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      11-28-2013, 05:33 AM   #1
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i3 Test Drive at LA Auto Show : Pics and Impressions

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Some Brief Impressions of the BMW i3


BMW i Experience by ddk632, on Flickr

Like many people in or visiting LA this week, I stopped by the LA Auto Show to check out some cars. The first thing I actually did, though, was to walk over to the BMW i Experience across the street from the LA Convention Center, and signed up for a test drive of the BMW i3.

There was a fleet of at least 38 (because I saw that number on the back of one, pictured below, hehe) Solar Orange i3's available to drive, enough that at any given time, there didn't seem to be much of a wait to get into a car once you registered.


i3 Reflected in i3 by ddk632, on Flickr

I also noticed that BMW had a beautiful, large hospitality tent set up, with only Toyota having a similar size area - the other manufacturers offering test drives had some basic tents. BMW also served refreshments and various chips, dips, and other reception type food. It was very nice. The hospitality tent also had many sitting areas where one can relax and chill. I was a bit excited and forgot to take many pictures in there, but here are a few:


BMW i Accessories by ddk632, on Flickr


i3 Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) Tub by ddk632, on Flickr



The i3 Test Drive


Self in i3 (2) by ddk632, on Flickr

First off, let me preface this by saying I've never had any interest in the i3. The i8 holds my heart strings firmly in her grip, and I'm not much of a fan of small cars.

Still, since its release and with more info about the BMWi philosophy, I've gained enough interest and hey, they offered to drive one, so why not?


Self in i3 by ddk632, on Flickr

Let me tell you, I was completely surprised by my experience. I will first sum it up like this - the smile never wore off my face as I made my way rather quickly through downtown LA making only right turns on the predefined path all of the i3 test drivers had to follow. I actually passed the i3 that left the parking lot in front of me, and made it back before they did


Acceleration

I wanted to test the acceleration after seeing the whole i3 vs M3 drag race video. This thing (the i3) is zippy - does it have kick your head back into the headrest acceleration like my X6M when I nail it with launch control? No, it doesn't. But it gets off the line respectably, and gets up to 45 mph and surpasses that mark if you're not paying attention rather quickly.

In fact, the i3's off the line acceleration was a bit addicting, mostly because it simply isn't expected from a car that looks like the i3.

Regenerative Braking

I was looking forward to seeing how this feels. I'll say this, in normal driving (not mashing the throttle) the effect is very noticeable. You let off the gas and the car has a pulled back sort of feel, completely the opposite of how coasting feels like.

At slightly higher speeds, when mashing the throttle all the way, once you hit about 45mph, the inertia of the car overtakes the regenerative braking and it takes a bit longer to kick in. So if you drive like I do, you may need to use the brakes on the i3 pretty often...


Cockpit

I enjoyed my time in the car. The US Spec cars come with leatherette (fake leather) instead of cloth like in Europe. It had a nice feel to it, not luxury, but cozy and comfy. Not a bad place to spend some time in city traffic. I like the materials and the styled wooden dash.

** Edit ** -- the US Spec cars do in fact come with real leather as an option, with SensaTec (leatherette / fake leather) as standard, according to this i3 spec sheet document linked to by by Bimmerfest user "uter".


i3 Cockpit and Gauges by ddk632, on Flickr


i3 Dash by ddk632, on Flickr


Fun Factor


i3 Test Drive Complete by ddk632, on Flickr

My overall impression is that the i3 is a cool car and will be great for what it's aimed for, namely, to fulfill duties as a city car.

It's zippy, quick, handles well (I tried out a few fast lane changes and turns), and has a nice comfortable and cozy interior. It was fun to drive, without a doubt!

I was never a fan of its looks but it has grown on me a bit. I think owners will be very pleased with these vehicles.


i3 Parking by ddk632, on Flickr


BMW i Sign by ddk632, on Flickr

( Photo below is from within the LA Auto Show, added 12/1/13 )

BMW i3 at LA Auto Show by ddk632, on Flickr

Most importantly, driving the i3 gave me great feelings and even more excitement about how awesome the i8 will be to drive. That day can't come soon enough.
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Last edited by ddk632; 12-01-2013 at 11:09 AM.
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      11-29-2013, 10:54 AM   #2
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great review! looking forward to seeing the i on the road
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      11-30-2013, 02:41 PM   #3
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Well written. As you say, its a great city car, by no means a replacement for a "normal" bmw, just a supplement.

I will get mine hopefully in january.
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      11-30-2013, 03:01 PM   #4
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Will do!

PS :I ordered black cloth interior
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      11-30-2013, 03:18 PM   #5
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I wasn't an i3 fan either until I saw one at Frankfurt's IAA show back in Sept. The i3 is simply stunning in real life. And when you drive it... you know it is a special city car.

Btw... I believe you can fine tune the Regenerative Braking in the iDrive menu. Also the i3 has a pedestrian crash sensor that will automatically brake/stop the car if someone steps out in front of you. Very handy when these i-car make so little noise in the slow city crawl.

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      11-30-2013, 03:21 PM   #6
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Taken for what it was designed for - a city car, I think they have a nice product. Now, I hope to find one of those cars at a local dealer, ready for a test drive before they start US deliveries so I can do my own assessment. Wanted to make it to LA, but it just didn't happen with the holiday and having to cross the entire country to get there - may be Detroit will offer something similar.

Did the vehicle you drove have the optional sunroof? If it had the base interior, probably not. As with most vehicles, adding that sunroof impacts headroom, which is a major concern for me. The way BMWUSA has said they are marketing the i3, anything other than the base interior gets a sunroof as part of the package. This is not true other places where the vehicle is sold, and there, the sunroof is a stand alone option. - really frosts me, as it either limits what cars I'd consider owning, or when optional, restricts many of the nicer things that only come with it included.
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      11-30-2013, 03:48 PM   #7
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I ordered sunroof, was a stand alone option. The test car had it, no problem with headroom (im 6 feet ). The car is pretty tall in fact. Did not expect that!
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      11-30-2013, 05:09 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jadnashuanh View Post
Taken for what it was designed for - a city car, I think they have a nice product. Now, I hope to find one of those cars at a local dealer, ready for a test drive before they start US deliveries so I can do my own assessment. Wanted to make it to LA, but it just didn't happen with the holiday and having to cross the entire country to get there - may be Detroit will offer something similar.

Did the vehicle you drove have the optional sunroof? If it had the base interior, probably not. As with most vehicles, adding that sunroof impacts headroom, which is a major concern for me. The way BMWUSA has said they are marketing the i3, anything other than the base interior gets a sunroof as part of the package. This is not true other places where the vehicle is sold, and there, the sunroof is a stand alone option. - really frosts me, as it either limits what cars I'd consider owning, or when optional, restricts many of the nicer things that only come with it included.
The vehicle I drove did in fact have the sunroof. I didn't really try and/or figure out how to open it, but I can say it was a glass panel that was internally separated into a driver and passenger section, each with a separate manually operated cover that can be closed to reduce (but not completely eliminate) the light entering the cabin.

I'm 5'8" and headroom wasn't a concern; however if you're 6'5" I can see where you may have a different opinion.

That being said, the part where the sunroof is cutout actually seemed to have more headroom than the rest of the car. As Touring mentioned above, the i3 is a pretty tall car, especially given how small it is (which it's actually not that small, compared to say, a Smart Car).

If you look at the photo of the i3's parked (2nd to last photo, also the cover photo on the Bimmerpost front page) you can clearly see the sunroof which is open in the 2nd car from left of photo. Not sure if every single car had the sunroof, but I believe many, if not all, of the available i3 vehicles at the LA Auto Show did have a sunroof.

By the way, holidays or not I was determined to fly out to see the i8, so took a red eye Monday from Florida, spent the day in LA, red eye back Tuesday at midnight - about 16 hrs of airport/flight time in a 30 hour period or so - it was well worth it!

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      11-30-2013, 05:18 PM   #9
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Very nice review. I also look forward to seeing them on the road.

Also, very nice pictures. That first picture of the i3 is gorgeous in solar orange.
I love this picture:

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      11-30-2013, 05:30 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dackelone View Post
I wasn't an i3 fan either until I saw one at Frankfurt's IAA show back in Sept. The i3 is simply stunning in real life. And when you drive it... you know it is a special city car.

Btw... I believe you can fine tune the Regenerative Braking in the iDrive menu. Also the i3 has a pedestrian crash sensor that will automatically brake/stop the car if someone steps out in front of you. Very handy when these i-car make so little noise in the slow city crawl.

Dack
Yes, I had the same sentiments and change of heart after seeing and driving the car. I saw one on display in Miami and it didn't do much for me, but after getting to know it better in LA, I was impressed.

Interesting note on the settings. I'll admit I was having too much fun driving the thing to play with any of the tech stuff!
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      11-30-2013, 05:31 PM   #11
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This is the color I ordered. Looks pretty cool. I find it kind of like the spirit the 2002 and early 3-series had : compact, innovative, high tech, fun to drive, no-nonsense.
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      11-30-2013, 05:33 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Anodite10 View Post
Very nice review. I also look forward to seeing them on the road.

Also, very nice pictures. That first picture of the i3 is gorgeous in solar orange.
I love this picture:

Thanks Anodite10,

Although for the picture you quoted, I can't take credit, as I was in that i3 in the photo and had my mom (who lives in LA and hung with me for the day) on camera duty ... She was trying to figure out which one of the 10+ identical orange i3's I was in as we all entered the parking lot against the glare of the sunlight! She did a great job!
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      11-30-2013, 05:39 PM   #13
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This is the color I ordered. Looks pretty cool. I find it kind of like the spirit the 2002 and early 3-series had : compact, innovative, high tech, fun to drive, no-nonsense.
Very cool, I like that color. And those are my favorite of the available i3 wheels - all of the i3s in LA were equipped with this same style wheel.

I'm jealous you're in Norway - as an aspiring BASE jumper, your country is at the top of my to-visit list once I get some jumps under my belt

I think the i3 would be perfect in many European cities, including Oslo. In the US, there's Chicago, New York, San Francisco proper, and to a much lesser extent, Los Angeles and Miami (both of which are extremely spread out even though they have downtown centers) and beyond that, I'm not sure where the i3 would be useful in the US. (Hoping I won't get flamed by people whose city I forgot to mention but these are certainty the biggest, most congested cities in the US.)
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      11-30-2013, 05:59 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ddk632 View Post
Thanks Anodite10,

Although for the picture you quoted, I can't take credit, as I was in that i3 in the photo and had my mom (who lives in LA and hung with me for the day) on camera duty ... She was trying to figure out which one of the 10+ identical orange i3's I was in as we all entered the parking lot against the glare of the sunlight! She did a great job!
LOL! She did do a great job!
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      11-30-2013, 06:54 PM   #15
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awesome! huge fan of the i3!
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      11-30-2013, 07:36 PM   #16
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I'm jealous you're in Norway - as an aspiring BASE jumper, your country is at the top of my to-visit list once I get some jumps under my belt

............

(Hoping I won't get flamed by people whose city I forgot to mention but these are certainty the biggest, most congested cities in the US.)

I wouldnt use the word "flamed" when talking about electric cars

Wow, you are one of those crazy base jumpers? Amazing people. I know one of Jokkes's best friends, featured in this video. PM me, i can probably get you in contact with him if you want.


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      11-30-2013, 07:48 PM   #17
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Lol!

I am just a skydiver so far, not a BASE jumper yet, but let's say the only reason I ever got into skydiving was to become a BASE jumper. I'll definitely PM you. Awesome video!

I owned a BASE rig for a while and then met some woman (future ex wife) and got sidetracked ... Anyway I'm back on track now!

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      11-30-2013, 07:55 PM   #18
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I enjoyed my test drive. After the first round if kinks are straightened out, I would definitely consider purchasing in a year or so.
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      11-30-2013, 09:30 PM   #19
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Am I the only one who thinks the wheels look too big for the i3? I don't but I think it would look better with fatter tires or smaller rims.....It just seem strange with such huge looking rims.
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      11-30-2013, 09:32 PM   #20
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Am I the only one who thinks the wheels look too big for the i3? I don't but I think it would look better with fatter tires or smaller rims.....It just seem strange with such huge looking rims.
Don't know if you're the only one but I think the 20" rims fit well and add to the overall premium image vs just another crappy econobox with 15" wheels.
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      11-30-2013, 09:40 PM   #21
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While I am 'only' about 6'2", I'm quite long waisted, and last I measured, from sitting on the floor with my back against the wall, it was 38.5" to the top of my head, not counting the hair (which varies!). So, I sit taller than many people the same height, and yes, cabin height is a major concern for me and I am limited in what I would buy as a result. In the USA, the sunroof is part of any interior other than the very base offering, so if you need the height, you cannot enjoy any of the other items that are part of the packages...some places have quite a few stand alone options, but they tend to package them in the USA, feeling that 'everyone' will want one if they want a 'nicer' interior which I say is BS. Let us decide, like they do in many markets...it's not like they can't or aren't building them that way already, so it can't be a certification or factory capability issue, but no, they just won't do it. Tried to get my GT built without one, and they refused...luckily, it is big enough (barely) with one installed, but without, I could move the silly seat off the floor. Have the problem of even with it down that far, I look into the middle of the rear-view mirror, and to see all around, have to duck my head which isn't great for best safety. Can't recline the seat any more because then, I couldn't reach the silly steering wheel. Don't like my knees way above my waist, so can't move closer and then still reach the pedals...personal problems, I know, but I really wish movable pedals were something BMW offered...it would then add a huge amount of additional flexibility to the seating position equation.

BMW does not list the difference in headroom on their vehicles with and without the sunroof...without one, it appears I have enough room from the drawings, no idea how much the sunroof takes up until I try, or someone measures both the same way. Looks like I'd have about an inch for my hair, which is sometimes, not enough. Hard to tell until you got the seat adjusted for you, rather than their generic setup and measurement.
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      11-30-2013, 09:43 PM   #22
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Don't know if you're the only one but I think the 20" rims fit well and add to the overall premium image vs just another crappy econobox with 15" wheels.
I think 15 is pushing it. Too bad it probably wouldn't look good to downgrade the size of rims since the wheel-well is so huge. It just seem like its standing too high.
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