BMW i3 Extended Test Drive Review

3 years ago by Inside EVs Staff 13

BMW i3

BMW i3

BMW North America has quietly launched an extended test drive program for its i3 and i3 Range Extender. With a small amount of paperwork, a copy of your drivers license, current automobile insurance card, you can be on your way to a three day electrifying driving experience. The i3 is a new way of getting around for most and the extended test drive gives you the opportunity to see if you can live with an electric car before you buy it.

Unfortunately not all dealers are participating, only about a one third actually, so check with your dealership.

The BMW i3 is a whole new way of mobility as BMW likes to say. Truthfully, driving an i3 feels more like feeling you’re being a pioneer. The quietness of being under way with the i3 is striking. When it goes down the street, you can hear a slight electric whine under hard acceleration or deceleration. Otherwise, what one just notices is the booming of the radio. Then there’s the fact that you never have to stop at a gas station, unless you’re driving the i3 REx.

*Editor’s Note: This post appears on BMWBLOG.  Check it out here.

BMW i3

BMW i3

Got Range Anxiety?

The limited range of electric cars is one of the biggest hurdles for most. For my extended drive, my plan was to see if the BMW i3 BEV, pure electric variant, with the shortest range, could fit my daily life. In my case, my local dealer, Baron BMW, set me up with a BEV i3 in Ionic Silver Metallic loaded with tech options. It was fully charged and had a stated 77 mile range in Comfort drive setting.

My plan was simple, go everywhere in town with no intention of changing my driving style.

My longest mileage day with the i3 included a 26 mile round trip to work with mixed city and highway driving where the highway portion included following the flow of traffic up to 75 mph. After I got home from work, I was off on another 23 mile round trip to my daughters soccer practice. I also threw a trip to Coscto run where I loaded the i3 up with four cases of coke, and a bunch of other stuff, adding another 10 miles and a fair amount of weight in the cargo hold. In all, I traveled about 60 miles driving as if I was driving my E92 M3 , and it was a longer distance than I normally drive in one day. At the end, the all electric i3 had about a quarter of a battery charge left.

BMW i3

BMW i3

The Driving Style’s Effect On The Range

Perhaps the most stark realization of living with a BMW i3 was how much driving style impacts the range. Running 75mph on the highway to work into a head wind on my second day of driving the i3, I watched the range drop from 82 miles to 59 miles during the 13 mile trip to work – despite the fact I drove in EcoPro setting and never floored the throttle. Yet, even with this loss of range, I still had no trouble going to and from work. The i3’s range in city lower speed traffic is way better than straight highway driving. InsideEVs lists city driving range at 81 and Hwy at 71.6 miles for the BEV i3.

Car Show

Car Show

On Saturday, I drove the BMW i3 to the local cars and coffee event and parked it just behind a stunning yellow 2004 Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale. I was bit surprised that I received as many questions about the i3 as the Ferrari owner as well. The i3 gets tons of looks while you drive and be prepared to answer a litany of questions when people figure out it’s yours. Everyone seems to love it. Parking it at work, I got peppered with questions. At soccer practices, again, tons of questions about the eclectic electric i3. People in my neighborhood were asking for rides. Over the years, I’ve had all manner of cool cars in my garage and none have ever gotten the attention that this i3 attracts.

The Amazing Cabin Tech

The larger 10.2” optional “Professional Navigation” that comes with the Technology Package has a stunning high-resolution LCD display. I liked to split it left side Nav and right side media. Then there’s the battery level indicator, estimated range, miles per kilowatts, PSI of your tires to the tenth., Active Cruise Control, Self Parking and back up cameras. I found myself digging way into the menus, Bluetooth streaming music. Was just having a field day with this high-tech cabin.

BMW i3

BMW i3

My last trip with the BMW i3 was to take my daughter to a soccer game. It was a surprisingly cool fall day and the i3 really stood out in the sea of sport-utes and mini-vans. Overall, I averaged 3.9 miles per kilowatt and wasn’t trying to hyper-mile. I drove as I felt at the moment, merge in traffic – bam – instant torque and no problems. In town and up to about 50 mph, I really liked then handling, but over 60, it felt a bit darty on its narrow 155mm wide tires.

BMW states the pure electric version range is 70-110 miles. The 170 hp electric motor and one speed transmission are good for a 0-60 second time of 7.0 seconds and a top speed of 93 mph. If you need a greater range, the i3 Range Extender with its 1.9 gallon tank for the on board gas electric generator, provides 120-185 miles.

Base price for the i3 is $41,350 and the i3 REX is $45,200, destination $950.

BMW i3

BMW i3

BMW’s extended test drive is a unique way to experience an electric car lifestyle. It’s really important to drive one and then charge it and drive it again. It showed me, that the i3 BEV would meet my needs and allow me to drive my S65 V8 E92 less around town. Plus my M3 hates short trips and it’s important to warm its oil up each trip. An electric car is happy to move twenty feet and be shut off.

So, I’ll take my i3 in the Solar Orange BEV flavor loaded with tech.

Edited to reflect that EcoPro + does work over 55mph. The speed limit is adjustable in the settings.

As Tested
2014 BMW i3 – $41,350

  • Ionic Silver Metallic with BMW i Frozen Blue Accent $550
  • Giga Cassia Natural Leather & Carum SPice Grey Wool Cloth $0
  • Giga World $1,700
  • 19″ forged aluminum (429) wheels with all season tires
  • Grey leather steering wheel with silver accents
  • Active-climate wool and soft olive leaf-tanned leather seat lining
  • Leather-covered instrument panel
  • Added sustainable interior details, such as open-pore eucalyptus wood
  • Sirius® Satellite Radio, Universal Garage Door Opener
  • Technology & Driving Assistant Package $2,500
  • Parking Assistant package $1,000
  • PDC, Parking Assistant, Rear View Camera
  • Harman/Kardon Premium Sound $800
  • Heated Front Seats $500
  • DC Charging $700
  • Destination Charge $950

Total MSRP of $49,900

BMW i3 Reviewed by Chuck Vossler on September 15.

It showed me, that the i3 BEV would meet my needs and allow me to drive my S65 V8 E92 less around town.

Rating: 4.5

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13 responses to "BMW i3 Extended Test Drive Review"

  1. Jay Donnaway says:

    I guess it’s by design to use EV Virgins as reviewers. A 60 mile day? That’s a yawn for my i-MiEV, which is half the price EVen before the REX. NEVertheless, this puffed-up jellybean will convert a few folks who wouldn’t give the i-MiEV an askance glance.

    1. MTN Ranger says:

      I suppose so. i3 sales in four months (2,082) have outnumbered iMiEV sales since 2011 (1,831) in the US. I see no problems attracting EV newcomers who would not be looking at non-luxury manufacturers.

  2. David Murray says:

    Wow.. that’s really cool that BMW is doing that. Makes me want to call up my BMW dealer and see if they will do it. But I’d feel kind of guilty since I don’t think I could afford the car even if I really wanted to buy/lease it. For the time I think I’ll have to stick with things more in the price of Volt/Leaf.

    1. Josh says:

      Remember that we now have the extra $2500 rebate in Texas for a 36 month lease or purchase of a plugin with a 4+kWh battery.

    2. Go for it says:

      Who cares? I don’t think the papers you sign say anything about requiring you to buy an i3… Just sign up for the test drive and take the car for 3 days and have fun! 😉

  3. Wesley says:

    Great write up. The Bellevue, WA BMW dealer called me about three weeks ago to set up an extended test drive and they had a 3 week backlog already. I’m picking up an i3 for the test drive on Wednesday and get to keep it thru Friday. Any suggestions on what I should test? I’m looking forward to taking my 16mpg SUV off the road for a few days. Thanks

  4. nero says:

    I own peugeot ion (mitsubishi i-miev brother) and I’m getting 80-90 miles of city driving within 30-40mph, and 55-65 miles motorway range driving at 60mph. Don’t know about winter yet as I’m driving it just 6 weeks, 3400 miles done within that time, one comment about the car – happy. Even if I came from lexus gs and mercedes s class before that

  5. JRMW says:

    I really really liked the i3. But it was rear wheel drive. I wish BMW had made it FWD. I know the theory that RWD BEVs are OK in winter but I don’t believe it. I am going to test drive one the first MN winter though!

    If any of you have an i3 PLEASE post video if you driving in a 13 inch snowstorm!

    1. nate says:

      Yeah, I wonder if one of your local dealers is participating in the 3 day test drive program. I wonder how good the stock wheels are in snow. Narrow tires should help in the snow, but I’d be worried that the unique size would not give you many (or maybe any) good options for having a set of winter snow tires. If that is the case, you better hope that the tires perform well in snow and ice.

      1. nate says:

        Insideevs already answered my question. Bridgestone will have a snow tire. Availability may be limited and they aren’t cheap. Eric mentions in the comments $300. Per tire.

        http://insideevs.com/bridgestone-release-details-on-the-bmw-i3-tires/

  6. Scott says:

    How did you charge it at home, 120 or 240volts? My mother does a lot of driving for work(up to 100miles a day), but it involves several short trips and she is home throughout the day in between trips. She thinks she doesn’t want to go electric because she is afraid of running the battery dead. Obvious we don’t have Level 2 at home, so I’m trying to figure out a level 1 will work for her during the extended test drive so she can see it would be a good match for her. We would definitely get a L2 if she actually get one.

  7. Mike A says:

    I think the extended test drive is a great idea and potential buyers should take BMW up on its offer, especially the REx version. As of August 11, I became the owner of a Solar Orange i3 w/Range Extender with Giga World, Technology package, and heated seats. It has taken some getting used to in a few areas but been a fantastic car so far – combining the pure EV benefits with the ability to travel long distances (relatively speaking!) every once in a while (in my case). On September 27, I took a 215 mile round trip in the BMW – 74 miles all electric and 141 miles using the REx at mostly 50-70mph speeds over some hilly terrain here in Virginia! I spent just $8 in 2 very brief stops in that 141 miles for gas but probably only needed 1 stop since this was my first time engaging the REx I played it a bit safe. I have a 2012 Nissan LEAF which I also really think is great. These two cars offer pretty different driving experiences despite having the same general purpose.