Longer Range, All-Electric 2017 BMW i3 1000 Mile Review


If you have been the owner/lessee of a vehicle for 2 years, many ask why would you commit to the same vehicle for the next two years? Simple: I love it!

I first drove BMW i3 during 2014 Drive Electric Weather Channel Interview (watch video clip with Michael below) and was impressed. It changed my perception of the car being clumsy and having weird skinny tires, the regular concerns people have with i3s. But after putting in a car seat and taking my kids around, I was sold!

Inside the 2017 BMW i3

Inside the 2017 BMW i3

This summer my local dealer called me to come over and configure one of the first 2017s BEV allocation with a 33kWh battery pack and I jumped on the opportunity. Few months later (end of August to be exact) the car arrived in Atlanta and after transferring driver’s profiles I was able to enjoy what seemed to be the exact same car at first as my 2014, but that was only at first.

Before we get into why the 2017 is different, lets list a few visual changes:

  • 33 kWh battery pack with EPA rated range of 114 miles (details)
  • A new Protonic Blue color is currently available.
  • There are now 4 trims to choose from me when getting a 2017 model (not the 18 kWh battery pack option)
  • Sunroof!!! (more on it below)
  • iDrive controls a bit different
  • Dark eucalyptus wood
  • Rear tires 20 inch tires have now a different weight rating (more below)
  • Driver’s side mirror has a little more viewing area, the inner plastic trim has been removed
  • Some wiring changes in the eMachine (motor) area.
  • The car is 75 lbs heavier compared to my 2014. Actually that is not a bad thing.
2017 BMW i3 dash cluster at launch

2017 BMW i3 dash cluster at launch estimating 122 miles of range remaining

What would ask me the biggest the biggest change I am enjoying on 2017? Of course the range. The new 114 miles is actually super conservative and I have seen GOM (guess-o-meter) to be 125 and even 140 at times.

Is the mileage enough? Yes, in the metro environment it is plenty and I find myself having extra charge upon returning home more often than before. Charging of course is now closer to 5 hours compared to about 3 before on a 32A circuit.

But the second most important change for me is vehicles weight. Yes you are not mistaken: With the added weight i3 feels a lot more stable on the highway, it is not as jerky and actually corners a lot better. Of course now we have about 200 lbs added with the sunroof at the top, but the higher density battery is providing the extra weight and overall improving the comfort of the ride. Rear tires now have a higher weight rating to cope with the 33kWh battery.

The darker wood is actually a welcome change. I noticed after driving for over a month how much better it blends with the overall interior and is not as distracting as before.

Sunroof has arrived for the 2017 edition

Sunroof has arrived for the 2017 edition

The T shaped sunroof (it is actually one piece of glass, but has a middle bar for reinforcement) is super cool! It adds a lot of light to the interior and actually makes it look a lot bigger. My daughter enjoys having her own sunshade on the passenger’s side for the sunroof that is independent of the driver’s.

For a more detailed look, I removed the rear eMachine cover and noticed no significant changes except a different wiring patter. The motor bolts look new and that is a welcomed sign. Perhaps there are additional changes in the REx model, but only opted for BEV model.

Regarding some improvements that can be made:

Another look at the new roof

Another look at the new roof

I am sad that the 2017 model did not inherit the same updated iDrive experience as the ICE or iPerformance cousins but perhaps that may come in the future (touchscreen, new UI). The tech package has a such a beautiful screen and newer iDrive graphics would have looked amazing. But Over The Air (OTA) updates are still a future dream for BMWs overall and we might not see the new UI on i3 until 2018 year.

My only critique of the i3 and BMW NA is the inclusion of the ash tray cup with the car. I do not smoke. I do not like explaining to my kids what it is and frankly I do not think majority of i3 owners smoke either. If one wants to smoke, they can order a smoker’s package but I would rather put the money spent on the ash tray cup toward future iMobility research.


If currently have a 2 year lease or Owner’s Choice on your 2014 model and thinking about renewing it with 2017 model, you will not be disappointed in your decision to get the new i3.

From a financing stand point, please remember the Owner’s Choice financing option with Flex (where you deferred the payment of $7500 Federal Tax Credit to BMW Financial Service) is now dead, so if you are thinking about doing OC vs. a lease a large downpayment strategy may be required. As we progress towards 2017 model year the residuals for the leases have been improving and will help with your monthly payment.

2017 BMW i3 is a welcomed refresh to an already great vehicle and I am sure you will enjoy it as well!

Video Below: Michael and The Weather Channel talk EVs for National Drive Electric Week 2014 (from 1:10)

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22 Comments on "Longer Range, All-Electric 2017 BMW i3 1000 Mile Review"

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Sorry, not about the i3, but the woman in the video first called the car a “Fiskah Karma”, then later called it a “Fisher Karmer”. How are we to expect people to learn about EVs when they can’t even get the name right.

and what was that noise at 1:11??

Odd or maybe more Different solution for a sunroof. Is there a cheaper moon-roof option (thinking non-openable, lighter)

Thank you for the blog post. Glad you enjoy your I3.

The BMW will be around $8,000 more than the Chevy Bolt when it’s released here in Canada, which I understand, as BMW has always commanded a premium from a higher income demographic, but the Bolt will have twice the range! I really like the look of the i3, but being absolutely dominated by a Chevy on range is insane.

I guess Chevy Bolt owners will be laughing at i3 drivers.

I must agree here. 20% or 30% more range might not have made a huge difference, but literally TWICE the range for LESS money makes the BMW look really bad. No amount of carbon fiber and recycled interior materials can possibly make up for that. BMW’s problem is they really believed their own bs mantra “80 miles is all that most people need on a daily basis”.

80 miles works fine for me..so now I got my second, used ..we are now a 2 BEV family.

Ok, GM stock holders. But, we’ll see how the Bolt drives. The BMW comes with independent suspension all around and is lighter. If the Bold drives like an econ-box, you’re not going to hurt BMW sales.

For 40,000 on the Premium Bold, I expect a real, rear independent suspension.

Range is not everything and it certainly isn’t the only thing.

Go enjoy the electric Sonic. Others of us will keep enjoying a vastly superior car with less range that fits our needs.

I like the Bolt and hope it’s wildly successful, but your argument/dissention is more like )!(€ measuring than substance. You should stick your tongue out and say “nanny nanny boo boo” at the end.

Agreed. I wish the BOLT VAST SUCCESS. But, lets not use 1 number to put down the i3, one of the most advanced cars in the world.

There should be more than enough buyers to sell out both models.

Here in Palm Springs, Bolts are just now available. The BMW i3 has been here for years.
Mercedes has an electric car at $43k or so too, which uses many Tesla drive parts, like the motor etc..
They’re all too expensive including the Bolt, being leasable for around $300 month.
A 2016 Chevy Spark EV (if you can find one) will get you around just as well for $111/month.
Very soon, the battery in the mid size E cars will be worth more than the whole car, if you’re shopping the residential battery storage market. Prices are still way out of balance, battery prices have to drop.

Rather pathetic that this do-gooder thinks it will harm his children to explain what an ashtray is. Better prevent them from watching any Humphrey Bogart movies as well.

Great actor, great plot, great movies. But, they do look funny puffing on those white smokie tubes.

The best part of the 2017 i3 is that the 2014 i3 is now available used at half its original cost! Incredible buy if 80-90 miles is all you need ..just got my second…

Hahah. Yep, that’s what we did. Got my wife the i3 Rex for $25,000 with only 3,000 miles on it. At that price, it is a good car. The range is more than acceptable since it has the Rex. She’s had it for several months already and has only used the Rex twice. Yes, the Bolt will likely be a superior car but until I can buy one for $25,000 I think we’ll stay happy with our combination of gen-2 volt and i3 Rex.

Also, here in AZ any BEV, used or new, still earns the state incentives… negligible DMV registration fees and no emission testing, over 5 years that can equal over $3K!

David I did the exact same thing!! I picked up a 2014 Rex for $24k with 2200 miles. They CPO elited which gives me a warranty for 6/75!! I’m good and agree the i3 is a deal at 25k and under. I also coded the Rex which gives me more range on the gas tank plus Rex control when it reaches 75% battery. This will hold me over while I eat popcorn watching the Automotive markers battle for customers. I also have a 2015 Volt (Gen1), which my wife drives, and averages 40 miles in EV mode.

Falling into the bash-camp, and I don’t want to — but the sunroof is just not premium to my tired eyes. It harkens back to shops in the 70’s that could Create a sunroof for your older car.. they didn’t live up to expectation either.

Did I miss This being the sunroof of the SE whatever-special-color-was-called edition? Can’t seem to be able to find the article..

Sunroof is not much different than some of the $150000 sports cars out there.

The i3 charging time went to 5 hrs. I can imagine the Bolt will take quite a bit longer to charge at home. 7-8hours? But you might say you don’t need to charge that much, because you don’t usually drive THAT many miles, yet you will be carrying around that extra heavy battery in the Bolt 100% of the time which is slightly wasteful from an environmental point of view.

Very good point Warren. Driving EV’s has always been about figuring out what you actually need, and finding a car/range to match. We get into the “more is better” mindset and everyone including my grandmother, wants a 0 to 60 in less than 4 seconds, 250 mile Autobahn cruiser.
These cars are greatest in a traffic jam, the ‘jam’ itself notwithstanding. A traffic jam of all electric cars is more like a “cube farm” than a collection of oil pipe/stacks.

I was concerned by your comments that “lease residuals” have been increasing i.e. used i3 prices.

I am waiting till I can get a used i3 REx for $15K to $18K (plus transportation to New Orleans). Over 90% of days, I drive 10 miles or less – so 80 mile range is overkill (I can use batteries when they hold just 1/3rd the original charge). I need REx, not more battery range, for hurricane evacuation.

My plans ($15 – $18k) suggest @ a year from now. Bolt and Telsa Model 3 will be out, as will 2018 model i3 making the 2014 i3 look “old tech” (fine by me, I currently drive an 1982 MB 240D with 4 speed and manual window winders).

Are used i3 prices trending up ? Any forecast on future used i3 prices ?

I prefer the 2014 to the 2017 i3. Fewer electrons per mile and with REx, mpg dropped from 39 mpg to 35 mpg (different tuning plus more weight).