New & Used BMW i3: In Depth
2014 BMW i3 hits the race trackEnlarge Photo
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The 2014 BMW i3 represents a new direction for both the company and the world. It’s so different from the rest of the BMW range that it was launched under the new eco-oriented ‘BMW i’ brand.
Like the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt—and yes, the iconic Toyota Prius—the i3 has a unique body style and design. Its shape is unlike that of anything currently within the BMW or MINI fold, and it was conceived to be an electric car first and foremost, with its 22-kWh battery pack sandwiched neatly into the floor and some world firsts in its manufacturing and materials.
The i3, which was teased for several years as a so-called MegaCity concept, was built on a LifeDrive architecture concept; a Life Module and a Drive module comprise the two core areas of the i3’s construction. While the drive module is all-aluminum, the passenger module is the first of its kind (in a mass-produced car) to use carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP).
The i3 is a tall hatchback that’s aimed at urban drivers and commuters. With its rippled beltline and abundant rear hatch glass, it will offer more outward visibility than most vehicles. Rear-hinged rear doors help preserve some of the coupe-like look, and it rides on unusually tall and skinny 155/70R19 low-rolling-resistance tires.
The i3 is primarily an electric car—with a robust 170-hp rear-mounted electric motor system providing somewhere between 80 and 100 miles of driving range. But separately there’s the option for a range-extender—a 650-cc gasoline twin-cylinder engine, making 34 hp.
Those modest power figures should be plenty to move the i3 around with verve, and BMW is claiming a 0-60 time of 7.2 seconds and a top speed of 93 mph. Having rear-wheel drive and a near-50/50 front/rear weight distribution prime us to expect more dynamic prowess out of the i3 than from other electric cars—other than just being from BMW, of course. The exceptionally light body structure will also help.
In the BMW i3, the range extender only functions to provide electricity, not supplemental tractive power, like in the Chevy Volt. With its tiny 2.4-gallon fuel tank and an estimated 33-42 mpg, it should about double the effective range—as well as curb any range anxiety. The i3 will charge up to full in about three hours at 220 volts, or get to a full charge in 30 minutes using an (upcoming) SAE DC fast-charger.
As you might guess from the outside, the i3 has a very upright cabin layout that helps make the most of available space. Cabin upholstery includes recycled materials—even the wood has been sustainably sourced—and with the tall roof there looks like enough space for adults in back.
Three different trim levels of the i3 will be offered: Mega World, Giga World, and Tera World. Navigation, ConnectedDrive, LED headlights and running lamps, an alarm system, and 7.4-kW charger are included on all levels. The Giga World adds a sunroof, contrast stitching, and satellite radio, while the Tera gets special trims, a full leather interior, and unique wheels. As with BMW’s more conventional offerings, there will be plenty of chances to upgrade, with high-tech possibilities like
Pricing for the U.S. starts at $42,275, and it will go on sale in the second quarter of 2014.