The i3’s charging system has been upgraded along with the battery pack. A specialist DC charger can be used to charge the new battery to 80% of its capacity in around 40min. That's sufficient to give a real-world range of around 100 miles.
A bespoke BMW wall-mounted charging box with high-power 11kWh three-phase charging can be fitted to an owner’s home and offers the same 80% charge in less than three hours.
The rest of the i3 is pretty much unchanged. It’s still driven by a rear-mounted electric motor, which is designed and manufactured by BMW in Germany. By developing its own batteries and motor, BMW claims the i3 is the most energy-efficient electric vehicle on the market, consuming 12.6kWh per 100km (62 miles) of travel.
What's it like?
This is an immensely likeable vehicle, but it’s hard not to wish that BMW had opted to make it a little longer, especially in the wheelbase, when you drive it. The i3 is a finger’s width under 4.0 metres long and, in that context, the 2.57m wheelbase sounds reasonable, but on the road, it’s clear a more generous footprint would have helped with the i3’s two biggest failings: its ride on rough roads and access to the rear seats.
On a very poor surface, the i3’s chassis finds it difficult to settle down. It reacts rather harshly on the very roughest surfaces, joggling the occupants as it thumps and crashes. It’s true that the chassis is relatively stiffly sprung, so the situation is more exaggerated that it might otherwise be. The 19in wheels probably don’t help.
In stark contrast, on a very well-surfaced stretch of road - and there were a few of those on the test route in southern Germany - the i3 is uncannily smooth and swift. And the serenity of the progress makes using the full potential of the i3’s electric motor hard to resist.
The i3’s performance is pretty eager even with the energy-saving EcoPro setting switched on (it subdues the throttle response and cuts the cooling power of the air-con) but fully unleashed it is a remarkably quick machine.
From zero to 30mph, there’s probably not much that could keep pace with this city car, and even up to 50mph or 60mph, the i3’s progress can be described as pretty vivid. Overall refinement is impressive, too, with road roar and wind noise well subdued. Notably narrow tyres probably help here.
Perhaps the biggest oddity is the strong braking effect of energy regeneration when slowing down. Lifting off the accelerator results in a quite marked braking effect as the motor starts acting as a generator. Time it wrong and you come to a halt quite a way short of the traffic lights.