Chris Miller road tests and reviews the BMW i3
The all-new, all electric 2015 BMW i3 is a game changer.
The BMW i3 proves that not only is electric, emission free motoring possible for day to day duties; it’s also a lot fun.
First up, the BMW i3 can travel around 130km between charges, and as most Australian motorists average about 40km a day, it’s going to suit a lot of people.
It doesn’t work for those travelling long freeway distances, but it’s not designed for that.
Charge times vary depending on whether you’ve got the optional DC Rapid charging ($769) and BMW iWallbox Pure ($1,750) installed ($660 inspection/installation).
With the iWallbox Pure a full charge takes 6 hours, although it’ll give you an 80% charge in just 30 minutes.
Plugged into a standard household socket it’s eleven hours for a full charge.
At first it does seem excessive, but live with the i3 for only a few days and you’ll soon get into the routine of plugging in when you pull in to the garage, ensuring you always have plenty of charge to do what you need to.
The good thing is in most major metro cities in Australia more and more free charge points are popping up, and the more electric cars we see on the roads the more charge points we’ll see.
If electric only propulsion is just too much for you to deal with, you can option a range extender which is a 650cc motorcycle engine that generates electricity and delivers it straight to the motor, extending the range of the i3 to 300km.
On the road the i3 is a cracker to drive. With the full 250Nm available instantly the acceleration is neck cracking – reminiscent of a rollercoaster with no gear changes interrupting the power delivery.
Official figures put the 0-100km/h time at 7.2 seconds, but it feels faster.
It also has an accompanying noise that sounds like something from the Jetsons…however it’s not particularly loud and can only really be heard in the cabin.
The noisiest part is the tyres on the road, meaning in shopping centre car parks you need to be aware pedestrians can’t hear you coming.
Around town it provides snappy performance, on the open road it cruises comfortably at 100km/h but at high speeds the i3 chews through the charge.
With the lithium-ion high voltage batteries in the floor the centre of gravity is quite low making for a rear wheel drive car that is extremely agile.
Riding on massive twenty inch wheels that are only 5 inches wide it’s not on par with a 3 Series, but it does impress in the way it changes direction and handles high speed cornering. It always feels stable and inspires confidence.
The ride is excellent with no cabin intrusions, even on pot holed road surfaces.
Inside it’s all BMW, with the usual i-Drive interface along with all the familiar switchgear found across the BMW family.
That’s where it ends though; the architecture of the cabin is like nothing else on the road. From the opposing doors that open wide for really easy access to the completely flat floor providing generous space, the i3 packaging is innovative and futuristic.
Employing sustainable materials throughout the cabin, 25% of the plastics are recycled, door trims are made from KENAF (a fibre produced from cotton), seat trims are wool and natural leather, and the dash and accents use sustainably grown limed eucalyptus.
It does feel a little like driving around in your dining room, but it all combines for the most unique interior in the automotive business today, and one that is as functional as it is beautiful.
The BMW i3 doesn’t come cheap and will be the biggest hurdle to it becoming a volume seller. Priced from $63,990 before on roads, you need to kick in an extra $5910 for the range extender version.
Just like every BMW the options are endless…and expensive. Try $2,246 for a sunroof, $1,192 for a Harmon Kardon sound system and $1,692 for lane departure warning and radar cruise control.
As the first electric car from BMW the i3 really has nailed the brief. It drives the way you expect a BMW to drive, has all the green credentials and is a real stand out in traffic.
Regardless of whether the i3 sells in huge numbers or not, it sets the standards for other manufacturers to follow, which undoubtedly they will.
NUTS and BOLTS – 2015 BMW i3
Engine: Electric motor producing 125kW and 250Nm
Transmission: Single-speed automatic
Warranty: 3yrs/unlimited kilometre and 8yrs/100,000 km battery warranty
Safety: Five stars
Price: From $63,990