2018 BMW i3 and i3s

BMW has unveiled the very slightly updated i3 and i3s at the Frankfurt Auto Show. The biggest news is that the i3S is a little more powerful and gets sportier handling (along with tires that are bigger than a mountain bike’s). The bad news is that there’s no increased battery range.

Who’s interested?

As a city dweller, I really like my i3. It’s super quick, nimble, and easy to park; visibility is superb. However, I dislike driving it on the highway because of how jittery it is. I would hope that the new i3s in particular has ameliorated this behavior.

My 2015 i3 BEV lease was scheduled to end in October, but I just called BMW and extended it through December, same terms, by just returning a simple, signed form. However, the representative said they could do up to 6 months with a confirmed order/ down payment (refundable).

I really want to see what BMW prices the updated i3 at; I think that if they want to sell any at all, they will price it at or below the current model (so $399 leases and below). However, I’m also really interested in the 2018 Bolt and the 2018 Leaf.


Based on past behavior there will be no deals initially on the 2018 cars and I would not expect to see a price drop. If you want a deal and longer range car than you have now you can try to land a 2017 when they clear them out. However my impression is that BMW was more careful with their allocations this time so there might be fewer 2017 cars sitting on dealer lots that they have to clear out.

You should also know that BMW has changed their lease policies to make leases much less attractive. Compared to when you got your i3 we have higher MF, no more MSDs, reduced incentives and other changes that all lead to more expensive leases. I would be almost certain that if you go for a 2018 car you will be paying more per month if you have a car optioned the same way.

You should absolutely check out the Bolt and refreshed Leaf before you commit to another i3. In some markets Chevy was doing a 30 minute test drive at your home for the Bolt. It is a great way to experience the car with no sales pressure. You can see if they are in your area on this site: http://www.testdrivemyway.com/

After driving it I thought that GM did a good job on the Bolt. Compared to the i3 it feels cheaper on the interior, is inferior in handling due to being FWD (lots of torque steer), and I found the seats uncomfortable.

On the plus side the range is clearly better and it is significantly cheaper. I still like the i3 better but if the Bolt does what you need it might be a good way to save lots of money over an i3.

The Leaf I’m not sure will be out by the time you have to make a decision.

Also consider that if you are happy with the range and performance of your current i3 you can probably land a CPO 2014 or 2015 i3 for under $20K. Or you can negotiate to buy yours for less than the residual. EVs can be real good deals used because they take such a massive depreciation hit. If we didn’t need the extra range of the 2017 i3 we would have bought a CPO 2014 one.

Good luck!

Great points made by both of you!!

Never drove the Bolt yet but i3 is still the best performer among the (Non-Tesla) EVs and after 2 years of owning the BEV, still love driving the every kwh out of it!! But yes highway ride is very jittery. Those mountain bike tires do get caught in the grooves and I have to correct myself to stay in lane. Socal drivers know how deep those grooves are on 91/55 freeway.

Only reason I would lease another i3 is for the 2years of free Chargepoint/EVgo DC fast charging card. Between work and home, there are 5 different DC charging spots along the way and I have been charging for free for 2 years! lease payment pays it self practically…

I also leased in 2015 and there are obviously more options to chose from (bolt, Ionique etc) so unless BMW does offer more incentives or attractive RV, not sure how much 17s and 18s will move. We know bolts are getting cheap each month it seems. Loyalty credit $3,000 does make it little better tho. some local dealers were flashing $269 w/ 0 drive off for fairly base BEV if you qualify.

hope they bring back the $149 leases like when they cleared the MY16s… but to Tirpitz point, BMW got wiser and watching their inventories…

Before the hurricane hit Houston, I was pretty sure I was just going to get a Volt (I had #2144 in 2011). In fact, I was planning to close the deal the day before the rain started. But then the storm happened, I made my next Cadillac ELR payment, dealers started seeing $$$ from flood victims, and the dealer sold the car I was planning to get to someone else.

But even before that force majeure, I wasn’t excited about the Volt.

I’ve driven the Bolt twice now and actually like it:

  • Quicker than i3 BEV, and I actually thought the FWD torque steer wasn’t bad (better than a GTI)
  • Still very nimble like the i3 but also stable on the highway
  • More interior space with four real doors (although rear headroom isn’t as good as i3)
  • Apple CarPlay and two big screens (I like how nav isn’t even an option)
  • Trick rear view camera mirror that was previously only available on top of the line Cadillacs
  • Juvenile tire squeal at any speed (combination of low resistance tires and torque)

But things I don’t like about the Bolt:

  • No available adaptive cruise control or other semi-autonomous functions. Given that the Leaf will offer ProPilot for less than a $1,000, I think that at the very least adaptive cruise will be optional for 2018. Also, I think GM would be wise to make available Super Cruise from the Cadillac CT6.
  • Preferential pricing for California emissions states through incentives. It just rubs me the wrong way that GM sells the Bolt cheaper in some states versus others. I understand the business case for it, but I still don’t like it.
  • Front wheel drive with torque steer - while it’s not bad, it’s still not RWD with no torque steer
  • Cheap interior is a given, but that’s a deal breaker for me. I actually kind of like the “digital khaki” plastic
  • No GM-Supported charging infrastructure. There’s a GM dealer (with waiting room and coffee) in every small town across America. GM could give them all $1000 each to install a charger and in 1-month’s time claim the largest charging network in the world. But somehow GM just didn’t care enough to make it happen.

Like @Tirpitz says, I too am inclined to think the 2018 i3 won’t be that great of a deal. I think I see extending my lease for 2-6 months primarily as a way to buy time to see the 2018 Bolt, Leaf, and Clarity Plug-In or possibly (probably not) get a better deal on a 530e or maybe just get a Volt.

I have looked at used i3s and am intrigued by their low prices. But given that I’m downsizing from 2 cars (ELR and i3), I wouldn’t feel comfortable having just a 72-mile i3 BEV as my only car.

And I have “reserved” a Leaf and signed up for the test drive event! It sounds like the 60 kwh “sport” Leaf would be almost my perfect car.

If I was going to be a single car household I’d probably avoid all the EVs because there are times I need to go long distances and an EV just can’t manage it short of a Tesla with its Supercharger network. I can see why you were seriously interested in a Volt.

Sounds to me like you should be looking more at plug-in hybrids. You have the BMW ones like the 530e you mentioned plus 330e and the X5e. I have heard good things about the Mini Countryman PHEV. There is the Mercedes C-class PHEV which I thought had a really nice interior though the back seat stinks. The Audi A3 E-tron was kind of underwhelming for the price. If you don’t care about going fast the Prius Prime is a very nice package and the top level trim has a really good stereo. None of them have the electric range of the Volt though.

Really comes down to how badly you want to be driving all electric miles. I need a larger vehicle for family duty and if BMW had a PHEV of my current car (3 series GT) I would have leased one this summer. They also might have been able to sell me an X3 PHEV if they had one. But they don’t, the 530e is a sedan and I’d prefer a hatch, the 330e same as the 530e and smaller and the X5 too expensive.

Too bad you need a car in a few months. It looks like there will be a blizzard of choices in this space in another year or two.

Personally if you need the longer range and you love the i3, I would just start hunting for a 2017 i3 Rex. It seems that they’re clearing them out now / soon for the 2018s.

I’m really happy with my 2017 i3 Rex and after coding HSOC it only adds an extra 10-15 min to my 240 mi trip driving straight between DC and NYC. Plus you have the flexibility of gas when you need it.

How do you find the i3 REX to handle on the highway? I read a review that said the extra weight made it feel more stable and less twitchy. Do you think that’s the case?

If you have an i3, BMW has the Flexible Mobility Program that allows you to borrow an ICE car for 14 days a calendar year. Up to seven days max each time. I’ve used it and have borrowed a 528i , X3 and X1. Unlimited mileage.


I thought the Flexible Mobility Program was a YMMV type of thing depending on dealer participation? I’ve never asked my dealer, but will do so now since I’m going down to the 1 car.

How do you find the i3 REX to handle on the highway? I read a review that said the extra weight made it feel more stable and less twitchy. Do you think that’s the case?

I never found it to be twitchy, although I’ve never driven a 2014-2016 BMW i3 to compare. I know when I first picked up the car and did the drive from DC-NYC with only 95 mi on the car, it did seem a little bit less stable, but I think that was because the tires were brand new and not broken in yet. It definitely seemed fine in August after my car had ~8500 mi on it on the same DC-NYC trip.

Yes, the dealer has to participate in the program. You can go to any BMW dealer that participates. If you’re in Orange County, Crevier, Sterling and Shelly were participating the last time I used it in December of last year. And the terms may differ. Crevier wouldn’t allow driving it out of California (though the program doesn’t have this restriction) while Sterling allowed it. And Sterling included free toll road access in Orange County.