As you probably would have guessed by now, the 2017 LA Auto Show is much more electric than it has been over the past few years. BMW is still refining its electric lineup, Kia has stepped up its Niro hybrid to now include and plug, and Volvo is bringing out two superb plug-in hybrids (PHEV).
BMW & The i3S
What does the “S” stand for in 2018? How about super? If not super, at least performance and handling improvements to an otherwise great EV.
The i3 has always struck us as the right middle between an expensive Tesla and the more affordable EVs out there. This year, BMW decided to bump up the performance of the i3 by introducing the i3S. We met with John Kelly, who is the BMW i product manager, to learn more.
When we asked John what’s new with the i3S, the answer was simple and to the point. It’s sportier, more aggressive, and bumps up performance across the line. One thing original EVs suffered from at around 50 mph or so was a certain lack of punch. The i3S improves the elasticity of the electric motor with a greater torque curve at above 45 mph. We asked John if this was a mechanical solution or electronic. We were happy to hear it was an electronic mapping of the torque curve and not mechanical.
Optically, the car looks lower, with the added help of horizontal front and back lights as well as a painted side roofline. The dimensions of the i3S changed somewhat from the i3, with an extra 20 mm in the tires now riding on 20″ wheels. The suspension has been lowered as well. Perhaps the biggest change is the improvement in steering and stability, which now responds much faster than earlier versions.
Volvo XC60 and S90
Hum, what can we say about Volvo except … great job! Geely has done a smashing job by letting the Volvo team continue to do what it does best, deliver great cars.
Volvo is displaying the plug-in hybrid versions of the S90 and XC60 at the 2017 LA Auto Show. But what might not strike you on the outside should do so on the inside. Modern Volvos have an even more luxurious feel than ever before combined with the compelling promise a full line of electrification of some sort — hybrid, PHEV, and pure electric — within two years.
The S90 and XC60 come in the T5, T6, and T8 versions. The T5 is a 250 hp four-cylinder with a turbo, the T6 adds a supercharger on top of the turbo for 316 hp, and what we are particularly interested in is the T8, which becomes a 400 hp plug-in hybrid.
Stay tuned for a more in-depth test drive of the S90 and XC60 PHEV.
Kia Niro PHEV
Finally, we have the Kia Niro, which is finally adopting a PHEV platform as well. This is fresh from Kia’s 5-year EV electric growth plan. Although it shares the platform with Huyndai and its IONIQ, Kia managed to get unique (and potentially very popular) by putting the powertrain under a crossover (CUV). This vehicle might trade off some MPG/MPGe for a much more improved interior living space, but that might be just what consumers want. And yes, a pure EV is in the works for the future.
So, who is the Kia Niro PHEV for? From the design shown at the LA Auto Show, we’re guessing the young at heart.
Next, an LA Auto Show wrap-up before those tired legs and brains wear out…
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