What is it?
We've already experienced BMW's revised i3. Then we were sampling the electric car in Munich, but now we're in the UK driving on a mix of urban and country roads.
To recap, the new ‘94Ah’ part of the name refers to a brand-new battery developed by BMW and made up of cells manufactured by Samsung. This lithium ion battery pack, which is mounted under the cabin floor, is the same size as the previous one but its energy density has been improved by an impressive 50%. BMW claims the resulting 33kWh capacity significantly improves the i3's electric range, boosting it from 118 miles to 195 miles.
The i3’s charging system has been upgraded along with the battery pack. A specialist DC charger can be used to charge the new battery to 80% of its capacity in around 40 minutes. A standard Type 2 charging cable is also provided should a DC point not be available.
In Germany we focused on the purely electric model, but here we're driving the Range Extender, which, you may remember, uses a 650cc two-cylinder petrol engine as a generator in order to provide back-up charging for the improved battery. Together, they provide the Range Extender with an official 231 miles of range.
What's it like?
Along with its range, the new i3's performance is also improved over that of the old model, so the purely electric version now sprints from rest to 62mph in 7.3sec, while this slightly heavier Range Extender takes 8.1sec. It's no surprise, then, that the i3 still feels supremely comfortable darting away from traffic lights and accelerating into gaps from a rolling start.
Its performance remains strong at motorway speeds, too. There isn't the same stomach-pinning sensation that you get from stationary, but even up at 50mph it still feels eager enough to make fast overtakes on country roads a safe endeavour. It feels most urgent in its Comfort driving mode, where the throttle is at its most responsive, rather than the range-focused EcoPro, which dulls the throttle (and the air-con) and limits top speed.
Of course, all of this is done in near silence, the only sounds being a faint whine from the motor and the building of road and wind noise as speed increases - but never to annoying levels. Once the battery has depleted to 75% or below, it's possible to fire the two-cylinder generator and preserve the battery, but even its distant hum doesn't disturb the calm.
If anything lets the i3 down just slightly, it would be its ride and handling. Its large, standard 19in wheels and low-profile tyres pick up on sharp ridges at low speeds, but at least the i3 keeps its body from shuddering about at the same time. At higher speeds the same ruts become less intrusive.
And while the i3's brilliant performance made it more than a match for combustion-engined cars on our fast, rolling cross-country route from the Cotswolds and towards London, its chassis feels better set up for town driving than for brisk B-roads. The keen rebound from its suspension and aggressive yet uncommunicative steering had us taking several bites at bends, while its relatively narrow tyres don't offer the last word in grip. Still, for low-speed agility in town, few EVs are better.