InsideLine gets behind the wheel of the 2012 BMW ActiveE. Similar to the MINI E, ActiveE field trial begins first in the United States where selected consumers will have the opportunity to take over a 24-months lease offered by BMWNA at a monthly price of $499 with a down payment of $2,250.
ActiveE represents BMW’s last step before the new “i” sub-brand will launch in 2013. Several key technologies tested during the ActiveE trials will make their way into the first Megacity car, the i3.
Just like the MINI E, the BMW ActiveE is a conversion car, an electric vehicle based on the body shell of a vehicle with a combustion engine. The BMW ActiveE integrates all electric drive components such as energy storage unit, electric motor and power electronics in a vehicle body that was not originally intended for this purpose – and without compromising on space or comfort in the interior.
With the newly developed lithium-ion battery unit, the driving range of ActiveE is approximately 100 miles (160 kilometers) on a full charge.
But how is the driving experience? Let’s have a look.
“You turn it on by pressing a traditional engine start button. Then you select Drive using the familiar gear lever and pull away. There’s a discreet whine from the transmission and the sensation of forward momentum, but that’s about it. This car is exceptionally refined.
BMW reckons it’s good for zero to 62 mph in 9.0 seconds, which may not make the ActiveE the ultimate driving machine, but it does at least imbue it with enough pace for the typical urban joust. Nor was it disgraced on the Munich highway on our test route. Top speed is limited to 90 mph to protect the range of the batteries, but it’s happy to cruise at 70-80 mph with a minimum of fuss. Were it not for the absence of engine noise and the need to change gear, you’d be hard-pressed to tell it apart from the European 120i. This power plant in a 1,200-pound-lighter i3 should be genuinely entertaining.
Almost Like a Real Car
The suspension is the familiar blend of MacPherson struts at the front and a multilink rear. It’s been retuned and the ride height has been raised by 0.4 inch to accommodate the mass of the low-lying battery packs. BMW claims it’s been able to retain its fabled 50:50 weight distribution.
Anyone who’s driven the Mini E will remember the startling affects of its regenerative braking. Lifting off the throttle created such vigorous retardation that BMW programmed the brake lights to warn those behind. In the ActiveE, the influence is marginally less aggressive but it still takes a degree of acclimatization. This car will come to an abrupt stop even if you ignore the brakes. It’s a bit like driving a high-downforce racecar.
At higher speeds you do notice the extra mass. The ActiveE isn’t the last word in agility, but that’s not to dismiss it as a bad drive. The steering is nicely weighted, body roll is well contained and if anything, the ride is an improvement over the regular 1 Series. The Bridgestone Turanza ER300 tires — measuring 205/55 R16 — also offer plenty of grip, despite being tuned for low rolling resistance.”