2015 BMW i3 Reinventing the Wheel Review The Car Guide

3 Май 2014 | Author: | Комментарии к записи 2015 BMW i3 Reinventing the Wheel Review The Car Guide отключены

2015 BMW i3: Reinventing the Wheel

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Defend the modern automobile and fawn over certain cutting-edge gas-powered vehicles if you will, but in your heart you know that we need to change the way we view the future of transport. The hybrid car was a first step toward reducing our reliance on gas, while the electric car represents the next big step toward more economical, environmentally-friendly travel. I’ve never been extremely green, but I think it’s safe to say that a significant change in direction is necessary.

Several automakers have already made the jump to electric cars, and now it’s BMW’s turn to throw its hat in the ring. Next year, it will introduce the first in a new line of electric models: the BMW i3. And we were among the chosen few to test drive it recently. As is the case with MINI, the “i” models will only be offered at select dealers and, of course, the ambiance and buying experience will depend on the specifics of the vehicles.

Its base price is $44,950.

Reinventing the wheel

2007 saw BMW launch its “i Project,” whose purpose was to completely rethink the car and everything it represents. From design to daily use, every aspect was called into question. The result is that the adaptation time and stress associated with buying an electric vehicle (aspects that scare off a lot of buyers) have been reduced to a minimum.

Plus, BMW will even help you buy and install the charging station.

Journalists love testing electric cars, because there are far fewer details for us to concern our lazy little minds with. We don’t have to review two or three engines, different drivetrains and various transmissions. There’s just one motor and no exhaust whatsoever!

Specifically, the 2015 BMW i3 comes with a 125-kW electric motor that produces the equivalent of 170 horsepower. You get maximum torque in every situation, and it’s sent to the rear wheels. What’s more, the motor is in the back in the trunk.

Its operating range is about 130 to 160 kilometres, or 240 to 300 with the range extender.

Vehicle weight has a direct impact on operating range and thus poses a major challenge for electric cars. That’s why most current models are compact or even sub-compact sized. BMW has totally revamped the car’s design, eliminating every possible kilogram, and the i3 tips the scales at less than 1,200 kilograms.

How is that even possible? First, the aluminum base structure integrates the battery pack, electric motor and other mechanical and suspension components. Second, the passenger compartment is comprised entirely of carbon fibre reinforced plastic materials. The various body panels round things out.

Lego has nothing on this car!

Unusual design

Style-wise, the i3 is major departure from what we’re used to from BMW – you’d almost think it was a concept car. Its irregular shape is surprising, especially on the vehicle’s sides. Not to mention the fact that the roof dips down after the front doors then flows up again in the back. The front is a bit more reminiscent of a typical BMW with the traditional kidney grille, but this time the kidneys are closed.

After all, there’s no need to supply the motor with fresh air in this car.

The 19-inch rims lend the i3 a certain style and sportiness, but are fitted – strangely – with ultra-narrow tires, thereby preserving design without sacrificing efficiency with friction-producing wide tires. Regardless of body colour, the i3 features what designers call a black belt – an entirely black section made up of the hood, roof and a good deal of the vehicle’s tail. That’s a style element that you’ll find on all i models.

Finally, in back, we like the LED lights integrated into the hatch.

You’ll also notice that the i3 only has two doors, plus two opposing half-doors to help passengers access the back seats. The lack of B-pillars means there is less weight to carry, but getting in and out is more of a challenge in parking lots, when you find yourself trapped between the doors.

The future on board

The passenger compartment is nothing if not futuristic. The dashboard is very low and unusually shaped, with numerous hollows that not only eliminate unwanted weight but also give the impression of increased space and better vision. Two screens grab your attention: the larger of the two is located in the middle of the dashboard and displays information from the navigation and audio systems; the second, less technological, screen displays basic vehicle information.

Even though the design is totally different than what we’re used to, you quick get the hang of the interior ergonomics and various vehicle controls. BMW has managed to keep it simple and functional. The i3 can accommodate four passengers, but there isn’t a lot of space for either passengers in back or for cargo.

The ideal family vehicle it is not, but, then again, that’s not really its objective anyway.

On the road

The i3 drives a lot like a conventional car but with the silent motor and instant power of an electric car. It’s like driving a sub-compact that thinks it’ a race car – and it passes other vehicles with ease. The brakes are as interesting as they are rarely needed.

Simply release the accelerator and the car slows down quickly willing the brake accumulator into action to regenerate the batteries. You can practically drive it with just one pedal.

As for performance, it goes from 0-100 km/hr in 7.2 seconds. Not exactly record-breaking, but the initial acceleration (3.7 seconds to get from 0-60 km/h) is quite good. It’s hard to find a more agile vehicle for city driving.

It benefits from its smaller size, and its impressively tight turning diameter allows you do U-turns on the narrowest of streets. Basically, you can turn on a dime.

If ever you need a little more operating range, the car can be equipped with a range extender that, for $4,000, adds a 650 cm³ two-cylinder gas engine housed directly beside the electric motor. It increases operating range by supplying the batteries with an electric current via a generator, adding a little more than 100 kilometres of range. Unlike that of the Chevrolet Volt, this extender is not designed to be used at all times.

So, is the BMW i3 for everyone? No. Operating range, family needs and loading capacity are all things to consider. Minivans have nothing to worry about with this car.

On the other hand, for many it represents a wise choice with the BMW experience as an added bonus.

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