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      07-09-2013, 08:58 PM   #1
djej
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Post First BMW i3 drive reviews (Top Gear, Autocar, Whatcar, Edmunds, Drive.com)

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TOP GEAR FIRST DRIVE

TG grabs a ride in BMW's rear-wheel-drive i3 electric car. Is this the future of cars?

http://www.topgear.com/uk/car-news/b...ive-2013-09-10

One day, the idea of cars driven by electric motors will become routine. After all, diesels were once a novelty, and so were turbos. We've just had a drive in a BMW i3 – visually disguised, but the real thing in the way it behaves – and it feels so incredibly natural that you rapidly fall for the idea that electric drive should be an idea that nobody questions.

After all, if you were on the ground floor and wanted to get to the 21st, would you want a lift powered by petrol? One that changed up a gear as it passed the 14th floor, and changed down again on the 19th? Nope, for smooth and silent movement, electricity is the way to go.

The i3 proves that for a car that ducks and dives around a city or cruises at dual-carriageway speeds, electricity can feel like a beautifully appropriate power source.

Of course, the lift is attached to the mains by a cable. A car doesn't have that luxury (unless it can replace the mains by an onboard generator such as a range-extending engine or a fuel cell). So range for a battery car is a huge issue. The BMW has some mighty clever tricks to extend its range. Most of them revolve around lightness and reduced resistance to the air, and so you feel them the moment you drive.

Getting going is blissfully simple. A little horizontal drum sprouts from the steering column, with biggish rocker switch marked D-N-R, plus a button (start-stop) and another button (park). Funnily enough the engineers call that rocker switch the 'gearlever', even though it's not a lever and it does nothing to do with gears. All it does is switch the motor to run forwards or backwards. The transmission is a fixed single-speed reduction gear between the motor and the diff.

Assuming you want to depart forwards, you just press the start button, switch to D, and apply some accelerator. With utter smoothness, you roll away. There's a distant synthesiser hum of the loudspeaker that warns pedestrians and cyclists of your motion, but barely any of the mechanical whines or electrical buzzes that most EVs can't help emitting. Even in its first few metres, you're struck how BMW had made the i3 sound refined and premium.

It's ruddy sprightly too. That's the lightweight part coming home to roost. With a high-torque 170bhp motor and a power flow uninterrupted by gearchanges, it's at 62mph in 7.2 seconds. The addictive thing is the instant and proportional answer you get whenever you twitch your right foot. The same applies when you lift off, too. There's strong regenerative braking from the motor even before you touch the brake.

Actually the motor braking, and the ability it gives you to drive with one pedal, is slightly less powerful than it was in the Mini E that BMW used to prove out the motor and batteries. That's because the i3 is RWD, and if they gave it such powerful regenerative braking on the rear wheels it could actually get unstable on a slippery road.

Top speed is limited to 93mph because energy use rises sharply after that. Besides, rating it for more speed would probably need heavier brakes and cooling, which would dent efficiency at normal speed.

It looks tall and the ride is supple, yet it rolls and pitches amazingly little, because so much of the weight is low to the road. The steering is pretty quick, so it's possible to wind in some sudden changes of direction, and the car accepts them without getting upset. The front end feels light and biddable. Of course the thin tyres don't hold on for ever, and it's set up to understeer if you go in too fast.

Sure it's rear-drive, but it's not about oversteer. Rather, the benefits of RWD are the pure steering and the excellent traction. And also an astoundingly tight turning circle, another feather in the cap of a car that'll be driven a lot in cities.

Speaking of which, the high driving position and great visibility are also feelgood assets for threading yourself among tight traffic. And for parking, you'll be glad it's supermini-short. But there's decent room for four people inside.

And what a lovely cabin. BMW has used the i project to invent a whole new design language, of spare, ornament-free surfaces and reduced bulk in the dash and seats. It feels extremely modern and calm, but high quality.

They wouldn't let us show it to you today, though. But the i3 Concept Coupe is basically a two-door version of the production car, and has the production interior pretty much unaltered.

Before you criticise the cars in the picture as looking like a telephone box, be aware of the effect of the disguise. It covers up the nicely jewelled lights, and the clever aero detailing in the rear of the body. It also masks the kink in the beltline behind the front doors, which gives a strong individuality and sense of movement to the profile.

The real thing will be unveiled later this month, by the way, so it's not long to wait.

The design is aimed at making it look light and aerodynamic because that's what it is. By inventing new ways of making and moulding carbonfibre relatively cheaply, BMW has been able to use a carbonfibre structural bodyshell sitting on a punt-shaped extruded aluminium chassis. That's a great basis for cutting the kilos. This means the battery can be smaller for a given range, which itself cuts more weight. And a lighter battery and body means they can use lighter suspension and wheels and brakes.

Result is it's just 1200kg. A Nissan Leaf is over 350kg more, and less powerful, and takes 11.9 sec for 0-62, and has a lower range. No-one's expecting the i3 to be cheap, but it gives you more for the extra money. The i3's range is, they insist, 80 to 100 miles depending on how you drive, and how much you use the power-limiting eco modes.

If that's not enough, they have a 2000 get-out-of-jail option, a tiny range extender module. This packs a two-cylinder 650cc petrol and generator in a vacant space next to the motor under the boot floor, and a 9-litre fuel tank in the nose. That's another 100 miles of range right there, and you can replenish that at a petrol station in two minutes. Because the range extender develops less power than the drive motor, you can't go flat out everywhere, but it'll be reassuring to have.

At first sampling then, this is a compelling electric car. It's not the first on the market, but BMW has put some original thinking into almost every part of its design and engineering. It drives sweetly, is distinctively designed, and has the reassuring range-extender option if you are anxious about running flat.

That said, BMW reckons nearly all i3 buyers will use it as a second car so won't be doing long journeys, and it's optimised to make them efficient and fun.



AUTOCAR FIRST DRIVE REVIEW

http://www.autocar.co.uk/car-review/...t-drive-review

What is it?

BMW i brand’s first model, the keenly anticipated electric powered BMW i3. First previewed in concept car form back in 2011, the four-seat hatchback i3 has now progressed to pre-production stage, with UK sales set to begin before the end of the year.

The pre-production i3 differs little from the most recent concept, which took the form of a two-door coup seen at last year's Los Angeles motor show. The car boasts proportions not unlike those of the Mercedes-Benz B-class, but with a much more contemporary appearance and more modern detailing, while the lack of B-pillars has allowed the use of coach doors at the rear to provide excellent access.

The i3 is the first road-going BMW to be based around a carbonfibre body structure. BMW says the extensive use of the material in the i3 has helped achieve an impressively low (by electric car standards) 1195kg kerb weight. Special crash paths, including patented honeycomb structures within the side sills, are also claimed to provide the i3 with class-leading levels of crash protection.

Power comes from an electric motor mounted low down within the rear axle – a position that has allowed BMW to devote the entire space under the bonnet to improve crash worthiness. The synchronous unit weighs 130kg and produces 168bhp, giving the i3 a power-to-weight ratio of 141bhp per tonne – just 10bhp per tonne shy of the Mini Cooper S. But it is the torque that really counts. With 184lb ft, the i3 boasts 5lb ft more than the Cooper S, and it arrives 1600rpm earlier, from the very first touch of the throttle. It is sent to the rear wheels via a single-ratio gearbox that offers the choice of three driving modes: Comfort, Eco Pro and Eco Pro+.

This all helps the i3 dash from 0-37mph in 3.8sec and 0-62mph in 7.2sec. Top speed is limited to 93mph, at which the engine is pulling a maximum 11,400rpm, to protect the state of battery charge and subsequently its range.

The new i3 offers a range of up to 118 miles on the European test cycle, although BMW’s own projections are less optimistic at 81 miles in wintery conditions and 100 miles in the summer. Still, they are well within the 30-mile average daily commute the German car maker identified in UK customer trials of the Mini E. As it is, BMW describes the i3’s range as being “adequate to meet the day-to-day mobility needs of the target customers”.

BMW will also offer the i3 with a range-extender (REX) option. It will use a modified version of the 650cc two-cylinder petrol engine used in the company’s CT650 GT maxi-scooter, with a 9.0-litre fuel tank sited low down and ahead of the front seats. The combustion engine acts purely as a generator to provide electricity to the battery, and so configured the i3 is claimed to provide a range of up to 186 miles.

The 22kWh lithium ion battery used to power the i3’s electric motor comes with a warranty that is valid for up to six years or 100,000 miles. Claimed to weigh 230kg, it consists of 96 individual cells mounted low down across the entire length and width of the car’s flat floor. BMW says the battery, which is kept at an optimum 20deg C by its own air conditioning unit, has been designed to allow the replacement of damaged cells.

Recharging times vary, but BMW offers a wall box charger that is claimed to provide a full charge within six hours, or the battery can be charged from 20 per cent to 80 per cent capacity within 30 minutes when plugged into a contemporary 40kW fast-charge station.

Underneath, the i3 uses a bespoke chassis that boasts a 50 per cent front/50 per cent rear weight distribution. The front end is supported by MacPherson struts while the rear uses a five-link arrangement that mounts to the electric motor’s bell housing. Standard 19-inch forged aluminium wheels wear relatively narrow 155/70 tyres, to save weight and reduce both air and rolling resistance.

What is it like?

To get in to the i3 you step over substantial sills and sit rather high. Much of the interior of the pre-production prototype we drove remained covered, but BMW says the final version will adhere closely to the most recent concept. It is a thoroughly modern cabin, though, dominated by a horizontal dashboard, a steering wheel that is not as vertically mounted as in other BMWs and upright seating.

The heavily raked windscreen, deep dashboard and a completely flat floor give a feel reminiscent of the old Mercedes-Benz A-class. In the rear, there’s ample room for two adults, although the rear windows are fixed. The boot is also quite small and boasts a rather high loading lip.

The main controls take the form of a pod which extends out from the steering column, housing the starter button, park mechanism and gear shifter. There’s a second cluster of controls between the front seats, including the all-important drive mode switch.

Pressing the start button with your thumb and then nudging the gear lever forward with the palm of your hand to select D in one movement feels intuitive – and distinctly new-world. There’s a faint whine from the electric motor, but apart from the distant sound of the tyres the cabin is hushed. In the first mile or two, it is the directness of the steering that gets our attention. The electro-hydraulic system is terrifically well weighted for urban driving, and unlike some systems it is also keen to self centre.

Thanks to its relatively low weight, the i3 offers instantaneous acceleration and entertaining pace. The reality of the whole 184lb ft being delivered to the rear wheels the moment you brush the throttle gives the car genuinely urgent properties. Before you know it, you’re backing off, such is the initial burst of acceleration.

The default driving mode is Comfort, which is designed to provide maximum performance. The rate of energy recuperation, and with it the braking effect on a trailing throttle, depends on the mode you choose. Backing away from the throttle in Eco-Pro+, the most efficient of the three driving modes, provides quite aggressive levels of retardation as kinetic energy is collected on the overrun; so much so that you rarely need more than a fleeting dab of the brakes to wipe off speed.

The off-throttle retardation is so assertive that the brake lights illuminate if the i3 decelerates too abruptly. Eco-Pro+ mode also limits top speed to 50mph, reduces the performance of the air-con and will route you on roads with favourable topography to provide the maximum possible range.

The seamless power delivery and the braking effect of the energy recuperation system give the impression that the i3 will be a terrific city car, but it is the sheer agility that is the car’s defining characteristic. The lightweight structure and low-mounted batteries combine with rear-wheel-drive dynamics and a super-responsive driveline to produce a truly engaging drive. Given its overall size and tall stature, the i3 is easy to place, remarkably manoeuvrable and, crucially, fun to drive.

There is noticeable roll when you throw it into tightening corners at higher speeds, but it builds progressive and is easily tamed by a trimming of throttle. The tall but narrow tyres allow you to edge up to the point where grip begins to fade with a tell tale squeal with a fair deal of confidence before the DSC chimes in.

We’ll need more time behind the wheel on public roads before we can deliver a real appraisal of ride quality. The i3 hinted that its relatively long wheelbase, high-walled tyres and generous wheel travel provide comfort-orientated feel. There’s no obvious fidgeting over smaller ridges, although the jury is still out on its ability to cope with bigger bumps.

Should I buy one?

You can’t just yet, but BMW is already taking orders ahead of a planned world debut scheduled to take place in London on 29 July. Deliveries planned to begin in the UK before the end of 2013. Pricing is yet to be announced, but officials suggest that it will land in the UK at around 30,000, less the government's discount for electric cars. The range-extender option will likely add a further 2000.

Those in the market for an electric car should by now be aware of their limitations. The i3 is not a family car in the traditional sense; instead, it’s a highly individual, inherently practical and fun-to-drive alternative to existing city cars.

The signs are that the i3 will be an excellent city car with urgent performance, outstanding manoeuvrability, engaging handling and a high level of refinement. That it emits no CO2 will also see it provide a potential financial bonus for some, not least those who face a daily commute into city centres where a congestion charge is in place.

But the i3 appeals on many other levels. It hints at a new age of motoring with a look unlike that of any other BMW, both inside and out.

BMW i3

Price 30,000 (est)
0-62mph 7.2sec
Top speed 93mph
Economy 0mpg; CO2 0g/km;
Kerb weight 1195kg;
Engine synchronous electric motor;
Power 168bhp at 11,400rpm;
Torque 184lb ft;
Gearbox single ratio





WHATCAR FIRST DRIVE REVIEW

http://www.whatcar.com/car-news/2013...-driven/266194

The BMW i3 is the company's first all-electric car - and it promises to bring fresh technology to that fast-developing area of the market when it goes on sale later this summer.

Unlike the EVs that we've seen so far, including the Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe, the i3 makes extensive use of high-tech, lightweight carbonfibre in its construction. BMW hopes that this focus on light weight will allow it to improve range without adding extra battery capacity (and the resulting increase in recharge times). The car weighs less than 1200kg - or, BMW claims, around 200kg less than comparable rivals.

The figures sound impressive enough. The supermini-sized i3 is powered by a 168bhp electric motor, mated to a single-speed gearbox and driving the rear wheels. Its top speed is a modest 93mph, but it has a range of between 80 and 100 miles, does 0-62mph in 7.2 seconds (0-37mph takes just 3.7 seconds) and can reach a full charge in eight hours (or more quickly if you have a charging box installed on your house wall).

That sort of range ought to be enough for a large percentage of commutes, but BMW claims it can still offer solutions to those who need to travel greater distances. A range-extender version of the car, with a two-cylinder petrol engine that just keeps the batteries alive once they reach a low charge level, will be available at the same time as the fully electric version, at a price premium of around 2500. Its nine-litre fuel tank will basically double the range - and of course you'll be able to refill it with fuel if you want to go farther.

Other options will include leasing packages that incorporate access to conventionally powered cars for longer journeys. BMW has yet to define precisely how the scheme will work, but as an example you could have an electric i3 for most of the year, then switch to an X5 for winter months.

It all adds up to one of the most interesting car launches of the next 12 months - which is why we grabbed the opportunity for an early drive in a lightly disguised test vehicle.

What's the BMW i3 like to drive?
Our brief drive at a BMW test facility focused on agility and handling, but we had enough time in the car to note that the i3's electric powertrain feels quiet and smooth – with less whine, on this evidence, than rivals such as the Nissan Leaf.

Power delivery is instantaneous, as you'd expect – all of the 184lb ft of torque is available from rest, after all – and in the most performance-oriented of the car's modes, Comfort, you can easily squirt up to 40 or 50mph in refined haste.

It seems odd to say this, but the i3's agility at speed is likely to surprise you. It's a tall-looking car, after all, but its centre of gravity is extremely low thanks to the battery cells mounted in the base of the chassis. That means it has excellent change of direction at speed, and it also feels very secure under braking. Brake-energy recuperation alone can do the braking if you think far enough ahead in many situations, in fact.

Perhaps more relevant is a deeply impressive turning circle. The i3 feels astonishingly capable in tight spaces and, at 9.86m, its turning radius is almost a full metre less than a Mini Cooper's. The steering is also pretty quick, at 2.5 turns lock to lock, so it should have excellent manoeuvrability around narrow city streets.

We had precious little opportunity to seek out rough surfaces to test the suspension set-up, but on some patchy ground at low speeds the i3 felt just about supple enough for town use. Even after this short run, though, we'd advise against opting for the 20in wheels over the standard 19-inchers.

What's the BMW i3 like inside?
The production car's dashboard layout sticks closely to that of the concept car, which mixed a minimalist, deliberately high-tech look with natural materials such as eucalyptus. It manages to feel airy up front, but a little dingy and dark in the rear; the final production car will have an extra chunk of side glass, though, which may help matters here.

The main instrument panel will be a single LCD display, and BMW will offer a choice of central screens for infotainment and satellite-navigation (either a 6.5-inch standard unit, called Business, or a 10.25-inch widescreen system that will be called Professional).

The sat-nav will have extra functionality that will show you the current range on a map (based on your current driving mode and the range-maximising Eco Pro+ setting, and a number of other parameters, including your driving style). It will also point you towards charging points and, providing the network operators are playing ball, let you know if the plug sockets are free or not. Future applications will include the ability to reserve parking spaces alongside public charging points.

That aside, the cabin features familiar BMW switches for indicators and the stereo, and its iDrive controller is present and correct between the front seats. The gear selector is pretty novel, though; you switch the car on and off, and move it between Drive, Reverse and Park, via a large, clunky stalk unit mounted on the right side of the steering column. It'll take some getting used to – but it does free up space between the front seats.

Rear passengers have to wait until the front doors are opened before they can open up their own rear-hinged doors. Once they've done so, though, access to the back seats is decent enough, thanks to the lack of a central pillar on the side – and you can also fold the front seats forwards to open up the aperture further. Rear passengers will probably notice how high their feet and knees are – a result, no doubt, of the battery pack under the floor – so larger adults may grumble after longer journeys.

The boot is small by modern supermini standards – reasonably wide, but shallow because of the high floor. It has 200 litres of space with the rear seats in place, and up to 1100 litres if you lower them. There's room for a decent amount of shopping in there, though.

The car will come with a SIM card as standard, allowing owners to access it through either their smartphone or any internet browser and see information on the car's systems and current state/rate of charge.

BMW has yet to confirm matters such as servicing schedules, but sources say the costs of servicing the car should be roughly half that of a regular combustion-engined vehicle's, simply because there are fewer fluids to check and change. The i3's electrical architecture and connectivity will also make it possible for BMW engineers to run remote diagnostics, identifying problems before the car is anywhere near a workshop.

Should I buy one?
You can't actually purchase an i3 just yet - although BMW GB admits that 200-odd people have paid token deposits to register interest and be at the head of the queue when the order books open later this summer (the final production version will be unveiled in London on July 29).

Prices have yet to be confirmed, but the regular EV i3 is likely to cost around 30,000, or not much more than 25k after government grants are taken into account. That means that the BMW is an expensive supermini but, more impressively, around the same as a range-topping Nissan Leaf or many an optioned-up Mini Cooper S.

We'll wait to test the i3 on the road before delivering a final verdict, of course, but on the basis of this test it has the potential to be the sharpest, most focused electric vehicle on the market. It's going to be a high-end, premium addition to the small number of EVs on offer – but a significant, worthy one nonetheless.
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      07-09-2013, 08:58 PM   #2
djej
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Post First BMW i3 drive reviews (Edmunds and Drive.com)

http://news.drive.com.au/drive/new-c...710-2pp3q.html

Radical electric car is fun to drive and funky to look at.

Forget everything you ever thought about electric cars; BMW's i3 is a sign of things to come.

First previewed in concept car form back in 2011, the highly contemporary four seat hatchback has now progressed to pre-production stage with Australian sales slated to begin in 2014 as part of a worldwide roll out for BMW’s i brand.

The i3 is the first road-going BMW model to be based around a body structure constructed entirely out of carbon fibre.

BMW says the use of carbon fibre within the structure of the i3 has not only helped in achieving an impressively low - by electric car standards - 1195kg kerb weight, but also provided greater scope with its overall performance potential by allowing the use of a smaller capacity battery than would have been possible with more conventional steel monocoque construction like that used by its more traditional models.

Stylistically, the production version of the i3 differs little to the most recent concept of the new four seater. It is a modern looking car boasting proportions not unlike those of the Mercedes-Benz B-Class but with a much more contemporary appearance. The lack of B-pillars (the pillars at the side between the front and rear doors) has allowed the use of coach doors at the rear to provide excellent access to the rear quarters.

Power comes from a 125kW electric motor mounted low down within the rear axle assembly – a position that has allowed BMW to devote the entire space under the bonnet to improve crash worthiness.

But as with all electric cars, it is the torque rating that really counts. With 250Nm, BMW’s first ever series production electric car boasts 10Nm more than the turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol powered Mini Cooper S, and it arrives 1600rpm earlier, from the very first degree of throttle travel. It is all sent to the rear wheels via a single ratio gearbox that offers the choice between a trio of driving modes: Comfort, ECO-PRO and ECO-PRO+.

BMW’s efforts in keeping weight in check are clearly reflected in the official acceleration claims which see the i3 dash from 0-60km/h in 3.8sec and 0-100km/h in 7.2sec – figures which see it burst out of the blocks and achieve typical urban speeds with greater gusto but pretty well on par with the Mini Cooper S to the traditional benchmark. Top speed is limited to 150km/h, at which the engine is pulling a maximum 11,400rpm, to protect the state of charge and subsequently its range.

On that important subject, the new BMW is claimed to provide an overall range of up to 190km on a single battery charge, although this should only be taken as a rough guide to the sort of distance it is actually capable of achieving. BMW’s own real world projections are altogether less optimistic at 130km in wintery conditions but 200km in summer climates. Still, they are well within the 41km average daily commute the German car maker has identified in worldwide customer trials of the Mini E and BMW 1-Series ActiveE – the latter of which ran the same basic driveline as the i3. As it is, BMW describes the i3’s range as being “adequate to meet the day to day mobility needs of the target customers”.

To allay any lingering uncertainty these customers might have about stepping from a traditional petrol, diesel or hybrid into the fledgling ranks of electric propulsion, BMW will offer the i3 with a range extender (REX) option by way of a modified version of the 650cc two-cylinder petrol engine used in the company’s CT650 GT motorcycle with a nine litre fuel tank sited low down ahead of the front seats in the space usually dedicated to the gearbox in a conventional front-engined car. This is likely to be the only option available in Australia when the i3 arrives next year.

Mounted next to the electric motor underneath the boot floor at the rear, the combustion engine has been tuned to operate at up to 4300rpm. It acts purely as a generator to provide electricity to the battery. Unlike the system used by the Holden Volt, it does not provide direct drive of any kind, which is a first for a series production electric car. So configured, the new BMW is claimed to provide a range of up to 300km.

The 22kWh battery used to power the i3’s electric motor is produced by Samsung and comes with a warranty that is valid for up to eight years or 100,000km. Claimed to weigh 230kg, it consists of 96 individual cells mounted low down across the entire length and width of the car’s flat floor. BMW says the lithium ion unit, which operates at 360 volts, has been designed to allow replacement of damaged cells and is kept at an optimum operating temperature of 20 degrees Celsius by an individual air conditioning unit.

Recharging times for the i3 vary quite dramatically depending on the strength of charge available at an individual property or charging station. BMW offers a so-called wall box charger that in its most basic 2kW configuration is claimed to provide a full charge within six hours. When plugged into a contemporary 40kW fast charge station the battery can be charged from 20 per cent to 80 per cent capacity within 30 minutes, according to BMW. Interestingly, field studies with the Mini E and 1-series ActiveE determined that 90 per cent of charging was carried out at private residences.

Underneath, the i3 uses a bespoke chassis that is claimed to boast a typical-for-BMW perfectly balanced 50:50 front-to-rear weight distribution. The front end is supported by MacPherson struts while the rear end uses a five link arrangement that mounts directly to the bell housing of the electric motor. Within the generously dimensioned wheelhouses are standard 19-inch forged aluminium wheels shod with relatively narrow 155/70 profile tyres – a combination that BMW claims not only provides weight savings for low unsprung masses but excellent aerodynamic properties and extremely low rolling resistance.

Getting in the i3 you step up over substantial sills and sit rather high by traditional BMW standards. The seat squab is mounted a considerable 170mm higher than that in the 1-Series at 670mm from the ground, placing your shoulders well above the waistline and providing a commanding view of the road. It is even 90mm higher than the seat in the X1, so you sit at genuine SUV height.

The seats themselves offer little in the way of lateral support within the squab but they possess firm cushioning and feature a deeply dished backrest with integrated headrests. There is no electronic seat adjustment. And there won’t be, even as an option. Such a modern day luxury would require electricity that could otherwise be used to extend range, argues BMW. Manual seat adjustment it is, then.

The interior layout is unlike any other from the German car maker with heavily raked windscreen, deep dashboard devoid of any traditional centre stack and a completely flat floor – all of which gives the i3 a feel that is oddly reminiscent of the old Mercedes-Benz A-Class in many respects, at least from the front seats.

The new BMW provides ample room for four adults, although the rear windows are fixed and the rear seat is not much than a mere bench with adequate but far from outstanding levels of legroom. The boot is also quite small and boasts a rather high loading lip owing to the state-of-the-art driveline sited beneath it.

It is a thoroughly modern driving environment dominated by the horizontal themed dashboard, a steering wheel that is not as vertically mounted as in other BMW models and upright seating.

The main control takes the form of a pod which extends out from the steering column and sits well within your line of sight, housing the starter button, park mechanism and gear shifter – forward for D; middle position for N; backwards for R. There’s also a second cluster of controls down between the front seats, including a new take on BMW’s iDrive rotary controller, a mechanism for an electronic park brake and the all-important switch to alter the drive mode – very much the key to balancing performance and range.

Pressing the start button (instead of turning a key) and then nudging the gear lever forward (rather than drawing a lever backwards) with the palm of your hand selecting D in one movement feels very intuitive – and distinctly new world. There is a faint whine from the electric motor as we get underway but apart from the distant sound of the tyres rolling across the bitumen the cabin is pleasantly hushed. In the first kilometre or two, it is the directness of the steering, a variable ratio system tuned at a nominal 2.5 turns lock-to-lock, that gets our attention. The electro-hydraulic system, closely related to the set-up to be adopted on the new Mini hatchback due to make its world premiere at the Los Angeles motor show later this year, is terrifically weighted for a car conceived primarily for urban driving, and unlike some systems it is also keen to self centre. The fact that the front wheels are not asked to channel any power clearly helps.

Thanks to its relatively low weight, the i3 offers instantaneous acceleration and entertaining pace up to and beyond typical city speed limits. The official performance claims appear entirely conventional for a car of this size, but the reality of the whole 250Nm being delivered to the rear wheels the very moment you brush the throttle relates to genuinely urgent properties – the sort you just don’t get with a traditional petrol or diesel powered car.

The default driving mode is “Comfort”, which is designed to provide maximum performance up to 150km/h. The rate of energy recuperation, and with it the braking effect on a trailing throttle, depends on the mode you choose. Backing away from the throttle in ECO-PRO+, the most efficient of the three driving modes, provides quite aggressive levels of retardation as the electric motor is used as a generator to collect kinetic energy on the overrun; so much so that you rarely need more than a fleeting dab of the brakes.

The energy recuperation system is so assertive in its action, BMW has programmed the brake lights to illuminate if it causes the i3 to decelerate abruptly, something it says would only ever occur on downhill runs. As well as calling up the most aggressive energy recuperation, ECO PRO+ mode also limits top speed to 80km/h, reduces the performance of the air conditioning system in a bid to save electric charge and, in combination with a wide range of navigation features, will also route you on roads with favourable topography in a bid to provide the maximum possible range.

The combination of such strong accelerative properties, a seamless power delivery and an energy recuperation system you can rely upon to provide an instant braking effect the moment you come off the throttle gives the impression that the i3 will be a terrific city car. We’ve only driven it on a test track, but our limited test drive revealed it possesses all the likeable traits of the earlier Mini E and 1-series ActiveE, but with even more impressive performance, added range and a far more commanding driving position.

But this is not the best it has to offer. Sheer agility is the defining characteristic of the i3. With its lightweight carbon fibre body structure and lithium ion batteries mounted as low as possible underneath the floor, the new BMW boasts a centre of gravity that, at 470mm from the ground, is described as being close to that of the X1. Combine this with typical rear wheel drive dynamic qualities and the super responsive driveline and you have the ingredients for a truly engaging drive.

There is a noticeable degree of roll when you throw it into tightening corners at higher speeds. The tall but almost comically narrow tyres provide a surprising amount of grip, allowing you to edge up to the point where purchase begins to fade with a tell tale squeal with a fair deal of confidence before the DSC (dynamic stability control) is set into action.

We’ll need more time behind the wheel on public roads before we can deliver any confident appraisal of ride quality. On the rougher road surfaces around the periphery of the BMW test track where we drove it, the i3 hinted its relatively long wheel base, high aspect ratio tyres and generous wheel travel provides the basis for a more comfort oriented feel than recent BMW models. There’s no obvious fidgeting over smaller ridges, although the jury is still out on its ability to cope with bigger bumps.

Pricing is yet to be announced, although officials suggest the i3 will land here at around $60,000. The range extender option, something BMW’s studies suggest won’t be required by many potential customers but will clearly be sought after for peace of mind, will likely add a further $5000 at least.

Those in the market for an electric car are aware of their limitations. But ultimately there are very few with the new BMW. The i3 is not a family car – not in the traditional sense, anyway. It is a highly individual but inherently practical and fun to drive alternative to existing city cars.
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By EDMNDS: http://www.edmunds.com/bmw/i3/2014/road-test.html

2014 BMW i3 First Drive

The electric car has long been touted as the future of personal mobility, but its evolution has been anything but straightforward. Held back by battery technology for decades, electric cars have, for the most part, failed to deliver on their nirvana-like promise of zero emissions for the motoring masses.

Other than the outstanding Telsa Model S, no recent electric car conceived for large-scale production has managed to live up to the hype and sales expectations heaped upon it at launch. Think Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi MiEV and the Renault Zoe in Europe.

The 2014 BMW i3 hopes to change this trend in much the same way Apple altered the mobile telephone landscape with the launch of the iPhone. The i3 is being looked upon by the German carmaker as a whole new chapter in the age of the automobile — one in which new solutions in lightweight construction, a clever new production process, high levels of overall efficiency and traditional driving fun come together into one. Our drive of a preproduction prototype this week revealed it is perhaps the most engaging electric car of our times.

A Compact Package
Dimensionally, the 2014 BMW i3 is positioned between the Mini hardtop and BMW 1 Series hatchback with a length of 157.4 inches. The relatively tall stature is offset by generously dimensioned wheel wells and the inclusion of 19-inch forged aluminum wheels wrapped in narrow 155mm-wide tires. A generous 101.2-inch wheelbase and relatively wide tracks makes the most use of the vehicle's modest footprint.

It's the first ever BMW model to make use of a full carbon-fiber structure. In combination with other exotic materials such as magnesium for the support of the instrument panel and renewable raw materials for the door trim panels, the i3 tips the scales at 2,634 pounds. That's light by electric car standards. By comparison, the Nissan Leaf weighs 3,362 pounds while the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid comes in at 3,130 pounds and the Chevrolet Volt at 3,781 pounds.

Entering the i3 is a different experience compared to most BMWs. You step up and into the i3 at which point you are met by a rather high dashboard that sweeps horizontally across the cabin. The cabin could be from the pages of a glossy architecture brochure, such is its style and eye-catching appearance. The door trims are also fashioned from natural plant fibers, helping to emphasize the new age feel to the cabin, which is otherwise spacious and boasts a pleasing ambience.

Although the preproduction prototype we drove continued to wear some disguise, it is clear the interior closely resembles the latest i3 concept car revealed at the Los Angeles auto show last November. This is good news, proving BMW is serious about reaching out to new customers with an eye as much on the style as the driving experience.

Electric Drive and Then Some
The 2014 BMW i3 will go on sale in North America starting in March of next year with the choice of two different drivetrain setups. The standard model uses an electric motor mounted at the rear fed by a 22kWh lithium-ion battery. It delivers 168 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels through a fixed ratio gearbox in one of three driving modes: Comfort, Eco Pro and Eco Pro+.

The second variant retains the same setup but adds a 650cc two-cylinder gasoline engine that nestles next to the electric motor at the rear. It acts as a generator to extend the vehicle's range and does not provide any kind of propulsion for the vehicle.

The official European Union test procedure credits the i3 with a range of 118 miles in Comfort mode. BMW itself indicates a worst-case scenario of 81 miles in wintery conditions, rising to 100 miles in summery climates. Those who choose the range extender option can expect to nearly double the range in comparison to the battery-only setup.

As with rival electric carmakers, BMW will offer its first zero-emission model with a so-called wall box that in its most basic configuration is claimed to provide a six-hour recharge. When connected to a 50kW fast charge station similar to the supercharger arrangement being touted by Tesla, the battery can be charged in a claimed 30 minutes.

Punchy Performance
The i3 offers punchy and lively acceleration. A heady rush of acceleration is unleashed the moment you introduce the smallest degree travel to the throttle. It is delivered seamlessly with just a faint whirring sound from the electric motor and a distant rumble of specially developed low rolling resistance tires.

The benchmark zero-to-62-mph (100km/h) is achieved in a respectable 7.2 seconds. The initial urgency away from the line has as much to do with BMW efforts in keeping weight in check than the electric motor's 184 lb-ft of torque, which by comparison's sake is 7 lb-ft more than the turbocharged 1.6-liter gasoline engine used in the Mini Cooper S.

The new BMW i3 is also impressively responsive and sensationally refined at highway speeds, offering enough in-gear shove that you're never likely to feel exposed when mixing it with other traffic. The silent surge of propulsion you experience on a loaded throttle comes at the expense of range and that initial urgency tends to trail off as speeds rise closer to the limited 93-mph top speed achieved in Comfort and Eco Pro modes.

A defining feature of the i3's on-road character is its energy recuperation. The setup slows the car quite dramatically the moment you step away from the throttle at lower speeds as the electric motor switches from drive to generator mode. The recuperation is speed-sensitive, though, so it coasts with little drag at typical highway speeds to take advantage of the inertia that has been built up under acceleration. At urban speeds, there's a strong braking effect for maximum production of kinetic energy.

Handles Well for an Electric Car
The 2014 BMW i3 is a thoroughly pleasant car in which to cover miles. Despite its relatively tall stature it corners with great conviction. Its turn-in characteristics are very sporting, with sharp response as you feed lock into the steering. There is a small degree of initial lean to the body but the i3 is wholly predictable in its actions. Once committed it settles nicely on its dampers midcorner and, despite the relatively narrow tires, resists understeer well, holding its line well even at fast cornering speeds.

Given the 155/70 R19 tires, we didn't expect it to offer anywhere near the grip it does. Granted, it doesn't match the focused handling nature of more conventional BMW models, but by electric car terms it hangs on remarkably well and displays real poise when pushed through corners at speed.

Heavy items, such as the battery and electric motor, placed as low as possible underneath the flat floor helps, of course, leading to a center of gravity similar to that of the X1 in combination with the lightweight carbon-fiber structure and other weight-saving touches. But BMW must also be commended for the excellent ride comfort, which has been achieved in part by providing the i3 with a greater level of wheel travel and softer springs than conventional BMW models.

A Real Electric Car
There is a pervading sense of completeness to the 2014 BMW i3. This is an electric car that you could actually consider buying and driving all the time. We have yet to experience it on public roads, but in the wide-open spaces of a BMW test track it managed to impress on many different levels.

There is little doubt the new BMW, with its high-tech carbon-fiber construction and stylish appointments, represents the direction personal mobility will take in the not-too-distant future. The question that remains is: Are customers ready for a BMW without an engine?
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      07-09-2013, 09:03 PM   #4
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      07-09-2013, 09:09 PM   #5
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manual seat controls?

"There is no electronic seat adjustment. And there won’t be, even as an option. Such a modern day luxury would require electricity that could otherwise be used to extend range, argues BMW. Manual seat adjustment it is, then."

ok...i'm not sure how to respond to this...what little interest i had in this car has been washed away.

i sincerely wish BMW fail with i3 and figure out how to provide electronic seat controls that can do less damage to the mileage in a "luxury", "premium" and "contemporary" car.

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      07-09-2013, 09:31 PM   #6
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Manual seats is the deal breaker? LoL

I think it's pretty cool. Decent performance, good range and I don't know why people are hating on the looks? For an e-car it looks way better than a Leaf or Prius.
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      07-09-2013, 09:35 PM   #7
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manual seat controls?

"There is no electronic seat adjustment. And there won’t be, even as an option. Such a modern day luxury would require electricity that could otherwise be used to extend range, argues BMW. Manual seat adjustment it is, then."

ok...i'm not sure how to respond to this...what little interest i had in this car has been washed away.

i sincerely wish BMW fail with i3 and figure out how to provide electronic seat controls that can do less damage to the mileage in a "luxury", "premium" and "contemporary" car.
I don't know. I mean, how often does one change their seat once they have found their desired position? And I don't think this car will be one that is constantly shared. Seems to me that it will be driven by one person most of the time (a hunch). My last BMW had electronic seats, and although it was a nice convenience, it didn't mean much to me cause I set it and forget it. I doubt this will be a deal breaker for the sub 40k electric Bimmer.
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      07-09-2013, 09:36 PM   #8
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They have made it look like the Active Tourer Concept... unlike this thing which looks like an X3 had sex with a prius. Not to mention those huge wheels... it just looks silly to have such huge wheels on such a tiny car, its all out of proportion.
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      07-09-2013, 10:03 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Btyler227 View Post
I don't know. I mean, how often does one change their seat once they have found their desired position? And I don't think this car will be one that is constantly shared. Seems to me that it will be driven by one person most of the time (a hunch). My last BMW had electronic seats, and although it was a nice convenience, it didn't mean much to me cause I set it and forget it. I doubt this will be a deal breaker for the sub 40k electric Bimmer.
Pretty sure its about principle. If you pay $40,000 a car the basic necessities are electric locks, seats, and windows. Also for $40,000 I would ask for a navigation screen that actually does navigation. Not pay another $1000.00 on top of the base screen to get the availability of turn by turn. Also for $40,000 I expect heated seats minimum, with the option for either a heated steering wheel or ventilated AC seats (the kia optima comes with them).

I know these companies are trying to make these cars priced desirable, but most people dont want them. Pain in the ass to charge, cost of ownership after 5 years is unknown, no power, not really saving the environment, looks are generally weak, (interior gadgets are fun on these cars, I give them that)...

I wouldnt own this, nor the leaf or the volt. The Tesla now is purposeful and does many great things with great looks to go with it. The price is high, but the money saved in gas monthly plus the opportunity to destroy the over hyped M3 in a drag race for around the same price while making no noise makes me smile.
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      07-09-2013, 10:19 PM   #10
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Handles Well for an Electric Car
Ha...that is funny.
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      07-09-2013, 10:27 PM   #11
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Reviews are saying the car handles well. I like what I'm hearing. BMW going back to what they're good at...handling.
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      07-09-2013, 10:59 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ecaedus View Post
manual seat controls?

"There is no electronic seat adjustment. And there wont be, even as an option. Such a modern day luxury would require electricity that could otherwise be used to extend range, argues BMW. Manual seat adjustment it is, then."

ok...i'm not sure how to respond to this...what little interest i had in this car has been washed away.

i sincerely wish BMW fail with i3 and figure out how to provide electronic seat controls that can do less damage to the mileage in a "luxury", "premium" and "contemporary" car.
YOU are pathetic... Electric seats would add more weight on top of draining the battery. Don't all you complain about how heavy BMWs are getting? Don't complain about weight on cars if you can't do without the luxuries...

Bravo to BMW for paving a new path with the i cars...
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      07-09-2013, 11:19 PM   #13
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I can't wait for the M version.




Jk
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      07-09-2013, 11:59 PM   #14
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I mean, actually it's not that bad to look at.
I want one honestly.
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      07-10-2013, 12:31 AM   #15
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Congratulations bmw, this is the first time I've been impressed by/I'm looking forward to an electric car. The price though...
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      07-10-2013, 01:01 AM   #16
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One thing I don't get though is why is it so damn tall?
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      07-10-2013, 01:03 AM   #17
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Oh Good Lord, he does have a point. BMW is crazy not to make money on such expected items. I do not want to buy a premium car and have to adjust the seat each time I drive it.



Quote:
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YOU are pathetic... Electric seats would add more weight on top of draining the battery. Don't all you complain about how heavy BMWs are getting? Don't complain about weight on cars if you can't do without the luxuries...

Bravo to BMW for paving a new path with the i cars...
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      07-10-2013, 01:18 AM   #18
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I can't wait for the M version.




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Wouldn't be all that surprising....
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      07-10-2013, 02:47 AM   #19
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http://www.topgear.com/uk/car-news/b...ive-2013-09-10

"it feels so incredibly natural that you rapidly fall for the idea that electric drive should be an idea that nobody questions."
"Even in its first few metres, you're struck how BMW had made the i3 sound refined and premium."


http://www.autocar.co.uk/car-review/...t-drive-review

"Before you know it, youre backing off, such is the initial burst of acceleration."

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      07-10-2013, 04:37 AM   #20
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Reminds me of the Audi a2

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      07-10-2013, 06:17 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peteypab2133 View Post
Pretty sure its about principle. If you pay $40,000 a car the basic necessities are electric locks, seats, and windows. Also for $40,000 I would ask for a navigation screen that actually does navigation. Not pay another $1000.00 on top of the base screen to get the availability of turn by turn. Also for $40,000 I expect heated seats minimum, with the option for either a heated steering wheel or ventilated AC seats (the kia optima comes with them).

I know these companies are trying to make these cars priced desirable, but most people dont want them. Pain in the ass to charge, cost of ownership after 5 years is unknown, no power, not really saving the environment, looks are generally weak, (interior gadgets are fun on these cars, I give them that)...

I wouldnt own this, nor the leaf or the volt. The Tesla now is purposeful and does many great things with great looks to go with it. The price is high, but the money saved in gas monthly plus the opportunity to destroy the over hyped M3 in a drag race for around the same price while making no noise makes me smile.
exactly my point. thank you.

why does electric cars have to make compromises? especially if you are trying to convince people you are selling them a luxury and supposedly premium car? furthermore, why does it have to be the freaking seats that take the fall? i mean, how much power can seats draw that could decrease the mileage significantly?
take a hard look at tesla, normal styling, good range, and barely any compromises at all. and how many years have they been making cars?

it's about principle, what your car stand for and how you make your car to show these principles. to me, this car from BMW shows nothing.

which part is it better than the prius or volt(i hate these cars btw)? power? range? no gas? brand image? luxury? sportiness(i highly doubt how RWD and those razor thin tires are going to make this pod the ideal drifter)?? CFRP?

all that being said, the price on the car is reasonable at least, around $37k for a ReX version. but still, i personally think this car, with all its abnormal compromises, is a bad move from BMW.
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      07-10-2013, 06:26 AM   #22
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Quote:
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YOU are pathetic... Electric seats would add more weight on top of draining the battery. Don't all you complain about how heavy BMWs are getting? Don't complain about weight on cars if you can't do without the luxuries...

Bravo to BMW for paving a new path with the i cars...
depends on the type of vehicle you are offering.

if BMW is doing a new Z4M, then having the electric seats would be a mistake.

but for a people carrying mega city vehicle? suddenly 5kg weight is an issue? suddenly the cars battery won't last because 2 motors for the front seats are just too much to handle? sure, sounds legit.
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