Since BMW’s launch of its electrified sub-brand in SA back in 2015, the Bavarian marque has since expanded its green offerings to spill into what is known as iPerformance models, essentially hybrid models of existing series cars including the 330e, 530e, 740e and the X5 xDrive40e.

Now the pioneers of the sub-brand, the i3 and i8 coupe have received updates with the former now featuring a denser battery pack that takes the estimated driving range from 160km to 200km for the pure BEV (battery electric vehicle) version, which bodes well for South African buyers who usually commute longer distances than those in Europe.

There continues to be a range extender version too, more affectionately known as a Rex, which now features a range increased from 260km to 360km. This is thanks largely to the bigger 94Ah (Ampere hours)/33kWh (kilowatt hour) battery pack.

Cosmetically, the i3 gets LED headlights as standard as well as LED indicators. There has been little in the way of updates in the cabin which still remains fresh for the most part save for the upgraded iDrive screen, which factors in features such as BMW’s Concierge services.

Getting in and out of the car remains a cinch, thanks to the wide-opening door apertures, including suicide rear doors.

As we ran the pre-facelift i3 Rex in our long-term garage, slipping behind the wheel of the updated model at its launch felt a familiar place and the model remains a hoot to drive, thanks to its torque of 250Nm and 125kW that will leave all and sundry behind at the traffic light.

Driving the BEV version in a rather nonchalant way, I can safely say that the new batteries will give you more range than was previously possible, which makes the possibility of owning an i3 more appealing now.

What with the current fuel price at R15.79 for 95 octane inland, the government would do well to give electric vehicle buyers incentives for buying into the technology instead of vilifying them with even higher import tax duties compared to combustion engine propelled cars.

At a price of R637,300 for the BEV and R717,100 for the Rex variant, the i3 is anything but cheap, but a great deal of that inflated price is due to the fact that our government is slapping heavy import tax duties on these cars as it still considers them luxury goods rather than a means to saving on fast depleting fossil fuels and lowering the impact of carbon emissions.

While the manufacturing of electric cars in general remains an energy intensive exercise, once the vehicle leaves the factory and is received by its owner, overall local emissions of the vehicle will, most likely, only be attributed to the tyres. Yes, tyres on cars actually emit carbon, a topic we will certainly expand on in the future.

For those with a penchant for more performance from their i3, then the i3S version, which we drove in Portugal in 2017, will arrive in SA in the fourth quarter of 2018. You can expect sharper handling among other things, thanks to wider tyres front rear.

As mentioned, we also got to drive the updated i8 coupe, which cosmetically features a new wheel design and new paintwork in the form of E-Copper Metallic and Donnington Grey Metallic (both available on the i8 Roadster, too) while the electric motor has been give a slight bump in energy density up from 20 to 34Ah and gross energy capacity up from 7.1 to 11kWh. This brings the electric power up 9kW to 105kW and 250Nm and 55km of battery-only driving range at speeds up to 120km/h.

Meanwhile, the 1.5l, three cylinder turbo engine still thumps out an exemplary 170kW and 320Nm, bringing the total system output to 275kW, which sees the coupe dispatch the 0-100km/h sprint in 4.4 seconds (4.6 seconds for the Roadster) and both models top out at 250km/h.

The big news for the i8 range though is the arrival of the new Roadster which, sadly, we only got to drive for 10km due to time constraints at the launch, although we did drive it in Mallorca in May and you can find our review online.

The highlights are that the model is specifically a two-seater and has a cloth roof that tucks snugly in a crevice just behind the cabin. The roof takes only 15 seconds to dance up or down and this can be done on the move at up to 50km/h. Also, the Roadster (R2,329,300) only commands a 60kg weight penalty over its coupe (R2,095,200) sibling and, while I cannot tell you how the vehicle performs on twisting roads with the roof down, it certainly draws more attention from bystanders than its tin-top version and that, alone, will likely make it the most popular model of the two.

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