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2015 BMW i3

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2015 BMW i3 Review

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BMW’s i3 EV for 2015 enters its second year of production with almost as much fanfare as when it first debuted. As part of BMW’s new i sub-brand of electric cars, the i3 EV offers an upscale alternative to the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt. As many consumers still worry about running out of battery power, the i3 offers an optional gasoline engine that acts as a generator, in essence nearly doubling the car’s 80-mile range. With unique carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic body components, a slew of high-tech interior features and a suspension setup from a company known for its performance excellence, the 2015 i3 EV from BMW stands apart from other electrics, while directly challenging Tesla to create a similar EV for less the $45,000.

You'll Like This Car If...

BMW’s i3 electric car for 2015 offers an eco-friendly platform with the added status of the coveted BMW badge. More fun to drive than a Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt, the i3’s unique styling and feature-rich interior make it nearly as cool to own as a $70,000 Tesla S.

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From a purely statistical point of view, you’ll get more cruising range and a much smaller monthly payment by going with the Chevrolet Volt. The Nissan Leaf, Toyota Prius and Ford C-Max are also less costly alternatives. Also, the i3’s rear-hinged back doors are an inconvenience for rear passengers.

What's New for 2015

The 2015 BMW i3 electric vehicle gains a few new standard features, including the DC fast-charging port (optional last year), heated front seats and satellite radio.

Driving the i3
Driving Impressions

A 2015 BMW i3 EV may be all about efficiency, but it is still a BMW at heart. Thanks to its torque-heavy electric motor, the i3’s off-the-line acceleration is brisk,...

... and there is more than enough power to move the 2,800-pound EV with ease. Able to reach 60 mph in just 7 seconds, the i3 is quicker than some gasoline-powered compacts. The car’s BMW DNA coupled with its rear-drive layout allows the i3 to ride and handle better than any of its rivals. Stopping power is also impressive, enhanced by an aggressive regenerative-braking system that captures kinetic energy and returns it to the battery. It won’t take you long to learn how to stop without using the brake pedal altogether, a concept that seems a bit odd at first but that quickly becomes second nature after a few days behind the i3’s wheel.

FLAT-PANEL DISPLAYS
The 2015 BMW i3’s wide-screen display panels are two of its most thrilling visual features. Vehicle speed is displayed on a screen just behind the wheel, while a larger screen floats just over the center dash and provides one of the best navigation and rearview camera displays we’ve seen.

RANGE-EXTENDER GASOLINE ENGINE
Worried about running out of juice in the middle of nowhere? BMW’s 2015 i3 electric car has the solution. For an additional $3,850, i3 owners can add a tiny 2-cylinder gasoline engine that doubles the i3’s range. The motor acts as a generator to supply electricity to the batteries.

2015 BMW i3 Details
2015 BMW i3 photo Interior

BMW’s i3 EV for 2015 has an interior that is at once futuristic yet minimalistic. Like its exterior, some elements work better than others. The responsibly forested eucalyptus dash and wide-screen displays reward the senses. Yet some of the other earth-friendly dash materials resemble attic insulation. Like the front seats, the two rear ones are roomier and more comfortable than you may expect, though beware of the i3's high step-in. Rear passengers will have to contend with a large black pillar, but the peculiar vertical shape of the windows creates a good view out. To accommodate extra cargo, the rear seats split and fold.

Exterior
2015 BMW i3 photo

The BMW i3's exterior is polarizing. In one sense, it is as unconventional as its powertrain. Glance at the overall design of this BMW's side windows, and you may see the shape of a bottle on its side, with the spout just over the i3's rear wheels. And like the front wheels, the rear set is pushed to the very edge of the car's carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic body. Even the doors are strange yet functional. The rear set opens outward to make entering and exiting easier for rear passengers. At just 157.4 inches long, the 2015 i3 is shorter than a Honda Fit.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

The 2015 BMW i3 is available in three trims, or as BMW calls them, “worlds”: Mega, Giga and Tera. The base Mega comes well-equipped with navigation system, LED headlights, 19-inch wheels, DC fast-charging port (allows you to charge the battery up to 80 percent in 20 minutes), heated seats, Sensatec leather-like upholstery, and BMW's ConnectedDrive that syncs to your smartphone to enable the use of apps. The Giga model has a leather-and-wool interior, sunroof and i Comfort Access System with keyless entry. Top-line Tera models feature full leather upholstery and special 19-inch wheels.

Optional Equipment

In addition to the range-extending gasoline engine, the i3 offers other hardware and software to make your commute safer and more comfortable. Among the offerings are a 12-speaker/360-watt harman/kardon audio system and the Navigation Professional System with range assistant, real-time traffic info and Traffic Jam Assist. Other options include forward collision warning and pedestrian detection, automatic parking system, and a collision-mitigation feature that can automatically apply the brakes in emergency situations.

Under the Hood

The 2015 BMW i3 electric vehicle uses an electric motor powered by a lithium-ion battery back. Range-extended models have a supplemental 650-cc gasoline engine that acts solely as a generator (it doesn't power the wheels directly) and has a fuel capacity of 2.4 gallons. The BMW i3's electric-only range is 80 to 100 miles, and extended-range models are said to achieve about double that. Hyper-milers can eke more distance by switching to the ECO PRO mode, which is meant to increase distance by 12 percent, or ECO PRO+, which adds another 12 percent. The i3 electric vehicle uses a single-speed transmission and is rear-wheel drive. The i3 recharges in about three hours on a 220-volt charging station or, at worst, 20-plus hours on a standard 110-volt outlet.

Hybrid-synchronous electric motor
22-kWh lithium-ion battery
170 horsepower
184 lb-ft of torque
Range with full charge: 80-100 miles
Range with full charge plus gasoline-powered Range Extender: 150 miles

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