We tested the BMW i3, an electric that anticipates much of what is to come
One of the electric vehicles that, by design and what advances us in advanced technologies, is most striking today is the BMW i3. From the opening of the doors to the interior, through its reliable system to park alone, this car available only as electric or as electric with extended autonomy thanks to the use of a gasoline engine that supports the main one, has passed through the hands of Xataka.
If you want to know how our experience has been driving the BMW i3 and taking advantage of the technology it incorporates, the time has come. You just have to keep reading.
BMW i3, two base models to choose from
To warm up, it must be said that the BMW i3 is an electric car that, as we anticipated, is available in two versions, only electric or electric with extended autonomy. In other words, it either has its battery that is recharged with a plug, or it also has a small gasoline engine so that when the battery is discharged, electricity can be generated with that motor with which it can continue operating for a few more kilometers.
As is logical, the two versions are not worth the same, the one with extended autonomy costs 4400 euros more. In Xataka we have tested the "normal" BMW i3, which is only electric. Regardless of these two versions, there are four levels of interior trim and multiple colors and options to configure the car to suit everyone's taste.
This is how to drive a BMW i3
The BMW i3, be it the electric only version or the extended autonomy version, has in both cases a power of 170 HP. And that's a lot for a car with these characteristics. It is a car built with a combination of aluminum, carbon fiber and plastic parts, and that makes it quite light despite being electric (weighs less than 1200 kg when empty). By the way, out of curiosity you can see several videos that show how it is made.
So between its size, its weight and even more because those 170 CV are “electric horses” and the way in which power and torque are delivered, instantly, without delay, at once, makes them seem more, and that when accelerating fully stick to the seat. Whoever prefers the figures that knows that it accelerates from 0 to 100 km / h in just 7.2 seconds.
The gears (as if it were a car with traditional automatic transmission, P-R-N-D), are inserted with a knob just behind the wheel. Visually it is a bit strange, but it is very comfortable.
The motor is very quiet. When driving at low speed you can hardly hear it, and when you accelerate fully you can hear a whistling and buzzing sound that makes you imagine that you are on board a spaceship. It is so much fun and it makes you smile.
The downside to mention is that at high speed on the highway you can see some aerodynamic noise from the wind against the car. I suspect that being tall and that the windows are coupe type, without a frame, it makes the noise a little more noticeable.
It must be recognized that so much power is not strictly necessary in normal conditions in a car of this type, but the advantage of an electric motor is that it does not spend if you do not ask it to spend, and have the power there, just in case, for example for fast overtaking, that's fine.
With a gasoline or diesel engine, in general terms the bigger and more powerful, the more it consumes, and also, even if we do not accelerate hard or go fast, it will consume, even if it is to idle or continue to ignite (for example, the stop-start precisely to stop the engine at stops, and thus save a little).
This does not happen to an electric motor. If you don't accelerate, you spend absolutely nothing, and if you accelerate in moderation, you spend very little, as much as if it were a smaller engine. In fact, at the end of the test the average consumption turned out to be 15.5 kWh / 100 km, the same that we have obtained in similar circumstances with other electric cars, although they have less power.
This energy consumption amounts to a quarter of what an equivalent gasoline car would consume (considering 6.5 l / 100 km). Incidentally, the German certification body TÜV has carried out the life cycle analysis of the BMW i3 (from the time it is manufactured until it is recycled) and it has turned out that it does generate fewer emissions than a conventional car.
The autonomy approved in Europe is 190 km, in the case of the electric BMW i3, the one we tested. The extended range homologates less electric range, 170 km, because the weight added by the small gasoline engine acts as a ballast, slightly increases consumption and also reduces acceleration a bit.
During the test, with normal driving, and without ceasing to use the air conditioning, we were able to order up to approximately 125 km, which, although not much, at least allowed us to leave the province of Madrid as far as Guadalajara, and return, without recharging in between.
As standard, the BMW i3 only comes with a recharge cable, the occasional one with a schuko connector (the domestic plug)
It is a utility, although it does not seem so
Let's think that although at first glance it seems bigger than it is, especially because it is quite wide and high, it really is a 3.99 m long utility. That is to say, it is a small car of those that come well for the city to not have so many problems to park.
It has an almost minivan-shaped bodywork, quite high, with little nose. As the electric motor and all the power and load control accessories take up little space, they are placed at the rear, under the boot. There would also go, next to him, the small autonomy extender gasoline engine.
And being like this, the nose can be reduced in size without problems, because nothing has to go there, and so we come to this form (well, there is something, like a mini-suitcase that comes in handy for carrying recharge cables). Apart from this, its design attracts a lot of attention, and between this and that the car is little seen on the street, one easily becomes the center of attention. They have also achieved a design that is very modern and even futuristic.
And we can attest to that because while we had the car for a week and used it day by day in Madrid and surroundings (even outside the province) and in addition to people turning to look, they even stopped us to ask about the car and how it worked, or even took pictures of us from another car on the M30.
And is that the shapes of different parts of the car are quite unique and daring. For example, all BMW i3 are in two-tone paint, with the hood, roof and trunk in black, and the rest of the parts in the paint color chosen. Also noteworthy is the lower line of the windows that lowers and rises capriciously, instead of being a traditional continuous line, or the rear, where the gate is finished in glass.
The tires of the car are also very large, much more than is usual for a car of this size. This is because it has narrower but higher wheels, which turn out to be more aerodynamic and help to consume less energy.
The BMW i3 unit that the brand gave us for the test was a beautiful but daring metallic orange color, with the corresponding parts in black, various details in matte aluminum, and huge 20-inch alloy wheels. Look at the difference: a normal car of this size would come with 15 or 16-inch wheels.
Doors that open the entire side
Another design aspect of the BMW i3 that allows you to show off with friends is the doors. It is a five-door car (counting the boot lid), but a bit special. The front ones open as always, that is, they are foldable forward, but the rear ones open towards the rear, in addition there is no B-pillar, this is the central vertical upright between the doors. For the record, it is not the first car to do this.
In this way, when the front and rear doors are opened, the entire side of the car is left open, making it easier to get in and out. Anyway, although this is very cool, there is a catch: in reality it is more of a "three-and-a-half-door" than a five-car.
It turns out that to open the rear door it is essential to first open the front door, since it closes on it, and to get on or off it is also essential that the occupant of the front seat remove the belt, because if not, it stays in the way, and we won't be able to pass, unless we juggle.
In addition, the front seat backrests can be tilted slightly forward to facilitate raising or lowering the rear seats.
While when looking at it outwardly it seems that the car is bigger than it really is, when you enter inside you tend to think the opposite, that it is somewhat smaller than it really is.
This is more noticeable in the rear seats than in the front seats. In front one is comfortable, with sufficient height and generous width. As there is no extension of the center console in the middle, on the floor between the two seats, there is even a feeling of a little more space, and the legs certainly have more slack.
The rear seats are somewhat fairer in space, although an adult can accommodate reasonably well if not too tall. The main handicap is that there are only two seats, that is, four in total, when it is normal for a car of this size to have three seats behind, for a total of five seats.
What can shock more than one is that when getting into the car the interior free height becomes very similar to that of a traditional utility vehicle, but seeing it so high on the outside, a little more height was expected also inside.
This turns out to be so because when you enter you also realize something else, the ground is higher than it seems. In fact, one climbs and stays at a height more similar to that of an SUV or small SUV (SUVs are also called), than that of a utility vehicle.
The height of the floor is due to the fact that the lithium ion battery that stores the electrical energy for the motor to work is placed under the floor of the passenger compartment, and generates this screed.
Futuristic and motley interior
Inside you can also breathe that very modern and futuristic atmosphere that is also perceived from the outside. In the unit that concerns us, which we can understand as the highest finish, and which was also full of optional equipment, the interior environment was very select, pleasant and sophisticated.
Suffice it to say that it came with an elegant chocolate brown leather upholstery with two textures, one very fine, leather that was also part of the doors and the dashboard. But in addition it also had eucalyptus wood on the dashboard, the large, widescreen, color, high-resolution, but non-touch screen of the multimedia and GPS navigation system, the glass roof, and several other elements.
The interior lighting, orange or white, to choose from, for the handles and openings for objects in the doors and in the lower part of the central screen generates a special sensation. When you open the car, there is a light on the exterior door handles and the interior light turns blue, after a few seconds it changes to white.
This is the car key
The glass roof seems continuous on the outside, but inside there are two parts, one for the driver and one for the passenger. It is tinted and also has a sun shade. It can be opened to ventilate and cool the car. It is nice to have a glass roof, there is more light in the cabin and invites you to stop and look through it, for example that beautiful building, or a starry sky.
The interior is complex due to the surfaces and shapes it has, and how very different materials such as plastic are combined, with different textures, smoother or rougher, a compact material of resins and vegetable fibers, leather, wood ... It is a matter of taste, but we liked it, although so much complexity of surfaces translates into a small inconvenience: it is more laborious to clean the dust.
Depending on the interior finish chosen, instead of a dark brown interior you can have a beige, gray or black interior, and also without wood, or with fabric upholstery, so that everyone is comfortable inside their car.
The BMW i3 parks by itself 99%
If the way of moving of this car suggests modernity and future (with electricity), and the exterior and interior design also does, the technology it incorporates, most of it optional, does the same. The list is long.
I would highlight everything, because I have not yet tried such a complete system yet (but beware, I'm not saying it doesn't exist), the automatic parking system. And I say well, automatic and not semi-automatic, nor parking assistant, because it performs the entire parking maneuver by itself. At least 99%, while other common systems that are becoming generalized come to do so at 50% (they turn the steering wheel, but nothing else, the driver has to insert the gears, accelerate and brake).
We tried it several times around Madrid and in general it works quite well, although it does not always recognize the place to park at first.
When passing in front of an empty square the system recognizes the gap and tells you to stop. As soon as the blinker is on and the button is pressed, it all starts. Of course, the driver has to be inside the car and has to keep the button pressed throughout the maneuver.
It is a security system, something like a panic button: the driver is still responsible for what the car does, and has to supervise that it works well, so if at any time he perceives a danger that the car cannot see, since the parking sensors have their limit, or something fails, releases the button, and the car stops.
But except for this, the driver does not have to do anything else: the car turns the steering wheel as necessary, and also, and this is not done by other parking assistance systems, inserts reverse gear, accelerates smoothly, performs the maneuver, it brakes smoothly as it approaches the car behind, it stops, inserts the forward gear, accelerates smoothly, rectifies the position, it brakes smoothly as it approaches the car in front, and can even repeat it to square and leaving the car centered and well placed in the hole.
This is very good, but very good, and it also makes your friends gape when you demonstrate them. (I'll just say it leaves the car closer to the curb than I would.)
Traffic jam assistant, pedestrian detection ...
Also optional is the assistant for traffic jams, an equipment that is unusual for now, but which is beginning to be seen in some new models. With the system on, and up to a speed of 40 km / h (it should be a little higher) the car brakes on its own when it brakes the car in front, it can even stop, accelerate again trying to recover the programmed speed and turn the steering wheel to stay in lane.
This system is associated with adaptive cruise control, a system that is becoming available in more and more models. This system is in charge of maintaining the speed programmed by us, and accelerates or brakes as required. It also maintains the safety distance with the vehicle that precedes us.
During the test we weren't able to test the traffic jam assistant, but adaptive cruise control was, and like other cars, very comfortable on the highway.
This BMW i3 was also equipped with the traffic signal recognition system, which shows in the instrument cluster, which is also a color screen, although smaller, the corresponding speed limit. Finally, it also includes an automatic braking system in the city, with vehicle and pedestrian detection. In other words, if the driver is distracted and does not brake in time, the car brakes on its own.
Unlike other systems that use radar, all these systems of the BMW i3 use a video camera that is placed at the top of the windshield, behind the rearview mirror.
Driving assistants depend on that little video camera upstairs in the center
The multimedia system requires a little time
We leave for the end the complete multimedia connectivity system of the BMW i3, which in this case is the advanced one, with a larger screen, GPS navigation and internet connection. The truth is that the panoramic screen looks very good, it has a high resolution, it looks very sharp and it also has a very good level of brightness and viewing angle that allows it to be read without problems even in bright sunlight. The glass is treated against reflections.
The screen is non-touch and everything is operated either with the iDrive control, a kind of two-in-one joystick-wheel that also has a touch surface to scribble letters, and several direct access buttons around it, or with the control system by voice. The control is very comfortable and practical, and is operated without looking away. Voice control is not bad either, just press the steering wheel button and say the menu you want to go to.
At first it is a bit complex because there are many submenus, so it is convenient to spend some time, with the car stopped, to explore menus and submenus, until you get the hang of it and know where everything is. It is ordered sequentially always in vertical option list. I in a week did not finish understanding it completely (especially regarding the options of the GPS navigation systems).
There is also an app for smartphone to be able to connect with the car and from the phone and access certain functions, such as how the battery charge is going.
Except for the air conditioner that has its physical buttons, through this screen you can enter to operate any function: the radio, axial sources and sound equipment, the phone and hands-free phone, the on-board computer, settings, the navigator of internet, messaging, GPS navigation with traffic information, reverse camera image and connected BMW ConnectedDrive services (fees apply).
The Harman Kardon hi-fi sound system, also optional, deserves a special mention. It has a lot of power (it cannot be held inside the car with the volume at maximum) and does not sound bad at all.
The BMW i3 is an electric car, which implies for the moment being somewhat more expensive than a conventional car, but it is also a BMW, that is, a car premiumAnd if it is also fully equipped as the unit we tested, then we have a fairly exclusive and luxurious car for those who have a good bank account and can afford it.
Although a more basic BMW i3 starts from 35,500 euros, and with the help of the state for the purchase of 6,500 electric vehicles, it would theoretically stay at around 29,000 euros, one as complete and exclusive as the one in this test comes to cost, without discounts, just over 50,000 euros. Whoever can afford it will enjoy it a lot, that's for sure.
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