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 electric motor delivers 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels, via a single-speed automatic transmission.
According to BMW, the i3 can reach 93 mph and travel 81 miles on a single charge of the 22-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, depending on your power needs and the driving mode you select (Normal, Eco Pro, Eco Pro+). Accelerating to 60 mph takes 7.2 seconds -- about as fast as anyone could hope for in an electric vehicle; and frankly, as quick as an electric-car driver really needs. Equivalent fuel economy is EPA-rated at 124 MPGe.
Charging a fully depleted battery could take 20 hours on a conventional 110-volt household outlet, but the time can be reduced to 3.5 hours by using a 240-volt outlet. Every i3 comes with a special receptacle for charging on a DC Quick Charger, which takes only 20 minutes for an 80-percent charge. 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 gasoline-powered generator that boosts the i3's range to as much as 150 miles, with an EPA rating of 117 MPGe. Of course, you could extend the range indefinitely by simply keeping the 2.4-gallon tank full.
Standard equipment emphasizes technology over luxury and includes such features as a navigation system, rear parking sensors, and satellite and HD radio. Forged aluminum wheels hold 19-inch tires. BMW says interior space is comparable to a 3 Series, but the i3 has a shorter body and relatively long wheelbase, enhancing agility. The turning circle is 32.4 feet.
The i3 comes in three trim levels (BMW calls them "Worlds"). They differ mainly in interior trim:
- Mega: Comes at no additional charge, including heated leatherette seats with cloth inserts.
- Giga: For $1,500 additional, features leather-and-wool seats, a leather-covered dashboard, wood trim, and a universal garage door opener.
- Terra: Adds full leather seats with hand stitching, for $2,500 extra.
Shadow Sport Edition
Painted Fluid Black, the limited-production Shadow Sport has a dark grey cloth interior with blue highlights. Standard features include a moonroof, sport-tuned suspension, and 19-inch wheels. Only 50 vehicles will be offered, each carrying a Limited Edition plaque and priced at $48,395 (including destination charge).
There are only two i3 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 + Driving Assistant package includes those items, plus an upgraded navigation system, real-time traffic data, active cruise control with stop/go, and a suite of smartphone apps.
Two additional features are available separately: 20-inch wheels and a Harman Kardon sound system.
Starting at $43,395 (including destination charge), the base i3 is eligible for a federal tax credit and for certain state incentives, which can reduce the total price substantially. The available gasoline-powered Range Extender transforms the i3 from a niche vehicle to a car without real limitations. Yes, it costs $3,850 extra, but we’d say that's money very well spent. In fact, we see little point in having an i3 without it.
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