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BMW i3, the First All-Electric Bimmer, Experienced by Autocar

After a lot of rumors and spyshots and mystery, the BMW development chiefs decided that there is no better way to find out if you're doing a good job than to ask the people who will live with the end-results of your work.
BMW i3 1 photo
Photo: BMW
Autocar got to ride the i3 all-electric vehicle for the first time.

The i3 is a compact hatchback that is 120mm longer, 326mm wider and 132mm higher than the existing MINI Cooper. Also, the luggage space behind the seats will be around 200L (40L more than the MINI). The engine will be, as standard, an electric, rear-mounted motor set to develop 170 HP and 250 Nm. As an option, you can get the range extender which is basically a conventional 650cc two-cylinder petrol engine from a C650 GT BMW motorcycle.

Without the range extender, the i3 will have an autonomy (given by the lithium-ion battery that's installed into the floor) of 130-160 km in everyday use. With the range extender, the autonomy of the car can reach around 300 km.

The first thing the guys from Autocar noticed was the unusual tall stature of the i3, keeping in mind that it's still a BMW. This height is justified though by the fact that the car is kind of heavy due to the batteries so the heightened stance is actually necessary. It had 19 inch wheels and apparently 20 inch wheels will also be available for purchase after the official release, while the tires will be narrow with low rolling resistance.

The body of the i3 is made out of carbon fiber and it is quite stiff (even without the B-pillar) and you will be surprised to find out that this is a car you actually climb up into rather than climb down in. All doors are frameless and the rear has a door on each side not like the i3's brother, the Clubman which has only one.

The interior of the i3 is impressive, having a clean look. All controls are concentrated within a horizontally themed dashboard. Even a tiny gear lever has been mounted on the steering column in order to keep the space between the driver and the passenger seats free, giving a general cabin feel of genuine space. The seating position and the windscreen provide great visibility on all sides.

The i3 is much like the 1 Series ActiveE according to the head of BMW i drivetrain development, Patrick Mueller. This is going to be what separates the i3 from all other electric vehicles on the market. It has the same power delivery overall character and instant acceleration, in the true spirit of a Bimmer.

When the driver takes its foot of the acceleration pedal, there is an electric motor recharging that has such a level of retardation that brakes are rarely required. This system is so aggressive that the brake lights turn on when you take your foot of the pedal, in order to avoid catching other drivers off guard.

Even though the guys over at Autocar only got to sit on the passenger seat and were driven around snowy mountain roads and the BMW parking lot from Arjeplog, they were amazed by the traction the i3 proved to have even though it had really skinny tires and the weather conditions were, at least, trying.

The performance of the i3 will be in the spirit of BMW, even though it is supposed to be just a citycar. The 0-100 km/h acceleration time is 7.2 seconds which is close to the MINI Cooper S's time. “Despite the electrification of the drivetrain, it remains true to the BMW philosophy in terms of its dynamic character,” says Mueller.
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