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2015 BMW i3 Overview

John Diether
Automotive Editor - February 18, 2015

Although it might not look like a proper BMW, the i3 garnered plenty of attention in its debut season for combining the brand's superior driving characteristics with fully electric propulsion. With its quick-charge capability and available range extender, the i3 appeals to the mainstream far more than its futuristic design would suggest.

What's New for 2015

The i3 receives more standard equipment for its sophomore year, including a quick-charge receptacle.

Choosing Your BMW i3

With its tall hatchback body and rear-hinged back doors, the i3 stands out in a crowd even before you know what's under the hood. A rear-mounted 125-kilowatt electric motor delivers 170 horsepower to the rear wheels and is paired with a single-speed automatic transmission. According to BMW, the i3 tops out at 93 mph and goes 70-110 miles on a single charge depending on your power needs and the driving mode you select (Normal, Eco Pro, Eco Pro+). The sprint from zero to 60 mph takes 6.6 seconds, about as fast as you could hope for in an electric vehicle.

Charging a fully depleted battery takes 20 hours on a conventional 110-volt household outlet, but you can cut that down to less than four hours by using a 240-volt outlet. Every i3 comes with a special receptacle for charging on a DC Quick Charger, which takes only 30 minutes. Such units can be found at public charging stations and are also available for home installation.

The i3's optional Range Extender is essentially a gas-powered generator that boosts the i3's range to 120-185 miles. You can extend the range indefinitely by keeping the 2.4-gallon tank full.

Standard equipment emphasizes technology over luxury and includes features like a navigation system, rear parking sensors, and satellite and HD radio.

The i3 comes in three trim levels, or "Worlds" as BMW call them, which differ mainly in interior trim:

Mega: Carries heated leatherette seats with cloth inserts.

Giga: Features leather-and-wool seats, a leather dash cover, wood trim and a universal garage door opener.

Terra: Adds full leather seats with hand stitching.

There are just two option packages to choose from:

  • Parking Assistant adds a rearview camera, an automated parallel parking system, and a nifty feature that helps you find a parking spot.
  • The Technology includes all that, plus an upgraded navigation system, real-time traffic data and a suite of smartphone apps.

A handful of extra features are available separately, including 20-inch wheels and a Harman Kardon sound system.

CarsDirect Tip

The available gas-powered Range Extender transforms the i3 from a niche vehicle to a car without limitations. Yes, it costs about $4,000, but that's money very well spent in our view.

Choose your BMW i3 »