Let’s answer the obvious question right off the bat:
Yes….there really IS a BMW underneath this rather quirky-looking body.
If your experience with electric vehicles has been limited to hybrids, think again.
This all-electric BMW has “push-you-in-the-back” acceleration that feels much stronger than it’s rated 0-60 times of between 7.2 and 8 seconds. More on that in a minute, tho’.
So….in addition to unmistakable looks, what’s BMW’s i3 got to offer in a world of….actual?….rumored? $30,000 Teslas and Chevy Bolts?
Well, for one, you can actually BUY an i3 today. Tesla’s Elon Musk has rarely had a deadline that he couldn’t miss. There are allegedly a couple of Tesla Model 3’s running around somewhere, but the odds of getting one equipped the way you want it for under $40,000 are rather slim…and perhaps one or two years distant.
And Chevy’s new all-electric Bolt is all-electric….with a 220 mile range before it’ll need re-charging. The Bolt’s range is terrific….but then you’ve gotta’ wait while re-charging.
BMW’s i3 can be ordered either way….all-electric with a 114 mile range….or with a 2-cylinder gasoline engine range-extender ….good for an additional 70 miles before you have to re-fill it’s tiny gas tank to go another 70 miles….and then repeat as often as necessary. While filling up every 70 miles on a road trip is admittedly a hassle, I’ve gotta’ say that it’s also a bit of a hoot to fill up in less than a minute….and owe less than five bucks!
The i3 is “green” in other ways, too. From the wood trim to the seats, dash and panels, the i3 is made of 25% recycled and renewable materials.
Four will fit in reasonable comfort….with access aided by the rear “suicide” or clamshell doors that open only when the fronts are open. Partially due to the i3’s high-strength carbon fiber construction, there’s no “B pillar” to squeeze around.
And that lightweight carbon fiber is one reason the i3 accelerates as well as it does.
BMW’s i3 starts a little over $44,000. Various packages and trims can add another thousand or two. Important options include a $3,850 “Range-Extender” 2-cylinder engine that’s good for an additional 70 miles before you need to re-fuel. It’s the additional weight of the engine that shaves eight-tenths of a second from the i3’s 0-60 times. And when talking pricing, remember….there’s still a $7,500 Federal tax credit that result in a direct cash savings to the buyer.
One big time-saving option is a $1,080 home quick charging station with a convenient 25’ cable that allows a three-and-a-half hour charge. On the other hand, plugging into a standard home wall outlet resulted in a full charge in around 12 hours.
You can squeeze out a bit more than the advertised range with “one-pedal driving”. When you lift off of the accelerator, the brakes engage…and that regenerative braking generates a little extra juice. In fact, even on a long steady-speed haul on a freeway, you’ll want to back off the accelerator every now and then to generate “juice”….even with the range extender…as when the battery is totally depleted, you’ll lose power until you can recharge.
Mileage in all-electric mode is the energy equivalent of a big 111 MPG’s….and when running with the range-extender 2-cylinder gas engine, a still-impressive 35 MPG.
Our test i3 had what BMW calls a “Giga World” trim package that included 19” alloys, leather and cloth seating, $700 worth of “Protonic” electric blue paint, parking assistance, rear-view cam, a Sirus and HD radio, ( but no AM band on that radio, tho’ ) and BMW’s i Remote app that allows you to turn on your heat or air before boarding via your smart phone or smart watch.
The window sticker read just over $54,000…..but again, this IS a BMW….with BMW performance…and that’s before your $7,500 savings.
While the i3 looks tiny, it’s a good foot and a half longer….and a half-a-foot wider than a Fiat 500, for example…and has room for 15 cu ft of stuff in the hatch behind the rear seats.
While it’s limited range, like all electric vehicles, makes it a less-than-perfect highway cruiser, BMW’s i3 is a fun, totally-engaging, high-performance city car that will leave you and your passengers with a big smile on your faces.