BMW i3 Sport One-Month Review

3 weeks ago by Tom Moloughney 35

BMW i3 Sport

The 2018 BMW i3 Sport in Fluid Black

After spending a month in my new 2018 BMW i3 Sport one thing is clear to me, this is the car BMW should have offered in 2014, when the i3 first launched.

First off, the 33.2 kWh battery that became available in 2017 makes the i3 a real 100-mile EV. While that may not exactly be considered anything special for 2018, when there are cars like the Bolt and Model 3 with 200 – 300 miles of electric range, coming from my 2014 i3 REx, the extra 40 miles of range really makes a difference. So much so that I opted for a BEV this time around. In my opinion, BMW should have figured out a way to stuff 33 kWh into the original i3, even if it meant slightly lower efficiency numbers. But they didn’t, and the 81-mile EPA range wasn’t enough for most people, which is why about 75% of i3 owners in the U.S., like me, had the range extender option.

BMW i3 Sport

My BMW i3 Sport (right) next to a 2017 i3. The biggest visual difference is that all the 2018 i3s have their high beams integrated into the headlights. In the 2017 and earlier i3s, those round lights in the bumper are the high beams. The horizontal lights in the 2018 i3s are blinkers. Also, the high beams are now LED, and much brighter than the previous halogen high beams were.

So far, I’ve been averaging over 90 miles per charge, and it’s the dead of winter here in NJ. Therefore, I fully expect to average 120 – 130 miles of range once the weather warms up. My 2014 i3 REx would average about 60 miles of electric range in January temperatures and about 80 miles per charge in warmer temperatures. That all adds up to roughly a 40% range improvement over the 2014 i3 REx that I owned for over three years.

BMW i3 Sport

The Sport driving mode modifies the steering and sharpens the accelerator response.

I knew all about the increased range of the larger battery as it had been available and well-documented since BMW upgraded to the Samsung 94Ah cells in August of 2016. What was unknown to me was how much “sport” would BMW put into the new i3 Sport. I leased mine without having the opportunity to test drive one, so I was going on reports from my BMW contacts that had promised me I wouldn’t be disappointed.

The i3 Sport has 14 more horsepower (184 hp vs. 170 hp), and 15 more lb-ft of torque (199 lb-ft vs. 184 lb-ft) than all other i3 models (REx or BEV). That in itself isn’t a huge power increase, and it’s not really felt too much at the low end. The 0-60 times are only 0.4 seconds faster than the base i3 (6.8 sec vs. 7.2 sec), according to BMW. However, the i3 Sport’s increase in power becomes obvious once the car is going faster than 40 mph. At highway speeds, it really feels like a totally different car. The base i3’s power flattens out at about 60 mph, while the i3 Sport still pulls strong up to around 90 mph.

BMW i3 Sport

The BMW i3 Sport handles much better than the non-Sport i3 does. Also, the new traction control allows the i3 to utilize regen braking when cornering at higher speeds.

However, the power increase is only half the story. The beefed-up suspension of the i3 Sport is the real story here. To me, that’s the biggest improvement over my previous i3, after considering the increased range. The i3 Sport’s revised suspension features specially developed dampers, springs, and anti-roll bars. The 20” sport wheels are also 0.5” wider and accommodate 195/50 R20” tires on the rear and 175/55 R20” on the front. The new suspension is also 10 mm lower and 44 mm wider than the base i3’s suspension.

Plus, BMW has improved the i3’s traction control system, claiming it is now 50 times faster than before. I don’t know how to quantify the 50 times faster claim, but I can absolutely feel the difference and it’s definitely much better. My previous i3 would disengage the regenerative braking if I hit a bump in the road and the car lost a little traction. Evidently, if the traction control detected any kind of slippage it would turn off the regenerative braking, so as to not lose complete control.

This would give i3 owners the sensation that the car was actually speeding up after hitting a bump if they weren’t accelerating or coasting when they hit the bump. I personally had to explain what was happening to many i3 owners that reached out to me because they thought there was something wrong with their car. Additionally, the car would gradually decrease the level of regenerative braking in curves, as the traction control would work to prevent slippage. While taking exit ramps at highway speeds, my car would completely cut the regenerative braking out if the turn was sharp. That doesn’t happen with my i3 Sport. The regenerative braking remains active when I go over bumps and momentarily lose some traction, as well as when the car is taking curves at high speeds.

BMW i3 Sport

The BMW i3 Sport’s 20″ wheels are standard and available in Silver or Jet Black.

Another improvement is how stable the car feels on the highway. It feels much more planted than my previous car did. It doesn’t get pushed around by wind and even feels heavier, although it isn’t. Placing the car in Sport mode modifies the steering and sharpens the accelerator response.

BMW i3 Sport

The interior is unchanged from previous year’s i3s. However, there is now a BMW i Blue seat belt option, which I ordered.

All this adds up to a huge driving experience improvement. I always enjoyed my previous i3’s driving experience, but these improvements aren’t only sport-oriented. The car feels more solid and stable, and even the owners that don’t need the extra power will appreciate the improved ride. The tall, lightweight i3 can get pushed around a bit by the wind at higher highway speeds, and that just doesn’t happen to the new i3 Sport. Press the button for the Sport driving mode and the steering gets heavier, and the accelerator response is so sharp that you barely touch it and the car lunges forward.

Also new for 2018 is BMW’s new iDrive 6 and Apple CarPlay. I’m still getting used to the new iDrive but so far I like what I’ve seen. The main screen allows you to view three of six tiles at a time, which helps to view and to access information quicker. Charging rates remain the same with 7.7 kW max on level 2 and a 50 kW for DC Fast. The car also came with BMW’s ChargeNow DC Fast free charging program. I’ll get two years of unlimited free DC Fast charging on the EVgo network.

This is the i3 that BMW should have given us in 2014. A real 100+ mile range, and a car that you wouldn’t mind taking to the track on the weekends. I’m sure I’ll enjoy every minute of my 24-month lease. Too bad I had to wait 3½ years for it, though.

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35 responses to "BMW i3 Sport One-Month Review"

  1. Aaron says:

    Nice review! I hope to put a deposit down on mine later this year – still waiting for a good finance deal in the UK.

  2. DrJJ says:

    Interesting that price of the vehicle is not mentioned.

    1. Tom Moloughney says:

      It’s pretty much loaded and the MSRP was a little over $54,000. I leased it so I’d have to check for the exact amount. I got a great end of year lease deal so the MSRP wasn’t all that important to me.

    2. William says:

      I’m sure Tom discloses his lease deal with those who ask him directly, but probably not in this IEVs forum. Check out the most recent BMW Lease specials, offered by some dealerships, possibly in your area/region, at-

      http://ev-vin.blogspot.com/2016/07/current-lease-offers-for-selected-evs.html?m=1

  3. AnonyMouse says:

    Does the i3 Sport have Wireless CarPlay like in the 5 Series or just regular CarPlay?

    Wireless CarPlay is great for short trips as you don’t have to take your iPhone out of your pocket to plug it in, and there is no need to charge your iPhone as the battery won’t run down much.

  4. mx says:

    Smart to get the 24 month lease.
    BMW has been tweaking this very nicely year after year.

    Can’t wait for my lease to be up in 2 and one half YEARS. — — Envy.

  5. midimal says:

    OK BMW/Samsung – now make PLEASE the 40kWh(at least!) Version of I3 availble.

  6. Harold T says:

    Tom, Nice write up on the regen and hitting bumps. There is a learning curve to regen in bumpy braking zones and on snow. I’ve had a focus Electric and no Soul EV, front wheel drive, and both experienced the temporary release of regen when the tire “bounces” in a pothole. It’s a little unsettling when that happens as you feel like the car lurches forward and you’ll miss your stopping point. On snow the regen is so strong that it locks up the front wheels and releases the regen. very unsettling. Regen reaction is not as good as the ABS style pulsing very rapidly when there is wheel lock. I know my local roads well and as bumps and potholes appear here in NY, you adjust your driving style to compensate for this temporary fumble by regen by avoiding these bumps.

  7. Courtney vegan says:

    I like small cars. So the size is perfect for zipping from outlet malls to strip malls. Just the range is a bummer. For me 300-400 mile range is ideal. This will also save money. By not charging every day,my hydro bill will not go crazy high. Also, won’t have to stress about finding a public charger that won’t work. I know they say most people drive so and so a day. But I look at the bigger picture. Give me 300 mile range,and I will be happy.

    1. mx says:

      You drive 300-400 miles a day?

    2. Roger says:

      The size of the battery or range won’t impact your hydro (electricity) costs. It will just impact how often you need to charge and how far you can drive without having to stop and take time to charge. In fact larger heavier cars with big batteries like the original Tesla’s will cost you more in electricity because they are less efficient.

  8. James says:

    The whole idea of calling a car “sport” when slightly wider tires or stripes and stiffer suspension calibration are included makes me wince.

    As Tom says, the incremental midcycle improvements in the S merely bring it up to where it should have been in 2014.

    At the end of the day, it’s still far overpriced for what it delivers to the consumer. $54,000 for 100 mi,d’s range must be How’s definition of Ludicrous Mode!

    1. Dan says:

      The people who talk about “Ludicrous mode” for the most part tend to be frustrated silicon valley dorks.

    2. Pete says:

      ‘Sport’ add-ons used to be just that. I suggest you are wanting “more sport”, as in RS, M or GT/GTS…

  9. James says:

    *BMW’s definition of Ludicrous Mode…

  10. Terawatt says:

    I want wireless charging plus wireless CarPlay/AA plus wireless phone charging. Wires suck. 🙂

  11. Six Electrics says:

    The traction disengagement issue in older i3s has been greately improved by a firmware update.

    1. Scott L says:

      Well that’s good. How about that fluttering on slippery roads when you let off the pedal in the first generation? Yikes, that was tricky at times.

  12. Tony Marco says:

    Great review as always Tom
    — Love the look in ALL Black!

    Still lovin’ my 2014 i3 Rex especially that my gas tank has “surprisingly” greater capacity & longer range plus with the Rex coming on way before 6% is a real treat with no anxiety!
    — No more power reduction warnings now !!

    Looking forward to the 2019 i3 Rex with 40kWh capacity!

  13. Dave says:

    Tom,

    Will the wheels and snow tires from my i3 work on the i3s?

    1. Scott L says:

      I don’t think so. The i3s has 20″ tires that are wider so you’ll need new rims and tires (about $3,000 for everything). That’s what my dealer said.

    2. Tom Moloughney says:

      They will, but you need 10 mm spacers. Mine were just delivered so I’m putting on my 19″ Rial wheels with Blizzaks that I used on my ’14.

  14. Scott L says:

    Tom, what can you tell me about handling and traction in snow? I assume all-season or winter tires are required. I want to order an i3s but live in Wisconsin. I don’t know if having to switch around tires is worth it ($3,000 S upgrade + $3,000 wheels/tires) vs. just getting another i3 Rex. I loved my first one! Thanks

    1. Tom Moloughney says:

      The tires are Summer tires, so I haven’t tested it in the snow- there’s really no reason to. I needed 10 mm spacers to use my old winter wheel/tire set from my previous i3. The spacers just arrived so I’ll be putting them on this week.

  15. Bob Wilson says:

    Perhaps you might address cross country driving?

    We went with the REx and a Prius Prime because we wanted EV around town yet the ability to take a vacation or out of town trip with either car. Renting or having a second car dedicated to highway driving didn’t make sense to us.

    1. Tom Moloughney says:

      There’s not really too much to address. Using a 100-mile EV for Cross country driving is foolish, IMO.

      About the furthest I ever drive is 225 miles to my in-laws, anything further than that and I fly. I’ll take this up to my in-laws in Vermont soon, and probably report on how it goes. 🙂

      1. Verb Washington says:

        Well, call me foolish, then. I took delivery with the Performance Center/Driving School option of my 2017 i3 BEV. Took most of a day to get from Greer<SC to Dayton, OH. I love DC Fast Charging, but do with there were more.

        1. Verb Washington says:

          ‘wish there were more’

      2. Verb Washington says:

        I do completely agree with your assessment of the increased range, although my 2014 was also a BEV, so I’ve never been prone to range anxiety. I don’t really spend much time in ECO mode with this one, which is a change.

  16. Tom says:

    Does the non-Sport i3 get suspension tuning updates to improve stability at highway speeds?

    How about the improved traction control system?

    Love my ’15 Rex, but it goes off lease in six months and I need to decide what will replace it!

    1. Tom Moloughney says:

      The non-Sport i3s get the improved traction control but not the upgraded suspension, that’s the Sport suspension.

      1. Tom says:

        Bummer. I’m not terribly interested in the Sport trim (rough western PA roads don’t mix well with 20″ wheels), but would love better stability at highway speeds.

  17. Dave says:

    Tom,

    Can you please provide a web link or the source (or part number) for the wheel spacers? Thank you for all of the excellent info on EVs and the i3.

      1. Dave says:

        Tom,

        Excellent, thanks again!

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