As soon as we confirmed that we'd be getting a 2020 MINI Cooper SE for a press loan, we knew if there was one thing we did, it had to be a quarter-mile drag race with a BMW i3. Luckily, we were able to arrange just that and matched the BMW group siblings up so they could duke it out on the track.
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One of the reasons we really wanted to do this (besides the fact that we love drag races!) is that the Cooper SE basically has a BMW i3 powertrain transplanted into it. BMW shared as many components as they could, including the motor, in an effort to keep the price of the Cooper SE down, and they accomplished that goal. The base Cooper SE starts at £24,900 on-the-road after the £3,000 government’s Plug-In Car Grant, a whopping £8,125 less than the base price for a BMW i3, which starts at £33,025 also after the grant is applied.
You'll see in the video that I drove the Cooper SE, and Kyle Conner drove the BMW i3, which he borrowed for the race. The i3 we used is a 2016 with the range extender option, so it's not the fastest i3 available. The fastest i3 would have been a 2014 -2016 BEV. The older i3s (pre-2017) are faster since they are lighter than the current models which have bigger, heavier batteries.
So it's actually good that we used a 2016 i3 REx, because in 2017 BMW upgraded the i3's battery which provided more range, but the cars were then a little slower than the previous-years models. However, the range-extended version weighs about 300 lbs more than the BEV, and that definitely made a difference.
As for weight, the i3 REx weighs a little more than the Cooper SE, 1,429 kg (3,150 lbs) compared to 1,365 kg (3,009 lbs). The Cooper SE also has the power advantage pushing out 181 bhp and 199 lb-ft torque, and the i3 has 170 bhp and 184 lb-ft torque.
So on paper, the Mini should beat the i3 REx. But does it? Well, yes, not surprisingly it does.
You'll see in the video before we race that Kyle predicts the Mini will win and he was correct. I thought the i3 would win and was surprised that the Mini not only won, but it won easily. I did have a 2014 i3 REx for three years, so I should have been better tuned into the speed of the i3, but I do have an excuse (doesn't everyone?).
For the past two years, I've been driving a BMW i3S which is faster than the i3 REx we used in the race. I don't think I've even driven an i3 REx since 2017, so I've really gotten used to the power of the i3S. Plus, my i3S BEV weighed 1,363 kg (3,005 lbs), 66 kg (145 lbs) less than the 2016 i3 REx. It's almost the exact same weight of the Cooper SE, weighing 1.8 kg (4 lbs) less.
The Cooper SE actually uses the motor from the i3S, which is why it's more powerful than the i3 REx we raced. I only wish I had an i3S at the track because I'm pretty sure the results would have been different. But I can't take anything away from the Mini, it performed well and beat up its big brother pretty badly.