The BMW i3 was the company’s first electric car, which helped launch their i family of vehicles in 2014. Now the i3 is one of the best-selling compact electric luxury vehicles.

I got to test out the 2018 BMW i3s with range extender for about a week. Even though the car isn’t the most tech-packed vehicle BMW offers, it still comes with a number of features.

Design

The BMW i3s has a sporty look with a mix of red and black paint. The front of the vehicle is where the “frunk” is which can be used to store the car’s charger.

The BMW i3s offers a good amount of trunk space and even more when you fold down the rear seats. The vehicle only seats four instead of five like in other hatchbacks. Since the car is electric, everything is done manually from the trunk opening, back seats, front seat adjustments and steering wheel movement.

The vehicle has two displays, one smaller one to show your speed, electric range and advanced cruise control. The other display is a 10.25-inch navigation system powered by BMW’s iDrive and controlled via the iDrive controller or using your voice.

The BMW i3s’ navigation system is the same to the one found on the BMW 6 Series GT. The iDrive controller has a swivel wheel, clicks in and can be used as a touchpad to draw letters.

The BMW i3s I tested had Adaptive Cruise Control, which allows you to set your speed and then it will automatically adjust when a car comes in front of you. The Adaptive Cruise Control can be adjusted using the buttons on the left side of the steering wheel, while the right has your volume controls, voice button and phone.

The BMW i3s is available in both all-electric and a gas range extender option. The gas range extender adds a small engine connected to a generator to help add power to the battery.

The car also has a backup camera along with parking sensors to let you know when you’re too close to an object. The BMW i3s will automatically stop if it detects a person or object, so you don’t hit it.

The vehicle can get about up to 150-180 KM of pure electric range or up to 250 KM of combined electric and gas range. The range of the BMW i3s can vary depending on how your drive the vehicle if you drive more aggressively than you’ll get a shorter range.

In terms of charging the vehicle, it all depends on the level of electric charger you’re using. A Level 1 charger (a typical 110 outlet) can get your about 8 KM of range per hour of charging or a full charge in about 12-15 hours. A Level 2 charger will get you about 30 KM of range in an hour or a full charge in a few hours.

Level 2 chargers are a type of charger that can be installed in your home or available in public places or car dealerships that offer electric vehicles (including BMW). Most electric vehicles have the same Level 2 charging standard.

The last type is a Level 3 charger which can get your a full charger in about 30-45 mins. There aren’t many Level 3 chargers and Tesla’s Superchargers are considered Level 3. There are two other types of Level 3 charging standards, one is CHAdeMO used by Asian automakers and CCS used by North American and European auto manufacturers. Most Level 3 chargers support both CCS and CHAdeMO.

If you’re buying an electric vehicle, you’ll want to have a Level 2 charger installed at home but you’ll also can use public charging stations that are either free to use or pay per use and can cost around a $2.50 flat rate or $1 per hour. A Level 3 public charger will cost around $15 per hour.

The BMW i3s also comes with something called regenerative braking which basically will slow you down and convert kinetic energy back into stored energy in the car’s battery. The BMW i3s also has great acceleration even when not in sport mode.

The BMW i3s with range extender starts at $56,950 CAD but it’ll cost you extra if you want some features mentioned.

Premium Package – $3,500 CAD

  • 20” Lt/Aly Wheels, Double-Spoke 431 Jet Black
  • BMW ConnectedDrive Services Professional
  • Comfort Access
  • Harman/Kardon Sound System
  • On-Board Navigation
  • Park Distance Control, Front and Rear
  • SiriusXM Satellite Radio Tuner
  • Smoker’s Package
  • Universal Remote Control

Driver Assistance Package – $2,350 CAD

  • Apple CarPlay
    Convenience Telephony w/ Smartphone Connectivity
  • Driving Assistant Plus

Accessories and/or Standalone Options

  • Dalbergia Brown Leather – $1,750 CAD
  • Glass Sunroof – $1,200 CAD
  • Melbourne Red Metallic w/ Frozen Grey Accent – $895 CAD

The BMW i3s I tested was priced at $66,645 CAD.

Software & Connectivity

The BMW i3s has the company’s iDrive 6 System. It can be controlled via the iDrive controller or using your voice. Navigating through the iDrive interface is easy, all the menus are large and can easily be read.

On the main screen, you have your usual array of menus with Navigation, Media/Radio, ConnectedDrive, Communication, Notification and My Vehicle.

Navigation is where you’ll find maps and the ability to enter destinations. The map interface is nice to look at, with easy to read street names and traffic information.

Media/Radio shows your connected mobile devices and different radio options. ConnectedDrive is where you’ll be able to see the weather, news and contact BMW via their concierge service.

Communication is where you’ll be able to make calls and manage your phone. Notifications will show you messages from your smartphone. My Vehicle is where you’ll be able to make changes to the vehicle as well as show your range.

Voice control in the BMW i3s also works well. To use it, all you have to do is press the microphone button on the steering wheel. BMW’s voice recognition system works well, you can say a whole address without needing to say it in parts and you can even use voice control to send messages or make calls. You can access your phone’s voice assistant by holding down the microphone button.

The BMW i3s can be optioned Apple CarPlay (with the Driver Assistance Package), it allows you to connect your iPhone and mirror the homescreen on your navigation system. Just like in the BMW 6 Series GT, the i3s doesn’t have the option for Android Auto.

Here’s what the company said about Android Auto:

Within Canada and North America as a whole, we know that our customer base is predominately iOS users. Additionally, the Android operating system offers the user a multitude of ways to change and personalize the interface, which could lead to discrepancies between the device and vehicle.

The BMW i3s can also be controlled via the BMW i Remote app, available on Android and iOS. The app shows you the electric range, vehicle status and more. You can also activate the i3s’ climate control via the app, so it’s nice and cool before you get in. The app also allows you to send addresses.

BMW Canada is in the midst of switching from using the BMW Remote and BMW i Remote apps to a new system called BMW Connected, which will eventually bring Amazon Alexa (and possibly Google Assistant) control to BMW’s vehicles in Canada. The BMW Connected app is set to be available in Canada, later this year.

Final Thoughts

The BMW i3s is a great electric vehicle that offers a good amount of range (especially with the range extender) and is fun to drive. It would have been nice if BMW had included Android Auto.

It’s also not only nice to have but if you bought the vehicle when you had an iPhone but later switch to an Android phone, you’re kind of stuck with only having only Apple CarPlay and no way to fully connect your Android device besides Bluetooth.

Pros

  • iDrive is easy to use
  • Smooth ride
  • Good range (especially with gas range extender)
  • Spacious Interior
  • Voice control works well
  • Adaptive Cruise Control is great
  • Navigation display is easy to read

Cons

  • No Android Auto
  • Expensive considering other electric cars similar in size
  • Small rear seats
  • The range can somewhat vary depending on driving habits

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