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EXCLUSIVE: 2015 BMW i3 Production Model First Expert Driving Review - It's Really Good!

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EDITOR'S NOTE: This is an exclusive i3 driving review from our Netherlands based Henny Hemmes. No matter how many incorrect citation returns you get on Google Search Result Pages when you search for 2014 BMW i3 Review, as of the time of publication of this story you will not find another driving review of the 2014 BMW i3 production model.

Not on any other North American based automotive web site, not on Edmunds, not on KBB, not on Car and Driver, not on Motor Trend, not on Yahoo Autos, not on, not on Auto Trader, not on Road and Track not on any of the "Mega Corporation Owned Web Sites", only here on the first and deepest automotive web site.

European Press Gets First Shot At Driving 2014 BMW i3

By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor
The Auto Channel

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AMSTERDAM, October 10, 2013. The BMW i3 is on the road! It is on the Dutch roads for its first driving event for the media. From last Monday until the end of October, people in and around Amsterdam will see some 25 BMWs i3 driving through the city and the streets along the canals. The i3 has been especially developed as an electric vehicle under the working name MCV, or Mega City Vehicle.

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Therefore, to me it was no surprise that BMW choose my home country for its event, as the Randstad, the triangle that is enclosed by Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht, is considered a megacity with 7.8 million inhabitants. It is third in size in Europe after London and Paris.

The i3 celebrated its world premiere at the end of July in three other mega cities, New York, London and Beijing. BMW picked The Netherlands for the first media driving event for several reasons: the country offers generous tax incentives for electric vehicles and has installed about 5 thousand charging stations nationwide. The majority can be found in and around Amsterdam. Interestingly when I entered my destination, the Conservatorium Hotel in the heart of Amsterdam, charge stations showed up all over the navi screen. By the way, history meets the future in this hotel, that has been brilliantly restored and to which a modern part has been added without interfering with the construction of the old building (a must see – or better: must stay!)

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The i3 navi system leads you to available charging stations, but an app for your iPhone is available ( the app for Android is not (yet) available). that lets your iPhone screen show you where to find charging stations, as well as the charge level of your i3, and the app also lets you activate the air conditioning. We did this when leaving the hotel to be shuttled by bicycle-riksja to the Amstel Parking, which offers 20 charging points, where you can energize your car for free.

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We started our drive from the airport through villages that are part of our ‘Bulb district’, tulip bulbs that is, and on to Zandvoort, the beach town, where over the years I’ve spent a lot of time. No, I was never sun bathing there, but I was at the circuit for racing and at Rob Slotemaker’s anti-skid school as an instructor. Recently the anti-skid school has been taken over by BMW, who transformed it into a Driving Experience center. This month, it is the base for the first day of the driving event for presentations, workshops and lunch.

When we push the start button of the i3, the monitor shows that it has enough power for driving some 145 km (90 miles). So it will easily get us also back to Amsterdam with a nice detour along the Amstel River. Or course, we found a public charging station to try and find out how we should charge the i3. Connecting was easy with the wire (not included in the base price of the car!) and the e-mobility card that you simply hold against the display of the station to pay for the energy.

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The charging station display lets us know that we need some 4 hours to charge the battery up to a range for 137 km, having used 56 km, so we decided to leave, but we had to disconnect the cable we tried but no disconnection, not possible. After discussing how it might be done, my driving partner closed the i3 doors, pushed the unlock button on the key fob, it worked, indeed that is the trick! Maybe we should have done a very un-autojournalist like thing, read the instruction manual.

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We steped back into the car and silently continued our journey, in silence indeed, as we do not hear the humming that is typical for an EV’s electronics. We do not even hear the airco that we use to heat up the car, and there is not much road noise from the tires.

Driving the i3 is a joy. The electric motor lets you accelerate fast and it is easy to move quickly through the traffic. It is an advantage of the torque being available immediately.

But even though the electric drive may be uncomplicated, you have to do it right to get a smooth drive. That is what BMW did indeed.

Much attention has been paid to a smoother acceleration and deceleration than was the case with the Mini E that I drove just after it had been unveiled at the 2008 LA Auto Show. The tests with the Mini E as well as with the BMW ActiveE covered a total of 32 million kilometers/ 20 million miles, providing a lot of feedback that could be used during the development of the i3.

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In 2007, when BMW started the project, it was obvious that the efforts of developing a true electric vehicle should start addressing issues as weight saving and general safety. It resulted in the construction of a light weight CRFP (carbon fiber reinforced plastic) Life module that is placed on aluminum Drive module that houses the 170 hp and 184 lb-ft strong electric motor and the 22 kWh lithium-ion battery.

The BMW i3 accelerates smoothly and fast, but when you really push the pedal to the metal the car takes off as swiftly as an arrow. The single-speed automatic transmission (reduction gear) is well prepared to deal with the torque.

In the city, it is easy to bolt away from a traffic light, leaving other motorist looking in astonishment at the narrow and high stance of the i3. The acceleration from zero to 62 mph takes just 7.2 seconds. Entering the freeway is no great feat either. Of course, we were curious about the i3’s maximum speed and clocked 140 km/h, the equivalent of 87 mph. BMW has limited the speed to 93 mph, which is really o.k., as the maximum on most European freeways is mostly 75 mph and sometimes 80 mph. More important for overtaking on country roads is the acceleration from 50-75 mph which takes just under 5 seconds.

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Braking is hardly an issue. Most of the time, lifting the throttle is enough to slow down quickly. It also goes in a civilized way, not as fierce and jerky as in the Mini E.

Driving in Amsterdam is a challenge and my colleague was more than happy to be in the passenger seat. He was stunned by the sight of the million or so bicycles on and along the roads. I especially noticed the short turning radius of the car (32.3-ft), which makes maneuvering around town very easy.

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The cockpit of the i3 is roomy and light. The materials may be recycled and renewable, but to my taste the use of five different types is too much. The light weight seats are good and supportive, and the instrument panel by means of a monitor in front of the driver is easy to adjust to. However, it will take you a day or so to get used to the gear selector lever on the steering column.

BMW has learned from their tests with the Mini E that people drive an average of some 25 miles per day. Even for those who want to use (nearly) the full range of the i3, they can rely on a special BMW app for their electric car that gives notice when a destination is further than their remaining charge-range and then guides the driver to a charging pole that is close to a transportation station so the driver can reach their destination using public transport while the i3 remains and recharges.

Steering is typical BMW, with a ‘soft’ feel in the mid-range and really obedient and direct when steering the car into a corner. When you drive fast through the bends, there is a tendency to under steer. Thanks to the narrow tires, but that is easily corrected by lifting the throttle. The ride may not be what some people would expect: it is firm and even sporty

The suspension feels rigid and does not always ease away the bad parts or pot holes in the roads. But when you realize that the i3 does not have any rubber bushes as the construction is glued together, you understand why it is so taut. The advantage is that you have a good feel of what is happening and that gives you confidence as a bonus.

After driving the BMW i3 in Amsterdam and its urban area, I can just can say: BMW’s first electric car is really good!

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People who want peace of mind, can chose the optional range extender, a 647 cc two-cylinder engine that with a 9-liter petrol tank that acts like a generator to extend the i3 range by some 110-140 km/70-85 miles.

BMW offers a program called 360° Electric, which offers i3 customers the ability to get a non-electric model for vacations or other longer trips. That is why the sale of i models and services will be handled via a new multi-channel model which BMW will apply in various ways depending on the needs of different markets.

Besides the usual BMW i authorized dealers, there will be a Customer Interaction Centre that offers personalized and special support as well as information on every aspect of mobility services and internet sales.

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Quick charging is possible either with the home charging station supplied by BMW i or at any public charging station that uses a Level 2 SAE J1772 charging system. DC fast charging, using the SAE DC Combo-Fast Charger, will be available as an option. From a public fast-charging station, it will provide an 80 percent charge from a fully depleted battery in just 20 minutes.

The BMW i3 will arrive at European dealers by mid-November and in US showrooms in the second quarter of 2014.

The MSRP in the US will be $ 41,1350, before federal or state incentives. Destination & Handling fee in the US is currently $ 925.

In Europe the warranty on the battery is 8 years/62,000 miles. It has not been announced yet if this also will apply to cars sold in the US, but I guess it will.

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