Initial Take: 2017 BMW i3 With New 33 kWh Battery – Test Drive Review

AUG 2 2016 BY MARK KANE 28

2017 BMW i3 Cutaway

2017 BMW i3 Cutaway

The new BMW i3 with 33 kWh battery pack (94 Ah lithium-ion cells) has now been made available for media test drives in Germany.

As one expects, more battery capacity translates to longer range, estimated realistically by the EPA at 114 miles (183 km).

If you dare to dream, the Euro/NEDC metric puts the new i3’s range at 195 miles/314 km…but make no mistake, the BMW isn’t coming close to the range found in the upcoming  Tesla Model 3/Chevrolet Bolt EV.

Of note:  BMW itself isn’t using the NEDC method itself in Europe, but rather has chosen to promote the 2017 BMW i3’s range at 125 miles – probably because that works out to an even 200 km.

UK’s Autocar took BMW up on its test drive offer, and finds the first major upgrade of the i3 as useful, but not cheap. The base 33 kWh i3 costs in UK £27,830 (about $36,750) after the £4,500 government grant or ($42,700 without grant) – which actually is only slightly higher than the outgoing 22 kWh version – so we take the opinion as a statement on the vehicle itself, and not the upgrade.

A battery upgrade (details) for older 22 kWh i3 models in UK will costs about £6,000, in Germany – €7,000, plus a turn in of your old pack.  The option has not been made available in the US.

The other major upgrade this year for the 2017 BMW i3 in Europe is the three-phase 11 kW on-board charger. DC charging through CCS Combo, which takes about ≈40 minutes (0-80%).

A few of the Autocar findings:

  • the i3 should be a little longer (wheelbase), to improve ride on rough roads and rear seats access

“…it’s clear a more generous footprint would have helped with the i3’s two biggest failings: its ride on rough roads and access to the rear seats.”

  • smooth and swift on well-surfaced stretches and bad driving experience on very poor surfaces

On poor roads: The i3 is unsettled, and reacts badly to rough surfaces, perhaps due to the thin 19″ wheels and stiff chassis, making it uncomfortable for passengers

On the good bits of road: The i3 was “uncannily smooth and swift”, although the publication notes that on media test drives in southern Germany, nice stretches of road were difficult to find.  “The serenity of the progress makes using the full potential of the i3’s electric motor hard to resist.”

  • great acceleration (125 kW electric motor) and strong regenerative braking

As a driving machine, the i3 has an impressive ability to get out of the driver’s way. The upright seating, high driving position, panoramic view and lack of mechanical interference all allow the driver to either concentrate on the city traffic or just enjoy the view.

On our test route, the i3 provided a tremendously agreeable way to travel through the lush greenery of southern Germany and it also cut swiftly along autobahns without feeling out of its depth.

Final takeaway?  The new longer range BMW i3 is still a step in the right direction and has much more usability (especially if you can charge at home), and the model itself is a refreshing drive.

Full review: Autocar

Categories: BMW, Test Drives

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28 Comments on "Initial Take: 2017 BMW i3 With New 33 kWh Battery – Test Drive Review"

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Absolutely love the new i3. But price has to come down as it faces competition from the Bolt and eventually Model 3. Unfortunately it’s not too clear exactly when the Bolt will appear (with a silly name and an Opel badge) in Europe, and until then it may be possible for BMW to sell at this price. Unless the new Leaf turns up in Europe before the Ampera-e does – something I consider a real possibility.

Right, as BMW has never charged a premium for their cars? Their price is certainly not coming down to compete with a Chevy.

Everyone knows the Federal tax credit is baked into the price, except for the Tesla Model 3. All the automakers need to start a drawdown of list prices to properly compete with Tesla.

The Bolt, to compete with BMW, needs a real rear independent suspension, or it doesn’t.

Tesla is hiding the price premium in the options pricing.

i3 production is running high now and massive sales boost is coming.

2016 BMW (Corporate – NOT dealer) i3 advertisement here in New York – Lease an i3 with onboard gas motor for $199 per month, $2799 down, 10k miles per year. Down payment includes first months payment. Includes $1000 BMW owner loyalty credit. Excludes sales tax, DMV and dealer fee(s).


There is also an additional USAA $1500 incentive that can be applied.

The full MSRP is for suckers want the new i3 right away. The current i3 is easily selling for $8500 less than MSRP before $7500 federal tax credit, and before additional incentive from states.

Truecar is fairly accurate, though nowhere near perfect, in my area and they have BMW selling i3’s around $3170 below MSRP, not $8500. Maybe it is regional. I live in the DC area.
They have Chevy selling Volts in this area just $2470 below MSRP now, which is unfortunately accurate. The number was better a month ago.

It would be interesting to see old i3 and new i3 doing 0-60 MPH race. Since motor spec is the same, the new one should be slower due to heavier weight. It would be bad if the new i3 is as slow as SparkEV’s 7.2 seconds.

motorweeek lists the 2015 bmw i3 0-60 at 7.9 seconds

That can’t be right. Even Rex is 7.2 seconds.

7.2s is the acceleration of the non-REx. REx model is 7.9 due to the added weight. I am scratching my head as to why you’re disputing these figures as they’ve been around for years now.

Not to mention the fact we actually OWN the car.

CAR and Driver got 6.5 seconds, which is exactly what I get on my Vbox, with 1ft rollout, like most magazines use with their Vbox test equipment. BMW is ultra conservative in their acceleration and HP figures.

I’ve seen 6.5 with smaller battery. But what would it be with bigger battery? Weight on bigger battery BEV is about that of smaller battery Rex, so the time could be similar as Rex (and SparkEV). Getting slower seems wrong thing to do in face of Bolt + Tesla 3.

Motorweek is wrong.

They were most likely in the wrong mode knowing them.

I thought the new i3 was going to be about 2k more than the old one in the US…
I would call that a cheap upgrade for an additional 40 miles or 50% more range…
BMW will most likely upgrade the i3 with 120ah Samsung cells again next year as a preimum auto maker cannot afford to be to far behind Tesla and non preimums like Chevy and Nissan…
Hopefuly they will ditch the plastic add on body work and the black hood that makes them look funky and supress their sales at some point…

Great news from BMW… I hope that they have another planned for next years upcoming model to get to 48kWh or so to get up to the standard about to be set by the Model III, Bolt and Nissan LEAF 2. 33kWh will be enough for some folks but not at that price within the next year. The fact that the current one is selling at almost 10k of incentives plus tax writeoffs shows this. Nice for now… but not for long. I would also hope that BMW would be able to offer the battery upgrade for folks here in the US. At least for the non range extender models… ( R.E. models likely would need to be recertified under the emissions laws? )

Thats a damn big step with 50% more range and 11 kW charging. At home you get from 0 to 100% in 3 hours. Adding REX makes it doable also for occasional longer trips. Soon starts to compete with ICE in every respect.

50% more range? More like 40% more range though the battery does have a ~50% higher capacity. It actually has a >100-mile real-world range now! Oh well. Two hundred miles is the new benchmark for EVs and is what customers will expect and demand very soon, otherwise they’ll just buy PHEVs, hybrids, diesels, and gassers.

Can you still buy a 22kWh i3? If yes, what is it priced at? Seems like a big discount is in order.. at least the price of the upgrade.

Yes, BEV version only. REX version only with the 33kWh

And no discount on “old” I3s with 19kWh usable energy.

They are being discounted right now. About the same payments as a LEAF, which is why it is outselling the LEAF now.

With state incentives, people in California were able to get the 2016 i3 for less than $100/month + the usual lease fees and security deposits. Look on the forum.

Not buying I3 if the price is more than $25k. The minute the Chevy Bolt comes available this year, every EV cars will go down in value!

Don’t forget that it’s a BMW that’s made of carbon fiber, has advanced cruise control, one of the best interiors in the industry at the $50Kish price point, and has good performance and handling. And it’s electric. There is no way that you’ll see BMW selling anything for less than $30,000. They are a premium automaker.

I believe 114 miles is low on the EPA est. I think it will be closer to 130 miles. We’ll see…

And by the way: Charging at home is pretty much a must today and for a long time ahead.