Autocar Gives BMW i3 a Thumbs Up in First Drive Review

4 years ago by Eric Loveday 12

BMW i3

BMW i3

Drives of the BMW i3 are currently underway and the general consensus (at least from the two dozen or so that I’ve read) is that the i3 performs like an “Ultimate Driving Machine.”

BMW i3 Overhead

BMW i3 Overhead

Outside of the Tesla Model S, there’s no production electric that’s been as highly praise for its fun-to-drive quotient as the i3.

Is there room for improvement?  Sure, but the near-universal praise we’ve seen from these early i3 test drives is encouraging to say the least.

Autocar’s first drive review of the i3 basically sums up what seems to be the general consensus for BMW’s first production electric, so we’ll turn it over to Autocar’s driving notes for now:

“With 168bhp and 184lb ft of torque the moment you brush the throttle, the new BMW is more than merely brisk. In fact, its performance is good enough to match some big name hot hatches with 0-37 mph in 3.7sec, 0-62 mph in 7.2sec and a 50-75 mph split of 4.9 sec. Traction is excellent, even on a heavily loaded throttle away from the lights, without any hint of wheelspin or interruption from the various electronic driving aids.  The nominal 93mph top speed is limited to preserve the battery charge.”

“The sporting impression is reinforced by relatively light and direct steering. In combination with a low centre of gravity, this endows the i3 with swift and sharp directional change response for excellent maneuverability in urban driving conditions. The electro-mechanical steering system is shared, in part, with the next generation Mini hatchback and becomes more direct as lock is wound on, although there’s sufficient response from the centre position to provide class leading levels of low speed agility. Indeed, in the cut and thrust of city traffic, the new BMW is extraordinarily agile and fun to drive.”

I3 Tackling a Turn

I3 Tackling a Turn

“To enhance its sportiness, BMW has provided the i3’s MacPherson strut (front) and multi-link (rear) suspension with relatively firm spring rates. The ride is quite firm and tends to become frigid on anything but smooth road surfaces. The damping, on the other hand, is relatively soft, leading to rather exaggerated levels of lean when you pitch the new BMW into a bend. The tall but narrow tyres provide relatively strong adhesion, but with so much performance on hand it doesn’t take much to get the traction and stability control systems working mid-corner.”

In the ever-so-important “Should I Buy One?” category, Autocar says this:

“We’re yet to figure the i3 independently but its official consumption figures point to a real world range of up to 100 miles, or some 12 miles less than that hinted to by the standard EU mandated test.”

“This is well beyond the average daily commute in the UK, which BMW studies put at 30 miles, suggesting its hi-tech driveline will meet the needs of most commuters. What really impressed was its relative economy on light throttle loads at constant city speeds, at which the i3 requires little more than half its claimed average of 12.9kWh, according to its detailed energy consumption readout.”

In the City is Where the i3 is Most at Home

In the City is Where the i3 is Most at Home

“Still, there are larger issues than range that stand in the way of the i3’s quest for electric car supremacy; namely its £25,680 price tag with the government’s generous subsidy deducted being among them.”

“This makes BMW’s first dedicated series production electric car over £5000 more than the Nissan Leaf and a cool £10,000 more than the Renault Zoe.”

“But perhaps more pertinent is the fact that it is around £5000 more than the excellent 116d EfficientDynamics – the most economical of BMW’s traditional combustion engine models.”

“Alternatively, prospective customers can opt for a three-year leasing deal with a £2995 deposit and monthly payments of £369.”

“If you can live with the range, have easy access to high-voltage charging and are mostly city bound, the i3 is well worth a look. Its individual styling, contemporary feel, excellent performance, engaging agility and various connectivity solutions all hint at a bright new future for the automobile, even if it takes eight hours to charge it on a regular low voltage mains socket.”

So, if you can afford the i3’s premium price tag, then this is the electric to go for.  That is, unless a Model S fits into your budget.

Source: Autocar

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12 responses to "Autocar Gives BMW i3 a Thumbs Up in First Drive Review"

    1. Evidently a lot! They already have 8,000 orders in Europe and it’s not even in dealerships yet: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-10-14/bmw-mulls-boosting-electric-car-investment-on-early-i3-demand.html

      1. Open-Mind says:

        Agree completely. The first company to offer a low $40K’s EV that’s both zippy and looks nice will sell a ton of them. Looks like that will be BMW.

        It’s now my lead contender since every other EV (excluding Tesla of course) is slow or ugly or both. The Spark EV could be both, but GM is holding it back.

  1. MrEnergyCzar says:

    It an charge in 8 hours on 120v? Is that true?

    MrEnergyCzar

    1. George B says:

      That’s most likely on a normal European household socket. They have higher voltage, but often limited current. This works out to be about twice as fast as “trickle charing” on 120V in the US.

  2. Warren says:

    So, when the American car companies got California to cave on their standards, and push EV’s back a decade, they were demonized. But when the German car companies do it, that is fine?

  3. James says:

    Strange – isn’t it?

    BMW has this “hex” over folks – they’re conditioned to believe that because the
    Bavarian Motor Works makes it – it just has to be good… Like folks who automatically
    recall good experience with say – Starbucks, so they’ll believe in a new product they
    serve there – just because their name is behind it.

    Sales psychology is very tricky. GM or Nissan has to PROVE they have a product
    worthy of your inspection, but you may have past bad experiences or emotions
    connected to that brand….Say, you’re like me and you’ve seen unhappy people
    buy into the flash and advertising only to see shoddy quality or expensive repairs.
    This i3 and i8, make absolutely NO SENSE – but because it says BMW on it
    and comes with fancy factory videos and complex explanations of carbon composite,
    people assume it just has to meet their expectations.

    Over the last months I’ve pointed out very compelling oppositions to BMW’s $50,000
    U.S. all-in proposition for an electric car- but most people just ignore the obvious and
    assume they’ll love it.

    For instance, repair costs of proprietary carbon-plastic bodywork. Folks just assume
    an accident won’t happen to them, or BMW, based upon exclusivity, will have some
    excellent form of repair plan to protect them. I’m not so trusting – and must see with
    my own eyes that BMW can show me the car won’t have to be replaced by my
    insurance company ( or will insurance companies even cover it ) if I have a fender
    bender.

    People also haven’t lived a week with those opposing rear doors that must be shut
    first while the fronts are open. Those “suicide doors” seem nifty and different until
    you live with them and experience repeated blunders and difficulties when your
    passengers don’t understand how they work. This gets really old – folks…FAST.

    Thirdly, without getting into the entire “utility of a Nissan LEAF – with a bit quicker
    0-60 for nearly twice as much money” – subject…. There is this issue of the
    tiny range extender. Folks actually believe they’ll be able to keep up with traffic
    while relying upon a 2 cylinder motorcycle engine! Hills – freeway onramps….
    passing that truck full of chickens on that country road…All require some oomph
    and you’re not going to get that in i3 while in CS mode. You’ll still need to find
    an outlet to plug into for 3 hours very soon. It’s like going 65-80 REAL-WORLD
    miles on a peppy motorbike and then having to finish your chores, trip or go
    on that unexpected journey on a bicycle.

    Just some things to think about while these very early Euro “reviews” of some
    set-up test drive are trickling in.

    1. Jerry says:

      James, yes you have consistently offered your opinion on the i3 as you are rightly entitled to. However when people don’t agree with your point of view you say they “ignore the obvious and assume they’ll love the car”. No – they are not ignoring the obvious, they are ignoring your point of view, which is just that- your point of view. You haven’t sat in or driven one yet have you? You haven’t driven it in range extender mode, have you? Yet you continue to describe how bad the performance will be in CS mode when you have no idea how it will drive with the range extender on. We get it, you don’t like the i3. Fortunately a lot of us do and think it’s a great addition to the current line up of plug in cars.

    2. Eric Loveday says:

      My two cents…the i3 has a few near fatal flaws.

      Those rear doors will not appeal to anybody with children. They are awful and an absolute pain to use.

      It seats only four.

      The design is so outside the norm that it’ll be a turn off to lots of potential buyers…

      With all that said, the i3 will still sell well and its performance appears to be unmatched by any production EV out there aside from Tesla.

  4. James says:

    – “The damping, on the other hand, is relatively soft, leading to rather exaggerated levels of lean when you pitch the new BMW into a bend. The tall but narrow tyres provide relatively strong adhesion, but with so much performance on hand it doesn’t take much to get the traction and stability control systems working mid-corner.”

    … This aint your slotcar BMW….

  5. Jerry says:

    And here’s another one : “So quick was the i3 through this wet autocross that my hands were challenged to keep up – I’ve never driven any BMW product so nimble through cones. I reckon that a stock i3 could trounce most auto-crossing M cars through tight courses with plentiful direction changes and short scoots between turns”

  6. Warren says:

    i think James makes two good points about potential problems, with the back doors, and the new carbon fiber body, although I would hope an OEM would figure out how they will deal with wrecks during the design phase. Otherwise, it appears to be a great car.

    My surprise is that EV supporters here aren’t more upset with the German automakers selling our kid’s future for profits.