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.
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.
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