Driving BMW’s futuristic family car
- New i3s is a sportier version of BMW’s zero-emissions family hatchback
- All-electric models costs £36,975 – range extender version is £40,125
- High-performance electric motor and battery produces 184 horse power
- That’s good enough to sprint to 62mph in 6.9mph and a top speed of 99mph
Ditch diesel and buy yourself an electric car.
That’s the persuasion from the government right now as it pushes a raft of unsubtle taxes on diesel vehicles like an elbow to ribs of motorists in a bid to encourage them to use zero emissions models that are said to be better for the environment.
But many drivers are hesitant to make the switch due to an insufficient infrastructure, expensive prices and concerns about running out of electricity.
Is BMW’s latest electric family car the one to change peoples’ minds?
Electric dream or a low-emissions loser? Daily Mail motoring editor Ray Massey (pictured) puts the new BMW i3s to the best in Portugal
The model in question is BMW’s more powerful version of the electric i3 city car – the zero emissions model that proves that you can have oomph as well as green credentials.
The new all-electric zero-emissions BMW i3s, which goes on sale today, is powered by a high-performance 184 horse-power electric motor linked to a high-voltage lithium ion battery – 14 more horses than the standard model.
The marriage of the two means this premium-badged hatchback can sprint from rest to 62mph in 6.9mph, has a top speed of 99mph, a claimed electric-only range of 174 miles, and costs £36,975.
If electric-car range anxiety fills you with dread of being stranded at the side of the road with zero per cent battery charge, a range-extender version is also available that adds a 38 horse-power two-cylinder engine to generate electric power on the go.
This combustion-powered addition lengthens the range by around 90 miles, though it comes as an extra cost – £40,125 for the i3s.
To make sure its additional potency is easy to spot, the new i3s also gets sports suspension that’s 10mm lower, sportier styling, a black roofline, 20-inch alloy wheels, a sport driving mode, high-gloss grille, roof mouldings and front bumper trim.
The sportier i3s is distinguishable from the standard car by a few unique features, including lower suspension and 20-inch alloy wheels
Ray Massey got to grips with the car during a handling test in dry and wet conditions
The i3s is powered by a high-performance 184 horse-power electric motor linked to a high-voltage lithium ion battery – 14 more horses than the standard model has
It’s pretty sprightly out on the open road and whips around narrow, twisty lanes – such as in Lisbon’s old town, with aplomb.
It’ll turn on a sixpence – I even pushed it to the limit on a test track, weaving in and out of cones to experience its improved agility and road holding in all conditions.
There’s instant acceleration when you put your foot down. Dynamic stability and traction control systems have been honed to help drivers pull away in the wet and on snow while also allowing mild and safely controllable drifts on cornering.
The sport mode allows for a more direct accelerator response and sharper steering.
In contrast, you also feel the regenerative braking – which sends more energy back to the battery system – kicking in as it slows you up when you take your foot off the accelerator pedal.
Judge it right and you barely have to use the brakes to come to a standstill in moving city traffic.
However, it is so quiet that many – if not most – pedestrians just don’t hear you coming, even when you are crawling at walking pace right behind them on a cobbled old-town road.
The chunky steering wheel seems to come a long way out of the dashboard, but the seating position feel reassuringly high for such a small car.
The instant abundance of power is great but still a bit weird without the accompanying growl of an engine to which most drivers of petrol and diesel cars have become accustomed.
So while it looks the business and performs appropriately, it’s still hard to shake the image of a super-charged milk-float from your mind.
It’s no slouch: The BMW i3s can accelerate from 0 to 62mph in 6.9mph and has a top speed of 99mph
The all-electric model has a claimed range of 174 miles, though the range extender boosts that with the addition of a low-powered petrol engine
Prices start from £36,975 for the electric i3s or £40,125 for the range extender
But, importantly to our government, it is very eco friendly.
BMW said: ’The i3 and i3s feature recycled plastics, renewable raw materials, natural fibres and open-pored, unbleached eucalyptus wood. More than 80 per cent of the surfaces visible to the passengers are made from recycled materials or renewable resources.’
BMW is also working on plans to use plastic waste recovered from the sea – where it poses a threat to wildlife and even humans through the food-chain- to create plastic body panels and other parts for the i3 and i3s.
If you’re feeling flush you can load it up with loads of added extras including a variety of parking aids, upgraded music systems, active cruise control, forward collision warning, and traffic jam assist which will basically drive you semi-autonomously at speeds of up to 37mph while reading the road ahead and keeping you a safe distance from the car in front and in lane.
The latest version of BMW’s i-Wallbox charger also allows fast home-charging that is five times quicker than with a standard cable, providing enough power for a 112-mile journey in under three hours.
The sprightly performance and long travel distances are helped by the lightweight but strong carbon-fibre reinforced plastic passenger cell, which also proves to be pretty practical.
The inclusion of suicide doors makes getting in and out of the compact i3s a doddle
Inside, the dashboard and cabin materials are made-up of recycled materials to give it some extra eco-friendly credentials
It means there’s no need for the traditional B-Pillar separating front and rear doors.
That allows the front and rear doors open in opposite directions leaving a wide space for occupants to get in and out more easily.
BMW says it expects to sell 3,150 i3 and i3s models in the UK in the first full year of sales, of which about a quarter will be the more powerful version.
But reflecting perhaps motorists’ nervousness about relying totally on electric power, some 60-per cent of the total will include the petrol range extender, with 40 per cent choosing pure electric.
More than 8,000 i3s have been sold in the UK since launch in 2013, which BMW says makes it ‘the best-selling electric car in the premium compact segment’.
Priced at £37,000, it is unquestionably a premium product considering its modest size, though it’s hard to argue that it is one of the best low-emissions models on the market to date.
Courtesy: Daily Mail Online