Stepping up its EV game on several levels, BMW has unveiled the redesigned 2018 i3 along with a new performance-oriented i3s variant. Making their formal public debuts at the Frankfurt Auto Show, both of these upscale urban runners benefit from crisper styling, enhanced technology and the latest versions of the automaker’s eDrive system, as well as improved Dynamic Stability Control/Dynamic Traction Control setups for even better handling characteristics.

Looking sharper

While its basic body contours carry over, the i3’s front/rear fascia have been redrawn to make the car appear wider. New horizontal LED indicator lamps up front and a full-width chrome element in the rear help reinforce the look while the existing BMW i “Black Belt” trim has been expanded to include the A-pillars and roofline along with a new matte-chrome roof accent. Melbourne Red Metallic and Imperial Blue Metallic also join the exterior color palette. Amping things up even further, the first-ever i3s features even bolder nose and tail treatments as well as a gloss black finish on its roofline accent and wheel arches. In keeping with its character, the i3s also boasts a 1.6-inch wider track dimension plus a stiffer, slightly lower-riding sport suspension complemented by bespoke 20-inch light alloy wheels. One other notable change for 2018 – full LED headlamps are now standard issue on all members of the i3 family.

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Inside, the i3 cabin remains an exercise in contemporary sustainability with over 80 percent of all visible surfaces made from renewable raw materials or recycled plastics. Both the i3 and i3s will offer base Deka World as well as optional Mega, Giga and Tera World trim choices with Giga World appointments now featuring a new Giga Brown Natural Leather and Carum Spice Grey Wool Cloth combination. The new i3s also will be available with new BMW iBlue seatbelts. Both i3 versions come with BMW’s latest iDrive 6 interface that offers a more intuitive experience. Vehicles fitted with the optional Navigation system Professional have a 10.25-inch high-res screen and improved voice recognition capability and over-the-air updates while the iConnectedDrive setup also gains new features, including On-Street Parking Information.

Adding enthusiast appeal

Motivation for the standard BMW i3 remains unchanged from 2017: a rear-mounted electric motor that makes 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque which heads to the rear wheels via a single-speed automatic transmission. Energized by a 94 aH lithium ion battery pack, that combo can take the car from 0-60 mph in 7.2 seconds and on to a top speed of 93 mph. However, the new i3s offers a more potent variation on the theme thanks to a revised motor that develops 184 horses and 199 lb-ft of twist. Coupled with a custom controller that optimizes power delivery at higher rpm, it cuts 0-60 mph time in the i3s to 6.8 ticks and raises top speed to 100 mph. To take full advantage of that extra muscle, the Driving Dynamics Control on the i3s also features a Sport mode that kicks in a more aggressive throttle map and increases steering effort.

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Both the i3 and i3s also can be had with the 2-cylinder gasoline range extender that can generate electricity on the fly and increase the distance between recharging intervals from 97 miles to 180 miles. For 2018, BMW also will offer a new standard charging cable that features a temperature control and also will introduce the BMW TurboCord Electric Vehicle Charger, a $499 accessory that allows for both 120V and 240V home charging and brings a new BMW Digital Charging Service online that will permit i3/i3s owners to fully integrate their vehicles with their smart ecosystems. The 2018 BMW i3 and new i3s are slated to arrive in U.S. showrooms late this year. Pricing will be announced closer to their actual on-sale date.

More EVs and Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles:

2018 Honda Accord Clarity EV: Smooth operator, with asterisks

2017 Hyundai Ioniq Electric Limited Quick Take

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf First Review

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