The i3s is BMW's take on a car which is heavy on performance, light on carbon
BMW i3: Assault with battery BMW's new electric car is sporty in terms of performance and looks. ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

If you are going to help save the earth, you might as well look good doing so.

That must have been BMW's tack for its i3s, a new electric car which will be sold alongside its facelifted and less powerful i3.

Even at a glance, the i3s is clearly a sportier version of the carbon-fibre, battery-powered tall hatch BMW launched here four years ago.

Shod with 20-inch wheels (massive even for non-electric cars) and equipped with an aggressive front apron, full-LED headlights and a chrome strip running across its tailgate, the i3s has a meaner tarmac presence than its predecessor.

Its rear track is 40mm wider and the car sits 10mm closer to the ground with its sports suspension.

The test-car wears a red-and-black paintwork, which could well have been inspired by a favourite combination Bugatti adopts for its outrageous Veyron.

Inside, the car's 10.25-inch infotainment tablet features BMW's latest iDrive interface. Practically everything else is familiar, which is a good thing.

There is an inconspicuous Sport mode button, though. Activate it and you will get tighter steering, stiffer springs and more grunt (if such a word can be used for an electric vehicle).

On the go, the difference which Sport mode produces is indiscernible.

Perhaps it is because the i3s is already more than adequate to begin with. Power and torque have been raised to 135kW and 270Nm - 10kW and 20Nm more than the i3.

Those numbers are pretty respectable in the world of combustion engines. But because the i3s is electrified, they are accessible the moment you depress its accelerator.

And because its powerful motor is attached to a single-speed direct-drive transmission, you get an unrivalled level of seamlessness. The shove is massive and unrelenting - so much so that you have to back off sooner than you think you need to.

In Singapore, you will rarely be able to exploit even half of the i3s' potential.

In all manner of driving, the car feels a lot quicker than its 0-100kmh timing suggests.

The test unit is a variant with a range extender - a small petrol engine which acts like a power generator should you run out of electric juice. It clocks a 7.7-second century sprint. But at the wheel, you will swear it does it closer to four seconds.

The car, which goes on sale some time in the fourth quarter, will come without an extender and is thus lighter. It is capable of a 6.9-second sprint. Imagine how much quicker that would be.

Beyond its zippier drivetrain, you cannot help but wonder how much sportier the car would be if it had a lower-slung body. There are moments its rather high centre of gravity makes its presence felt.

As before, the battery-powered BMW can be driven with one pedal because the car's power recuperation kicks in with bolt action the moment you lift off.

With practice, you will be able to drive this car without ever having to touch the brake pedal.

Alas, one other thing has not changed - its limited range. The test-car managed around 165km on a full charge, which is slightly below its already modest 180km declared figure.The showroom version has a declared 200km range, which means it should be good for at least 180km.

This is below what electric models such as the Hyundai Ioniq Electric and Renault Zoe are capable of.

But clearly, the two other cars are nowhere as sporty as the i3s.

Visually, the BMW also looks the part of a performance car.

And until battery models from Porsche and Jaguar arrive some time next year, this is the sexiest electric vehicle available from an authorised agent.