The 2014 BMW i3 is simply unlike anything we’ve ever seen. A relative of the fantastic i8 hybrid, this car is set to reverse EV motoring stigma by being everything you never expected from a green focused car.
When you see the 2014 BMW i3, you’re not going to be able to mistake it for anything else. It’s futuristic with the distinctive, and in this case, purely cosmetic BMW kidney grille, characterful headlights and the BMW electric range’s new ‘Black Belt’ signature design (the connected black panelled bonnet, roof and rear contrasting with the silver that makes up the rest of the car). This looks a lot like a quirky supermini variant of the BMW i8. The 2014 BMW i3 is ultra-lightweight with a mixed aluminium and carbon fibre chassis – much in the manner of an F1 car or a McLaren P1. It’s even got big 19” wheels that give it that hungry edge.
It’s definitely unconventional, reflecting the incredible engineering that’s gone into building this car. Plus, why should it look like any other EV when it is devoid of most of the negative qualities associated with EV motoring? There is no central B pillar (something that most cars in the world have) and the rear door opens backwards like a carriage. Annoyingly you have to have the front door open to do this though which might annoy those who don’t like the thought of feeling like a chauffeur. There are only 2 seats at the back (again this might annoy parents with 3 kids and such) but those 2 seats have plenty of room and comfort. The battery under the floor does however mean your knees are slightly higher than normal. The boot opens to reveal 260ltrs which isn’t huge but is about the same amount you’d get in a rival VW eGolf.
This can be extended by folding down the rear bench to reveal 1100ltrs. The airy roominess continues in the front thanks to the flat floor, high ceiling and low window lines. The cabin is something most drivers will find very unusual – there’s no gearshift, no handbrake, no instrument cluster, 2 pedals and everything is marshalled through 2 standing digital screens. There is a steering wheel though so you’ll probably be in familiar territory with that. It’s certainly an interesting driving environment with trim levels that feature green materials. For instance the top opening glove box that can be specified to be made of Eucalyptus wood, along with naturally treated leather, recycled plastics and a somewhat questionable fibre covering for some sections. Very eco-friendly!
The gear selector stalk is mounted behind the steering wheel and also features the start button. Simply press for a concise bleep that informs you that the car has started rather than the familiar starting engine noise. Then all you do is twist the gear selector and press the accelerator to start driving. There are 2 different versions of the 2014 BMW i3 – the pure electric version and the ‘Range Extender’ petrol/electric variant. This isn’t a hybrid however – it never actually drives the wheels. The 37bhp rear mounted 2 cylinder petrol generator (taken from a BMW scooter) works alongside the impressive 360 volt 22kw lithium ion battery to provide an extra way of powering the battery pack and cutting out battery loss anxiety for longer journeys. It’s well worth paying a bit extra for the peace of mind factor.
For instance, if you were out in the sticks and consequently far from a charging point, you can simply pull into the nearest petrol station and top up the generator with petrol. The generator kicks in automatically after the battery power drops beneath 20%, but you can change this, manually if you wish. It’s worth noting that if you run the battery to zero and force the generator to kick in, it will be working overtime to split its output to power the car and recharge the battery so the top speed will be restricted to a not so Ferrari competitive 44mph. The 2014 BMW i3 also features brake regeneration recharging which gently brakes when you take your foot off the acceleration at lower speeds so you can easily make most urban journeys with only the acceleration pedal. This lazy mode of driving takes a bit of getting used to but it’s certainly nice and easy, although it will be a shock getting back into a conventional car afterwards. The 2014 BMW i3 has a range of 118 miles (on the European test cycle) or 81 miles if you are BMW. But the range extender variant will allow you a full 186 miles.
When driving, first and foremost you’ll notice it’s extremely quiet and so expect it to be a nichy, metallic eco warrior that handles like a breezeblock on a roller skate. The truth is you couldn’t be further from the truth! The 2014 BMW i3 is actually very rewarding to drive, even fun, reminding us that it is after all a BMW! Bet you never thought you’d hear that about an EV did you? The 50/50 weight distribution and centralised battery placement give it great corner balance which combines with DSC stability control and very accurate steering to give you impressively driver focused dynamics. For an electric car it’s pretty agile and there’s some nice feedback to be found in the wheel too. The best thing about it is the speed – the ultra-light weight construction means that you’re able to make the most of the instantaneous throttle response, which shoots you off the line to 37mph in an M3 destroying 3.8 seconds up to 67 in 7.7 seconds to a restricted top speed of 93mph. Whoever said that economically focused motoring had to be boring?! There is a certain amount of body roll and understeer which gang up with the BMW i3’s tall, short dimensions when powering through the twisty stuff though so you might have to hold yourself back from going too crazy at times. The ride can also be a bit unforgiving when hitting potholes for something that’s primarily going to be going through town areas. That being said it’s still very apt in an urban environment with a tiny 9.8 metre turning circle and 2 turn lock to lock steering which should see it do well in this arena.
All in all, what’s the lowdown with the 2014 BMW i3? The 2014 BMW i3 is changing the face of electric motoring from boxy sensible affairs to something genuinely fun – something that you’d consider even if economically minded cars were never your priority. This is without a doubt a glimpse of the future of motoring which suddenly looks a bit less sci-fi. What exciting times we live in. On top of that, as a car it feels distinctive and special with great driver focused dynamics and very few downsides as a package. Oh….and the economy isn’t too bad either. This 2014 BMW i3 is a game changer and certainly the best electric car on the market today.
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