The local Harrogate Stratstone BMW dealer kindly let me test drive the current incarnation of the i3 with its 600cc range extender motor. I used it for a weekend and these are my thoughts. From a range point of view it is excellent. I only used the extender to see if I could here it and the ability to stabilise the battery level. The design is unique as it has a shell made from high strength carbon. This means that there is no centre pillar between front and rear door. You will either love or hate what BMW did with the options this door design opens up. They employed a conventional opening front door while the rear opens ‘backwards’.
My verdict is that I loved the unorthodox combination. The upside is for access to older rear passengers and luggage, the downside being it is very hard to use in parking spaces. This is due to having to open the front door to enable the rear to be free to release. Even so, my option is it was genius thinking that has much more openness than most cars available today. This idea should be true when it comes to this new generation of EV sustainable travel. It (mind the pun) opens the doors to all manner of development. Although ICE cars do not interest me I was told that the carbon shell will be in the 7 series BMW. That series being the more top of the range vehicles. If this trickle down effect aids EV enrichment, well I am definitely up for that.
Next is the interior. You can search google for all you need to know about how sustainable the factory where the i3 is built and how hemp, recycled plastic, wood and leather are all sustainable. I am not glossing over this due to laziness, only as it is plain to see how BMW are committed to a long term goal. This will eventually lead to cleaner cities and less waste, after all, most EV’s are more recyclable than the equivalent fossil vehicle.
So what was the ride like? It was bliss. Homework has been put into this EV in bucket loads as the car pulls at a rather brisk pace. This car is not slow and the regenerative braking is literally one foot. I am still didvided as to if I prefer an EV that guides you with the brake or one foot and slowing rapidly to gain as much power back. The Renault Zoe is half and half, a light touch on the brake giving more power back. I must try the Hyundai Ioniq as that has a paddle system to guide which renegen is preferred. Whatever is preferred, the i3 is superb at it. Again the ride is quality, with all switches and dashboard looking very sturdy. There are 3 modes, 2 that are eco and one that is comfort. I had it in comfort and really felt there was enough range for town and local cities but that, with the range extender, you could head for the motorways with ease. Yep, I was impressed. Charging was easy, although I missed the port being on the front. One aspect I could not understand is BMW not giving a type 2 charger with the car. To get one a customer would have to pay extra. For the demo I was given a granny cable (type 2 to domestic wall plug) I used my own lead and it worked fine. Testing my own 7kw charger and local public ones without any issues. This car can rapid charge too. All cables should be included, this includes all manufacturers as it is vital that the choice is there from the outset. For the cost of a cable it would help to sell, I am positive of it. BMW do not give a home charger and fitting with there i3 too. Here is another missed opportunity. If Renault can do it with a cheaper EV then BMW should with a premium car. Enough of the negative side as they are the main issues. Apart from the glitchy Iconnect with its slow interface, this EV is a contender. I was very tempted. My concern was that the Renault has been in the market longer and with the larger battery pack option that may be available soon, well I want to see how the market progresses that way.
The BMW is an intellectuals car in every way. It’s sustainable, medium to long range, incredible design, clean, high concept and top quality throughout. The ride is a peach, just making you want to get in it at every opportunity. EV’s are quick anyway but this keeps pulling way after 40. With the ride of an EV you really don’t feel right going at speed, you don’t need to as the quiet refinement makes your journey a serene affair. This vehicle takes that serenity a stage further as the low wind noise adds to that great EV experience. Do I think it is worth the asking price? Well yes, if you were to compare with all those other BMW’s then this wins hands down for me. 95% recyclable and made in a sustainable factory, BMW has put its money where its mouth is while other premium manufacturers are chugging out the same stale cars. Well done to all concerned and thanks to Stratstone of Harrogate for letting me demo it for a weekend.