its edges before angling inward right below the headlights, which now have standard full-LED illumination. The new i3s, meanwhile, gets unique front-end styling that features a black lower bumper with blue or gray accents as well as new gloss-black wheel arches and roofline accents.
Minor interior changes include new available leather-and-cloth seat trim that's part of the uplevel Giga World equipment line. The other lines are the base Deka World, mid-level Mega World and top-of-the-line Tera World. The 2018 i3 also gets the latest version of BMW's iDrive control system; in navigation-equipped models, the iDrive screen measures 10.25 inches.
Under the Hood
The regular i3 is powered by a 170-horsepower electric motor that generates 184 pounds-feet of torque. The motor drives the rear wheels through a single-speed transmission, and BMW claims the car can accelerate from zero-to-60 mph in 7.2 seconds on its way to a top speed of 93 mph.
The new i3s gets a higher-output electric motor rated at 184 hp and 199 pounds-feet of torque. With this motor, the car's zero-to-60-mph time drops to 6.8 seconds while the top speed increases to 100 mph. Other changes include a sport suspension with a 10-mm-lower ride height, a 40-mm-wider track, 20-inch light-alloy wheels, and a Sport driving mode that increases gas pedal responsiveness and changes the steering feel.
The BMW-estimated driving range for the i3 is 97 miles, but an available on-board gas generator can add another 87 miles of range, according to BMW. The generator system is available for both the i3 and i3s.