BMW i3S – long-term test: is an electric car a viable day-to-day
03/04/2018 Kyle Fortune
[images © Provided by The Telegraph
The i3 has caused quite a stir since its introduction, offering stylish
electric-only or range-extender-assisted driving with the cachet of a BMW
badge. But what is like living with an electric car day-to-day?
Our car: BMW i3S List price when new: £40,125 Price as tested: £45,810
Official fuel economy: 470.8mpg (EU Combined)
April 3rd, 2018
Fuel economy this week: n/a
Two weeks into the i3S’s tenure and I now have now the exact specification.
I’d guessed at about £5,000 of options added to the £39,395 list price, and
was only £85 out. That brings the total price to about £10,000 more than
something like Volkswagen’s e-Golf, though if I’d chosen a regular i3
(rather than the S), and been brave enough to do without the range extender,
that gap would drop significantly.
Those options include the Melbourne Red paintwork (£550) which seems to be
BMW’s preferred colour for the S. Inside it’s got the Suite trim, with dark
oak matt, that adding a not insignificant £2,000 to the price. The i3S
‘Plus’ package brings sun protection glass, jet black wheels, Harman Kardon
hi-fi and online entertainment for £1,100, all of which I could arguably do
without; the £360 reversing camera and £170 Park Distance Control would be
must-tick options, if they hadn't been already.
There is also eDrive exterior sound, an £85 addition that emits a sound
outside to warn pedestrians of its presence. Unsurprisingly I’ve never heard
it, but presume it’s working - I’ll have Mrs Fortune drive past sometime and
listen out for it. There’s Apple CarPlay preparation for £235, and enhanced
Bluetooth with USB and voice control for a further £350.
Another £790 is down to the addition of Driving Assistant Plus. It brings
Active Crusie Control with Stop&Go function, Steering and lane control
assist, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist with active side
collision protection, Approach control warning and Person warning with city
braking and cross traffic front warning. I’ll admit to being massively
sceptical about such systems, often creating more distraction than
assistance, so it’ll be interesting to see whether this suite of ‘driver
aids’ works well enough to win me over…
Pressed immediately into service outside what could be its comfort zone, the
i3S took me to Heathrow airport last week. With the satnav suggesting 91
miles, and the cool map showing it would be possible on battery power only,
I set off. Slowly, my cruise down the M40 mindful of battery consumption,
sitting at around 60-65mph in the inside lane rather than at the greater
speeds I’d usually travel at.
Flicking between the modes makes an appreciable difference to the potential
range, EcoPro mode working best, as EcoPro+ is speed limited. Using the
heating and ventilation impacts heavily on the range, so my jacket was kept
on, the heated seats used in an attempt to keep me toasty, though,
obviously, not keeping my feet warm. Thicker socks on my next early morning
airport run, then, or, just the hope that summer eventually arrives.
It turns out Heathrow was no trouble at all to get to, arriving with 10
miles electric range remaining, though what was problematic was finding
somewhere to charge for the return journey.
a car parked in a parking lot © Provided by The Telegraph
You’d think such a major UK transportation hub would have plenty of EV
points, but sadly that’s not the case. I did a lot of research beforehand
and did find one car park offering the ability to plug-in, though it served
Terminal 2/3, rather than Terminal 5 that I was flying from - necessitating
a bus and train transfer.
Those two EV spaces at NCP Flightpath that did exist were also shared with
disabled badgeholders, and on arrival both were taken. I managed to plug in
regardless, somewhat abandoning the car around the back, with it charging
via a slow three-pin socket accessed by my Chargemaster card.
Apparently it’s bad etiquette for EV drivers to leave cars taking a space
when they’ve charged, but I had no alternative. Speaking to the staff at the
car park they didn’t see any problem either, saying one Tesla driver often
leaves their car parked plugged in for weeks at a time. I’m glad they
weren’t there when I was, then, though I guess that’s the gamble.
a car driving down a dirt road © Provided by The Telegraph
Arriving back at Heathrow after two nights away to a fully, free, charged
i3S was very pleasing, the run home being more brisk, sitting for the most
part at 70mph up the M40, and with the heater on more of the time. I still
managed to get home with around 10 miles battery range remaining. All that
means the i3S has already passed its most significant distance test in the
first week of my ‘ownership’, which is something of a relief.
March 27th, 2018
Fuel economy this week: n/a
I must admit that I’m more than a little bit giddy with excitement about
running an i3S. Ever since the i3 was introduced I’ve used any excuse I
could to borrow one, and with the new S model being added to the line-up it
gave me an excuse to ask for one on a longer-term basis.
The i3 is BMW’s take on our electrified future, the more earnest i3 sitting
alongside the glamorous i8 sports car and pushing electric mobility under
the BMW “i” brand. I say earnest, but, the i3 is cool, in how it’s built,
looks and drives. BMW really has gone for an all-new design with its i
models, rather than taking regular production cars and fitting electric
motors and batteries underneath their more conventional bodies.
The i3 is distinct, then, a clear visual statement of electric intent, the
bold styling making the most of its electric vehicle packaging - which
places batteries under the floor, has an electric motor driving the rear
wheels and, as mine is a range-extender, a 650cc two-cylinder petrol engine
that works as a generator to charge the battery pack and add to the
I’ll try and avoid using that, but with the NEDC maximum battery-only range
being 137 miles, and my job often taking me further than that, I like the
peace of mind it provides. BMW says that about 60 per cent of i3 buyers opt
for this range-extender version (abbreviated to REX) for much the same
It will be particularly suited to my daily schedule, which is largely urban
driving, short hops with the kids to school and back. Indeed, it is on
precisely these journeys that electric cars make the most sense.
a circuit board © Provided by The Telegraph
The longer trips I’ll be using it for means airport runs of about 90 miles
from my home. It’s then I’ll be testing the motorway services charging
network - and occasionally relying on the extra distance that REX petrol
The "as tested" price above is currently not available, as I’ve no idea what
additional equipment has been added. Extrapolating from the BMW’s
configurator, it has about £4,000 of options added to its £40,125 price.
I’ll list those properly when I get the exact details of its specification
in the next few days.
What I can tell you is that being the S it’s the more sporting,
driver-focussed i3. Allowing that is a small hike in power to 181bhp,
sitting on suspension that’s both 10mm lower, with wider tyres riding on
20-inch alloy wheels and Dynamic Stability Control that’s been re-calibrated
to suit all of that.
A more engaging, brisker i3, then, with a corresponding dent in the
potential range, but that’s a compromise I’m prepared to live with. The
0-62mph time is a rapid 7.7 seconds, its pace up to 30mph enough to make my
old long-term 911 feel tardy, thanks to the instant torque.
Not that I’ll be driving it like I did the Porsche, at least not until I’m
fully tuned in to how far it’ll travel depending on how it’s driven. It’s
going to be interesting finding out, sometimes challenging, but then that’s
kind of the point.
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