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Unmistakable and unconventional, the i3 is a unique electric car. The funky hatchback has a carbon-fiber and aluminum structure with a standard 170-hp (i3) or a 184-hp (i3s) all-electric motor. All models offer an optional two-cylinder gas engine that extends the total EPA-rated range up to 180 miles. The BMW i3 is packed with clever engineering. Its carbon-fiber passenger cell rides on an aluminum skateboard chassis propelled by an electric motor powered by a lithium-ion battery that can get a range-extending boost from an optional two-cylinder engine. And yet none of that is so far outside the box as the social engineering baked into BMW’s first electric car. The i3’s interior designers created a Zen-inspired cabin to lull drivers into a slower pace, in turn maximizing the battery’s range. That philosophy also helps explain why the tall and narrow runabout corners with all the eagerness of a phone booth.
As delightfully quirky and original as the i3 is, buyers have largely resisted its pulse-slowing charms. In the United States, BMW sells just a few hundred examples of the i3 every month, a convincing argument that few car buyers are seeking four-wheeled Zen. So, four years into the i3’s existence, BMW is retrofitting some sportiness into—and an ​s badge onto—its electric car with the 2018 BMW i3s. This new model promises quicker acceleration and livelier handling.


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