2016 BMW i3 Review

2016 BMW i3

I’ve just arrived back from the future and I’m happy to report that the Cleveland Browns have won the Super Bowl, President Miley Cyrus has just been re-elected to a second term and everyone drives a car like the 2016 BMW i3. Why does that make me so happy? Because BMW certainly thought outside the box when it comes to this car, even if it does resemble a space-age box. Please spend a few minutes with us as we review this car and tell you why we.

It's shorter than a Chevrolet Sonic hatchback but taller than a Nissan Juke.
It’s shorter than a Chevrolet Sonic hatchback but taller than a Nissan Juke.

The seating position is high and the i3 certainly garners massive attention wherever it’s seen, thanks in large part to its unique body design.

At the heart of the 2016 BMW i3 is an electric motor that produces 170 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque. With the range-extender engine installed, it weighs around 3,000 pounds. Those numbers basically put the car right on top of the Volkswagen Golf 1.8 Turbo. But the i3 is certainly nothing like a conventional car.

The gasoline generator engine is a whopping .6 liter 2-cylinder unit that produces 38 horsepower and 41 lb.-ft. of torque and is fed by a massive 1.9 gallon fuel tank. The purpose of the gasoline engine is to extend the overall range of the i3.
The gasoline generator engine is a whopping .6 liter 2-cylinder unit that produces 38 horsepower and 41 lb.-ft. of torque and is fed by a massive 1.9 gallon fuel tank. The purpose of the gasoline engine is to extend the overall range of the i3.

When you buy one that’s just all-electric, the i3 only has about 81 miles of range. When the generator is added with its additional weight the electric range falls to 72 miles but with the generator fully-fueled, BMW claims the overall range is then extended to over 150 miles. That gives the i3 more range than all the other small electric vehicles on the market (Tesla not included) and when the new Chevrolet Volt is released, it too will beat that number.

But unlike a lot of other electric cars, the 2016 BMW i3 is pretty quick! With the range-extender engine installed, it can go from 0-to-60 mph in just 7.8 seconds. If you buy an all-electric version which is lighter, you can do that in right around 7 seconds.

Of course, top speed, range and distance will depend on which of the vehicle's three drive modes you're in.
Of course, top speed, range and distance will depend on which of the vehicle’s three drive modes you’re in.

In the most-aggressive EcoPro Plus, the vehicle is limited to just 55 mph for optimal range, and don’t even think about using any of the climate-control features.

But make no mistake about it, the 2016 BMW i3 is an electric car. When it runs out of battery juice, BMW claims it can be charged with a standard Level 2 charger in about three hours, or with a Stage 3 rapid charger in about 20 minutes.

The i3 can even help you find a charging station in a network than has tens of thousands all over the United States, Canada and even Mexico.
The i3 can even help you find a charging station in a network than has tens of thousands all over the United States, Canada and even Mexico.
Just like the outside of the i3, the interior is likewise unique, featuring a ton of different materials and textures, many of which are recycled or have been built from sustainable products.
Just like the outside of the i3, the interior is likewise unique, featuring a ton of different materials and textures, many of which are recycled or have been built from sustainable products.
While it might not be best described as premium, it's in no way cheap either.
While it might not be best described as premium, it’s in no way cheap either. The best way to describe it is, again, unique.
The dual floating screens may not be for everyone but they do an admirable job of giving you all the information you need.
The dual floating screens may not be for everyone but they do an admirable job of giving you all the information you need.
With no engine or motor in front of the driver, the cabin really opens up. There's a massive dashboard and ample legroom, but I'd hate to think what replacing that windshield would cost.
With no engine or motor in front of the driver, the cabin really opens up. There’s a massive dashboard and ample legroom, but I’d hate to think what replacing that windshield would cost.
The story in back isn't quite as good and adults won't enjoy spending much time back there.
The story in back isn’t quite as good and adults won’t enjoy spending much time back there but at least there are a couple of suicide doors to help you get in and out.
The 2016 BMW i3 may be fitted with some of the strangest tires ever put onto a modern car. They're skinny, have a high sidewall and yet are mounted on giant 19" wheels. Models with the range-extending engine do get slightly-wider rear tires in the back to handle the extra weight but they're still skinny!
The 2016 BMW i3 may be fitted with some of the strangest tires ever put onto a modern car. They’re skinny, have a high sidewall and yet are mounted on giant 19″ wheels. Models with the range-extending engine do get slightly-wider rear tires in the back to handle the extra weight but they’re still skinny!

Still, with tires even skinnier than those found on a Mitsubishi Mirage or Smart Car, the i3 handles better than most electric cars. At least you won’t be holding up traffic on an interstate onramp!

BMW goes so far as to claim that the i3 has that trademark BMW handling that the brand is known for but that's a bit of an overstatement in my opinion.
BMW goes so far as to claim that the i3 has that trademark BMW handling that the brand is known for but that’s a bit of an overstatement in my opinion.

The acceleration is acceptable and all that weight in the back gives it a good chassis balance but traction and grip from these skinny tires is anything but sporty. Yeah, it handles all right but at some point physics can’t be overcome and all grip is lost.

Being an electric car, the i3 relies significantly on its regenerative braking. When you’re driving in EcoPro or EcoPro Plus, regenerative braking goes full blast every time you take your foot off of the accelerator pedal. In fact, it engages so hard that the brake lights actually go on because the car slows down that much! While test driving the vehicle, we timed it just right and actually rolled up to a red light and came to a complete stop without every touching the brakes.

When the braking and battery have done all they can to give you maximum electric power, the gasoline generator engine comes alive and we were surprised at just how loud that was on startup. In the cold it's especially loud and even when it's warmed up, it's quite noticeable. Completely stopped at a red light it sounds like a little generator is running in the rear, which is exactly what's happening!
When the braking and battery have done all they can to give you maximum electric power, the gasoline generator engine comes alive and we were surprised at just how loud that was on startup. In the cold it’s especially loud and even when it’s warmed up, it’s quite noticeable. Completely stopped at a red light it sounds like a little portable gasoline generator is running in the rear, which is exactly what’s happening!

The stability control and traction control systems work hard to ensure the i3 is pointed in the correct direction at all times but despite the engine and motor weight being over the larger rear wheels, there is so much torque being generated that it’s very difficult not to spin the tires in wet or slick conditions.

Being a range-extending electric vehicle, it’s natural to draw comparisons between the 2016 BMW i3 and the Chevy Volt but they are quite different. The Volt has a much large and less-efficient gasoline engine that’s designed to give it similar range to a compact. The i3 is more of a no-compromises city electric vehicle. It’s much more like the Smart ForTwo ED2016 Mitsubishi i-MiEV and 2015 Fiat 500e. Yeah, it costs considerably more money but it comes more well-equipped in a larger, more livable package.

It also takes away any concerns of range anxiety with its gasoline generator engine and can even be used for longer road trips if you don't mind stopping for fuel every 60 or so miles.
It also takes away any concerns of range anxiety with its gasoline generator engine and can even be used for longer road trips if you don’t mind stopping for fuel every 60 or so miles.

In short, the BMW i3 really could be the future of urban motoring!


Share this car news from our auto blog...