Veteran Automotive Journalist Drives BMW i3 For First Time – Says It Pulverized His Preconceptions


BMW i3 at fast charger in Germany

BMW i3 at fast charger in Germany

Although the BMW i3 has been on the market for years now, Arthur St. Antoine, Automobile Magazine’s editor and well-known journalism veteran, had never actually driven one. He finally found himself the opportunity and despite his previous misconceptions, was pleasantly surprised. He admitted:

BMW i3 Interior

BMW i3 Interior

“The moment I pressed the “start” button and the i3 sprang to life with a sci-fi whir, my preconceptions starting taking their beating. Under throttle, the i3 surges forward silently and eagerly—enough so that’s it’s entertaining to mash down on the go pedal. But what impressed me even more, and right away, is the car’s solidity.”

St. Antoine is a true BMW i8 fan. Just seeing the look of the i3 and comparing it against the i8 turned him away. He never really felt the need to drive the i3, seeing it as boring and subpar to its “big brother”. He said:

Now, it’s fair to say the i3’s design is a subject of some debate. A few people I queried while driving around L.A. simply hated it. ‘Reminds me of my vacuum cleaner,’ said one, probably the owner of one of those pricey Dyson jobs. Said a mom as she pointed to the i3 and then to her child’s feet poking out of a stroller: ‘See? Looks just like my kid’s shoes.’

The journalist received an i3 press car to drive for a week. It was a REx model, however, St. Antoine said he never had to engage the ICE. The electric range of 81 miles may seem limiting when compared to new GM and Tesla models, among others in the 100s and exceeding 200, but it is considerably more than any average commute. He explained:

“Used the way I used it—charging at night, never approaching battery depletion—the i3 was a total charmer. Yes, it was nice to have the gas extender to reduce any range anxiety, but in truth the standard electric-only i3 would’ve handled all the tasks I threw at it with ease.”

St. Antoine was was impressed by the car’s steering and handling. He said that the carbon fiber chassis felt rock solid. He said:

“Around town, the steering feels quite good, and the i3 easily nips around through traffic, aided by all that torque just ready to rip. On the highway, the quick steering becomes a hindrance, necessitating lots of input to keep the i3 in line. It’s never uncomfortable, though. I blasted along in a school of cars pushing 80 mph and felt quite secure.”

The interior also grabbed his attention. This is not a surprise as it is known that the i3 cabin is a standout compared against most anything on the market. It has been said to look like a future car. St. Antoine described:

“The cabin is similarly bold, a spacious, Jetsons-like space with minimal controls and some truly unusual materials. Chief among these is the grayish-black stuff that graces much of the pool-table-sized dash and the doorsills.”

While the 0-60 mph in 7.2 seconds isn’t super fast, it’s peppy and fun. The low-down torgue gets it 0-30 faster than most other sports cars. This is something the driver can really feel, especially in a vehicle of this size.

Overall, St. Antoine didn’t have anything negative to say about his experience with the BMW i3. Obviously, to drive it is to realize its potential.


Sources: Automobile Mag, BMW Blog

Categories: BMW


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32 Comments on "Veteran Automotive Journalist Drives BMW i3 For First Time – Says It Pulverized His Preconceptions"

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Better late than never!

I would say “I’m glad he sees that electric vehicles are great” in 2011. Maybe even 2012. This is 2016. For an editor of a major magazine to still have self-proclaimed “preconceptions” about EVs is sloppy. This means he would have allowed anti-EV bias to into the articles unchecked. Yes, I know not everyone’s job can change the world, but you should take your job seriously enough to learn and research things thoroughly.

An “editor-at-large” title is mostly honorific and not reflective of his duties at Automobile Magazine. Hopefully, more journalists will decide to try EVs rather than stick with the “sexy” cars Arthur St. Antoine writes about.

But while EVs to you and I are hugely important, most auto journalists see EVs as a niche segment occupied mostly by Teslas. Only a few of the great ones have turned to a true understanding of EVs, such as Dan Neil, who has stated he will never own a gas powered vehicle.

he doesn’t sound like much of a “veteran automotive” journalist if the only reason why he hadn’t driven an i3 is because of its appearance.

#1 he pressed the start button???it’s an “EV” Dude ! You only start ICE engines…this guy is a real pro!..Drive it for 3yrs , Then tell us about it!

My operating system, Windows 7, has a “START” button.

The button says “Start/Stop”. You obviously have never sat in an i3.

what would you expect it to say instead of start?

He isn’t just a journalist: He’s the editor of the magazine. That’s what makes this an egregious oversight.

You clearly don’t read auto magazines, or you would know St. Antoine’s history and also know he is indeed an auto journalist. He also writes a column for Automobile. He reflects the general skepticism about EVs by auto journalists. Perhaps we should be thankful that he has turned a corner. Most journalists have not.

I’m a fan of the i3 and the range extender design in general (done correctly). But I find it hard to believe any automobile enthusiast (much less the editor of automobile magazine) could spend a week with the i3 Rex and not muster up enough curiosity to sample the range extender.

Thus, my constant mistrust of any main stream media… on all counts and without exception, everyone associated with the MSM appears to be operating with bias and/or agenda.

One must really have the EV for a week or two before it can truly be appreciated. Also, i3 will have 120 miles range i3 later this year, so it’s no slouch (except price) when compared to other sub 200 miles EV.

The real “acid test” of the Bolt EV will be to compare the interior to that of the i3. 2 years ago, I marveled at the comfort of the i3 and the ability to fit a 6’4″ and “gravitationally challenged” (23 stone) driver such as myself. The Bolt EV is going to be impossible to overlook if it combines the interior spaciousness of the i3 with the convenience and ease of access of a 4 door, along with Teslaesque range. The remaining challenge will be to find a Chevy dealer that won’t make me endure the typical Chevy dealer “experience.”

Next question; is his next car going to be an EV?

great question

Next question; is he now going to test drive a Volt?

BMW probably makes the sleekest looking cars on the market minus the i3…
I never understood why BMW did not make the car more like the much sleeker looking rendering that is linked…
It is essentially the same car minus the funky back door and cheesy black plastic…
I think it would sell more but who knows why big auto thinks EVs and Hybrids have to look ugly and funky…

I figure it’s either:

1. Car makers see EV buyers as future-oriented, and therefore, see EVs as a good place to experiment in design. OR

2. Car makers really don’t want to sell EVs, so they intentionally make them “ugly”.

Against 2, I personally don’t find these designs ugly, for the most part (just unusual); and the EV builders who seem to care the least about EVs (just providing compliance cars for California) tend to do conversions of existing ICE models rather than whole new designs.

Kind of funny how that article wasn’t to far on some things, and the final product was better in others.

Stated 95mph top speed.
Actual is 94mph, even though I have seen 95.

35kWh batter stated
22kWh actual…but close to the 33kWh due out next month.

150hp states
170hp actual production output. Thank goodness

100 mile range..
81 actual. Perhaps they were talking NEDC?

The car is an absolute blast to drive. I always take the long way home. Early this morning I was seeing how efficient it would drive doing the same speeds as my electric scooter (20-30mph) though the neighborhood. Drove 10 miles and average 6.2 miles/kWh.
Equivalent at the motor efficiency of 207mpg. Not bad at all. More efficient than any ICE motorcycle. I used to have a Moped in high school. 17mph. It would struggle to get over 120mph. The i3 blows that away. One of the most efficient cars on the road, and still a blast to drive. In real world driving around town, you will have no problem accelerating with cars that are rated in the high 5 second range 0-60.

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The amazing thing about the i3 is the ability to zip around town, far faster than I did in the 328i or Mini Cooper which got 16mpg in the same situation that the i3 gets over 100mpge. That’s a HUGE difference. So kind of fun that you can go for 200mpg, or race around town and still get well over 100mpg.

Excellent consumption numbers! My LEAF has a lifetime average of 4.5 miles/kWh, but then again I drive it pretty hard. (I enjoy beating Lexus IS350Fs from the light.)

4.5 is excellent. I didn’t average anything close to that in my 2012 LEAF or the i3 lifetime. But I really drive hard. Wore out my LEAF tires in 8000 miles! I too love pulling up next to a Lexus.

Do you think they could have moved the stupid graphics over a bit to spell out the word “Consumption”? Or used a shorter word like “Energy”?

First I hated the i3 but now I think it looks pretty cool. It has grown on me.

To each his own, I actually prefer the production look to the car in your link which looks like a tall stubby version of a normal car.
Progressive companies are designing or styling Evs to be different from yesterdays products not only for esthetic reasons but because of added drive component flexibility.

I think I saw an i3 in the movie trailer “The Space Between Us.”

Is it possible to like the i3 and the other BMWs? The high bench seat isn’t much like the others. I still remember driving it and ELR the same day, using Volt to get from one to the other. Totally different experience. Both have great virtues, that I would think would make for an easy decision because they are such different cars. The Bolt looks more comparable, and threatening on range, especially in the north. 200 miles of range will then still be good for a frigid snow storm, and 100+ miles of use (not 50-something, like the Bimmer).

“The low-down torgue gets it 0-30 faster than most other sports cars”

But it isn’t. It’s a second slower than the base model BMW 2 series, it’s slower than a 2016 Civic. Stop perpetuating that lie that the BMW salesman told you.

Yes, that BMW Megacity concept was far less polarizing than the i3 design. Why does nobody else comment on the lag the BMW built into the acceleration? In my test drive, every single driving mode was hamstrung by a delayed response when starting from rest- even in Reverse. Press the pedal, wait a sec, then it goes. I can’t imagine any reason to create an artificial delay like that other than to not outshine the ICE bretheren. It must reduce all the acceleration stats by at least 0.5 sec…

uh, that’d be increase all the acceleration stats by half a second…

This entire article made me think a lot less of Automobile magazine, which I already consider to be less relevant today than when it was launched in the 80s and throughout the 90s. To essentially say that “I didn’t think I’d like it so I didn’t bother to drive it” is an absurd statement. Considering this automotive editor has surely driven all of the mediocre Corollas, Sonatas and Altimas that litter our roadways, how is it that this so-called “expert” hasn’t found an hour in the past three years to drive one of the most anticipated and technically advanced cars on the market? Makes one wonder what other talent gaps exist at Automobile magazine.

Why would anyone be surprised with quickly accelerating electric car in 2016???

There’s more to driving than just hammering the throttle …. another reason not to read reviews.