What Is It?
BMW’s all-electric compact hatchback has really established itself as a serious green machine, thanks in part to its radical lightweight construction (a lot of carbon fiber over an aluminum “tub”). The 2018 model year marks a midgeneration revamp that also introduces a sportier variant, the i3s.
It’s subtle, but both ends have had their styling tweaked. The idea is to camouflage the car’s inherently tall and narrow shape to make it appear wider and sleeker.
The new i3s has a more powerful electric motor than the regular i3: 184 horsepower and 199 lb-ft of torque compared to 170 hp and 184 lb-ft. While the regular i3 can sprint from a standstill to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds, the i3s does it in 6.8. And with a top speed of 100 mph, the i3s is 7 mph faster. It also has a sport suspension as standard and a sport driving mode for snappier responses.
BMW does not mention how much this extra performance impacts the range, which is a maximum of 114 miles in the i3, but both models may be fitted with a range-extending engine that makes 180 miles a possibility.
In the not-too-distant future, a range of 100 miles or so will seem laughable. The next wave comes in the shape of BMW’s i Vision Dynamics concept, an all-electric “4-door coupe” (wasn’t that idea inevitable?) with a range of 373 miles, a top speed of 124 mph and a sprightly 0-to-60 mph time of 4 seconds. The “grille” is a revolutionary take on one of BMW’s design hallmarks, indicating a similarly fresh approach throughout. The company has plans to have 25 “i” models in production by 2025, with 12 of those using battery power alone. If this car is one of them, it looks like it could be a serious competitor to the Tesla Model 3. Although it could go up against the Model S, because this concept is sized somewhere between the two.
The 6 Series of luxury coupes and convertibles is essentially dead, to be replaced by the 8 Series. But the name lives on in the 6 Series Gran Turismo, or GT, which used to be the 5 Series GT. This change of name is prompted by a redesign — bringing a little more elegance to something that was always a little awkward-looking — yet the new model can still swallow up to 65 cu ft. of cargo. It also brings a more conventional tailgate and some weight-saving measures.
The only version coming to the United States is the 640i GT xDrive, packing 355 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque from a turbocharged 3.0-liter 6-cylinder engine. The xDrive part refers to having all-wheel drive as standard.
The Concept X7 iPerformance is a 6-seater crossover. While the X5 technically has seating for seven, its third-row accommodations are too tight for anyone who’s grown out of Cheerios as their favorite snack. The X7 provides more adult-size room, making it a rival to the spacious Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class. This concept has a plug-in hybrid drivetrain, but there will be a production version coming along in 2018.
The Concept Z4 Roadster was first introduced at Pebble Beach, central California’s summer car meet-up for billionaires. It might have escaped some people’s notice, but BMW stopped making the less-than-successful Z4 a year or so ago. This design study, however, is a taster for a new Z4 based on a platform developed in conjunction with Toyota (a new Supra seems to be on the way as well). It looks like it will come out next year as a 2019 model.
Nothing official yet for the i3 and i3s. The current i3 (with the same 94-Ah battery) starts at $44,595.
The 6 Series GT will start at $70,695.
When Can You Get It?
The 2018 BMW i3 and i3s go on sale toward the end of 2017.
The 6 Series GT will reach dealerships this fall.
Add It to Your Shopping List Because… .
The i3 is popular among well-off eco-warriors. The 6 Series GT is luxurious and practical.
Other Cars to Consider
2017 Chevrolet Bolt — A 238-mile range helps make up for less space than the i3 and a lack of cachet.
2017 Mercedes-Benz B250e — Total range is 87 miles. Although spacious and quite upscale, the B250e is being left behind by more modern offerings.
2017 Volkswagen e-Golf — Not in the BMW status bracket, but still quite premium-feeling, the e-Golf looks like a conventional car, offers plenty of practicality and now covers up to 125 miles.
2018 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class Coupe — Arguably more successful than the 6 Series GT from a styling standpoint. Then again, it takes a particular individual to swim against the SUV tide and go for BMW’s “neither wagon nor crossover” offering.