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Review: BMW i3

Introduced in October of 2013, the BMW i3 represents several milestones for the German automaker. The i3 is BMW’s first all-electric car, its first carbon fiber car, its first connected car, and its first car designed for the urban living requirements of the future. This BMW i3 review will give you a detailed overview of this innovative vehicle, which has been updated for 2017.

Key Specifications

  • Make: BMW
  • Model: i3
  • First available: November 2013
  • Next Upgrade: March 2017
  • Electric/Hybrid: Electric
  • Seats: 4
  • Acceleration to 100km/h (60mph): 7.2s
  • Range: 186 miles 300 km
  • Price: $43,395
    Price: €34'950

Range & Battery

  • Battery options

    • 60 Ah
    • 94 Ah
    • 94 Ah w/Range Extender
  • Charge time

    • less than 30 minutes at public DC
    • less than 40 minutes (0-80% charge)
    • 18h at 110V
    • 3 to 5h at 220V
    • 0.5 to 0.75h at 440V

Innovation & Self-driving

  • BMW i ConnectedDrive solutions – is the first car to come with full connectivity as standard.
  • BMW i Navigation with Range Assistant – includes a dynamic range map and charging station display to help you find the most efficient way to your destination.
  • BMW i Remote App – lets you keep an eye on your car when you are away from it. For example, you can remotely control and monitor and adjust the temperature of your car before unplugging.
  • BMW i Mobile Care package – this means that professional help is available over the phone for any unforeseen events that affect the vehicle or charging, and provides assistance quickly at your location, if needed.

Carbon Fiber Construction – Strong And Light

BMW engineers designed the i3 to be an electric car from the ground up, using a clean sheet of paper. BMW has also made the move to advanced materials, leaving conventional welded metal unibody construction methods behind.

The BMW i3 combines an extremely light carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) structure with plastic outer body panels and an aluminum drive module. The CFRP material is so rigid that B-pillars are not required for structural strength. This allows for rear-hinged rear doors, which create a wide, unobstructed space for all passengers to enter and exit the vehicle. The efficient, upright design provides plenty of room for four passengers within a small, easy-to-park footprint. Large glass surfaces combine a feeling of airiness with excellent visibility.

Electric Power For The City – And The Country

The i3 is powered by a synchronous 125 kW electric motor with an output of 170 hp and 184 lb.-ft. of torque, all available the moment you accelerate. This produces acceleration times of 0 to 62 mph in 7.2 seconds, and 50 to 75 mph in 4.9 seconds for rapid passing. A single-speed transmission transmits power to the rear wheels, providing an uninterrupted rush of power from a standing start all the way to its efficiency-limited top speed of 93 mph. Energy is stored in a 33 kWh lithium-ion battery pack.

Two powertrain options are available on the i3. The pure electric version can travel up to 114 miles on a charge, while the optional range extender version provides a range of up to 180 miles. The range extender is a two-cylinder gasoline engine with an output of 38 hp and a 2.4 gallon gas tank capacity. It acts as a generator to recharge the battery, increasing the i3’s range by 66 miles.

The 2017 i3 has a 7.4 kW onboard charger. The time required to fully charge its battery is 4.5 hours or less at a 240-volt Level 2 charging station.

Please read all our BMW Electric Cars reviews.

Connectivity – There’s An App For That!

The BMW i3’s GPS-based navigation system is totally integrated with the vehicle’s drive systems. It gathers data on charge level, traffic, area topography and driving style to plot the most efficient route to an objective. It will even suggest subway or rapid transit options that can get owners to their destinations faster. The navigation map can receive over-the-air updates.

The BMW i3 can also be synced to a smartphone. The BMW i Remote app lets owners remotely check battery charge level, control automatic charging, pre-heat or cool the interior, and sync destinations. Unfortunately, there is no in-car wi-fi.

Also missing from the 2017 BMW i3 are any of the accident prevention systems that are now appearing on many mass market cars as standard equipment. There’s no Automatic Emergency Braking, no Lane Departure Warning, no Smart Cruise Control, no Blind Spot Detection, no Rear Cross-traffic Alert, and no Lane Change Assist.

Driving The i3 – It’s An Electric BMW

BMW has provided the i3 with the same fun-to-drive character that its gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles are known for. The combination of a lightweight, rigid structure, battery pack placed low in the floor, and a highly responsive electric motor results in excellent performance and handling. The steering has a fast ratio and good feel, the ride is compliant. If you are interested in the BMW of the electric future, the future is now.

Conclusion

Pros

  • spectacular design
  • extremely light body

Cons

  • still relatively low range, compared to Tesla

Please also read our published Electric Car reviews of other makes and models.

1 User Review on “BMW i3”

  1. StephenSD
    BMW i3: An Advanced Concept, Brilliantly Executed
    Reviewed
    2014 BMW i3 - I have test driven this car

    by Stephen Fogel

    I had the opportunity to borrow my friend Marc’s BMW i3 and drive it for this review. It is a 2014 (its first model year) and has 6,000 miles on the odometer. Marc uses it primarily for driving around San Diego doing errands, grocery shopping and other local trips. He has a fast charger in his garage that takes about three hours to fully charge his i3.

    Looks Different, Is Different
    The BMW i3’s styling is distinctive and unusual. In a similar way to the original Toyota Prius, it says, “I am not the same as other cars.” You step up getting in and sit upright in comfortable seats for four, or five in a pinch. The i3’s front seats have manual, not power controls to conserve energy usage and reduce weight. Visibility is excellent in all directions.

    The i3’s interior dash layout is comfortable and easy to use. The start/stop button and gear selector are integrated into one unit to the right of the steering wheel. There are two screens on the dash. The screen above the steering wheel gives you speed and charge level readouts, with a battery usage graphic and number of miles remaining. The center screen is for navigation and infotainment.

    The i3 offers a choice of three driving modes: Comfort, Eco Pro, and & Eco Pro+. Beyond the Comfort setting, each reduces power output and increases range. I drove mostly in the Eco Pro setting, which Marc recommended for a good balance of power and range. Eco Pro was plenty powerful and allowed easy one-pedal driving, with fairly strong brake regeneration. This let me slow for stop signs and red lights without using the brakes, once I got the feel for it.

    Drives Like A BMW, Feels Like A BMW
    The i3 has direct steering with plenty of feel, plus an excellent ride and handling compromise. The ride is firm and the cornering is flat with the battery pack placed low in the chassis. Thanks to its compact size and large glass area, it is easy to place the i3 on the road.

    The car feels light on its feet and loves to make quick lane changes in traffic. Power is plentiful and immediate, from a standing start and also cruising at highway speeds. The instant thrust of the i3’s electric motor is a joy to experience, whenever you need it and even when you don’t!

    Where The BMW i3 Stands In 2017
    The i3 is a groundbreaking electric car in so many ways. It is a clean-sheet design, with a structure made of carbon fiber. It is lightweight and fun to drive, with high performance and excellent utility. But it has been around a few years and is showing its age in a few key ways.

    Aside from a rear parking sensor, it has no other driver assistance features. This is largely due to the fact that these features are easiest and least expensive to add when the platform is being designed, and not retroactively. Power consumption may also be a consideration, and could be resolved with increased battery capacity.

    Then there is the range issue. This 2014 model came from the factory with an 83-mile range. The 2017 BMW i3 has been upgraded to a 114-mile range. But in a world where you can buy a Chevrolet Bolt with a 238-mile range for thousands of dollars less, the i3 is at a disadvantage. This is proof of how far the electric car state-of-the-art has moved in just three years! The next version of the i3 will need to do much better to compete against the Bolt, the eagerly awaited Tesla Model 3, the next Nissan Leaf, and others.

    Perfectly Suited For Its Intended Purpose
    If you live in a city and don’t normally need to leave the metro area, or you have another vehicle for long distances, the BMW i3 is a great urban runabout. It has a spunky, eager-to-please personality and is loads of fun to drive. The i3 is easy to park and maneuver in the cut-and-thrust of city driving. It is comfortable and roomy for four people. All the i3 needs is a 200+ mile range, like its new competition has, to land in the top tier of electric vehicles.

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