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2018 BMW i3 Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2018 BMW i3 was new.


Performance: 8.2

The 2018 BMW i3 doesn't feel like it belongs with the other sports sedans and athletic SUVs from this German carmaker. That said, this car offers fun-to-drive dynamics that focus more on agility and liveliness than brute force. The 2018 lineup includes a sport-tuned model with a higher horsepower rating and a range-extending model with a gas engine that boosts range to about 180 miles.

  • " … when it comes to driving dynamics, the i3 is not at all in the same class as other BMW vehicles, whether you're talking about the also high-tech and efficient i8 or the company's more conventional cars." -- Motor Trend (2017)
  • "The i3 even serves up downright respectable acceleration and handling that help it leave most EVs in the dust." -- Edmunds (2016)
  • "If you want an EV that engages the driver for less than half the price of a Tesla Model S, the i3 is the one to have. Happily, it's also supple and quiet in normal driving, making for an unmistakably luxurious experience." -- Autotrader (2015)

Acceleration and Power

The i3 comes with a single electric motor and a single-speed transmission. Its 170 horsepower may not sound impressive but the i3's brisk acceleration is. The i3 can reach 60 mph in just over 7 seconds. The i3s is even swifter. This version features a 181-horsepower electric motor and can sprint to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds.

Every 2018 i3 comes with a 33-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. This grants the pure-electric i3 models a range of around 114 miles. Both the i3 and i3s are available with a range extender – a two-cylinder gasoline engine. The engine doesn't add any horsepower or make the car accelerate faster, but instead recharges the battery to increase total range to 180 miles. It takes about 4.5 hours to fully recharge the battery using a level 2 charger.

The i3’s mpg-equivalent ratings are thrifty, even by EV standards. Between the i3 and i3s, expect 126-129 mpg-e in the city and 99-106 mpg-e on the highway. Models with the range extender deliver 109 mpg-e in all-electric mode, and 35 mpg after the gasoline engine kicks in.

  • "With a 0-60-mph time of just 7.2 seconds, the standard 2018 BMW i3 is plenty quick. Quick enough to leave most small cars in its emissions-free wake of self-righteousness. And the new sportier i3s model is even quicker, running from 0-60 mph in just 6.8 seconds. That's quicker than BMW's 320i sedan. An electric motor delivers its torque all at once, so the acceleration is instantaneous, and continuous. With no mechanical transmission, the momentum is uninterrupted by gear changes, giving the i3 an almost slingshot-like effect." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Floor the accelerator and the weird-looking little compact will do zero-62 mph (100 kmph) in 7.3 seconds -- not a mind-blowing level of acceleration, but the way the power comes on instantaneously is at least giggle-inducing." -- CNET (2017)
  • "While virtually all battery-powered cars offer snappier acceleration than most people expect (thanks to the instantly available torque that's characteristic of electric motors), their acceleration times usually end up being pretty humble. Not so with the 2016 BMW i3, which sprints to 60 mph as quickly as some sport sedans." -- Edmunds (2016)

Handling and Braking

The rear-wheel-drive i3 is agile and lively for a small car. Its regenerative brake system is stronger than most and takes time to get used to (especially if this is your first vehicle with regen brakes). Its advantage is one-pedal driving: Simply let off the "gas" pedal, and the regen brakes slow the car, even if you aren't engaging the brake pedal. For some, however, the system slows down the car too aggressively.

  • "Power is routed to the rear wheels, which gives the i3 better handling than most of its front-drive rivals, although it surrenders that advantage in snow or on slick roads. Its steering is quick and the i3's wide stance and short wheelbase give it go-kart-like agility. This is a fun car to drive once you get used to its unique power delivery and the funky feel of its regenerative braking system." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The handling is still actually quite good, despite the EV rolling what appears to be a full set of space saver spare tires. And highway cruising is about as nice as could be expected from a relatively tall city car with a short wheelbase -- high-speed Autobahn blasts made me a bit nervous, but thankfully the i3 never felt squirrelly thanks to its low center of mass." -- CNET (2017)
  • "The i3 also brings the concept of 1-pedal driving. This sounds off-putting, but it's easy to get to grips with. Because of the regenerative brake function (that captures and stores energy that might otherwise be lost), the car slows as the driver eases off the throttle: The more pronounced the lift-off, the more forceful the slowdown. In city driving, this stop/go ability is far less tiring and stressful than having to dance the right foot between two pedals." -- Autotrader (2016)

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