EV Review: 2017 BMW i3

 In Electric Cars, EV Industry

Introduction

Luxury brands haven’t been the most forthcoming with electric vehicle models released to the public. And when the 2017 BMW i3 first made its way to the market a few years ago, it was with mixed reviews. The cars electric range is pretty good, and the compact car segment is the right place to introduce a BMW electric car. However, the looks aren’t mainstream at all. In that aspect, sales could definitely be suffering even though, as an electric car, the BMW i3 is really competitive.

If you can get past the looks, the 2017 BMW i3 really is impressive. It’s the first car that’s been built as a completely standalone electric car. It has regenerative braking to extend your driving range. There are carbon fiber aspects that make it an innovative, lightweight model. And, it has the BMW pedigree that makes it incredibly fun to drive. It’s extremely well equipped, both for a BMW and for an electric car at its price range. Additionally, with the BMW i3’s improvements since its initial introduction, there’s no reason to think it will get anything but better.

Exterior Styling

Not many subcompact cars are known to be attractive, but the 2017 BMW i3 is polarizing. It has the traditional BMW kidney-shaped grille openings, but that’s where the recognizance ends. The black hood, liftgate, and portions of the bumper contrast starkly to the body color, especially while the roof rails are the same body color. The oddly small rear doors are virtually useless, and the window interferes with sleek body lines. You can tell BMW was trying hard to be refined and futuristic all at once, but it won’t be the average BMW customer’s cup of tea.

i3 chargingi3 front end

Fit and Finish Interior

It’s in the BMW stable, so there’s a certain expectation of fitment and refinement. The 2017 BMW i3 is an all-electric model that appeals to frugal drivers, and that must also translate inside the cabin. It seems the designers have struck that balance well. There are cloth seats available with blue inserts, signifying an electric powertrain, obviously. The seats are thin, bolstered buckets up front that you’d expect in a spaceship, but here they are in a BMW i3. The console area is quite plain, but the dash is much busier. There’s an sDrive infotainment screen recessed back behind a shelf, and the controls underneath are clean and classy. In front of the driver, the instrument cluster is designed like a small tablet, square and compact. The large stalk on the right side of the wheel seems too bulky but serves its purpose handily.

There are some upgraded trims available which mostly just affect the interior materials. SensaTec cloth is available in the Mega World trim, leather and wool cloth upholstery in the Giga World trim, and full natural leather in the Tera World trim, along with dark oak wood. Advanced driver assist features are available along with Navigation in the Technology and Driving Assistant Package for a few grand extra.

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i3 dash

interior side view

 Driving Experience

Where the 2017 BMW i3 falls flat on looks, it gains it back in the driving experience. For a compact car, it’s a thrill to drive! With the slightly smaller 60aH battery pack, the BMW i3 accelerates to 60 miles per hour in just 7.2 seconds. With the additional weight from the 94aH battery, it’s extended to eight seconds flat. It zips up to city or highway speed effortlessly and silently with its 170hp, 184 lb.-ft. of torque electric motor. All you hear is a slight whine from the single-speed automatic transmission. A 4.5-hour charge takes an empty battery to full with stage 2 charging.

Being manufactured using a high content of carbon fiber-reinforced plastics (CFRP), the BMW i3’s weight is significantly lower than if steel was used more extensively. It’s this light-weight manufacturing that allows for a low center of gravity, making the i3 nimble. It handles like a small sports car and even the electric power steering has a better feel than one might expect. MacPherson struts give the BMW i3 confident support in all driving situations. If there’s one thing that’s strange about the 2017 BMW i3’s driving experience, it’s the ‘one-pedal feeling’ from regenerative braking. It’s counterintuitive to traditional control, but it’s quickly gotten over.

BMW i3 driving

Features

MSRP $44,450 USD
Type BEV
Range 114 Miles / 184 kms or 180 Miles / 291 kms with Range Extender
Time to charge 4.5 Hours (Level 2)
Electric Motor 127 kW
Battery Capacity  33 kWh
Top Speed 93 Mph / 150 km/h
Warranty 4 Years / 50,000 Miles or 80,000 kms New Vehicle Warranty, 8 Years / 100,000 Miles or 160,000 kms Battery Warranty

Conclusion

The BMW i3 is priced considerably higher than most of its competition, so the expectations are more. Aside from its major foible in appearance, the 2017 BMW i3 is a brilliant performer, an excellent handler, and a well-equipped driving vehicle. It’s likely going to be passed over by those who simply want a cost-effective mode of transportation. You can expect that the majority of BMW i3 owners will be premium, business-class, or luxury car owners who need alternate transportation for commuting, either on a daily basis or for a fin and reliable second family vehicle.

2017 BMWi3 Competitors

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