Road & Track not sold on the BMW i3

BMW i | September 3rd, 2013 by 14
bmw i3 official images 621 750x500

Generally the BMW i3 has been receiving positive reviews and many of the journalists that had a chance to drive BMW’s first electric vehicle have …

Generally the BMW i3 has been receiving positive reviews and many of the journalists that had a chance to drive BMW’s first electric vehicle have been impressed with the ride quality. U.S. magazine Road and Track seems to be going the opposite direction.

While in Munich for a quick 15 minutes drive, the U.S. outlet was less than impressed with the ride quality, but at the same time praised the overall package and interior design.

So what are some of the drawbacks? Let’s have a look.

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Our time at the wheel consisted of 15 minutes on a cone course. The first thing I scribbled into my notebook: “This ain’t no Tesla. It’s not a BMW, either.”

Threading an i3 through a slalom feels like autocrossing an X5 on snow tires three sizes too narrow. The battery pack is mounted in the floor, Tesla-style, helping to keep the center of gravity low, but you’d never know it. The tall body cranks into the air, lists like a sailboat, and settles into tire-chattering understeer at what feels like a walking pace.

Tire size can’t help. The i3’s low-rolling-resistance, 155/70R-19 Bridgestones are nearly 1.5 inches narrower than the rear tire on BMW’s S 1000 RR motorcycle. The 1970s-tall sidewall is likely a boon to ride quality, as is the lack of a rear anti-roll bar, but it does the chassis no favors.

BMW says weight distribution is nearly 50/50 front-to-rear, but there’s no balanced behavior here. The overboosted steering is devoid of feedback, and at high speed, the understeer becomes snap oversteer paired with pucker-worthy stability-control interventions that seem to be the only thing keeping the car’s wheels on the ground.

At least the brakes feel great. The i3 uses Tesla-style accelerator mapping (full regeneration hits when you come off the gas), leaving a brake pedal free of the typical unpredictability of a blended brake system. The 11,000-rpm electric motor uses a clever magnet design that helps power production at high shaft speeds. Consequently, the i3 is quick to its 93-mph top speed, and BMW says 60 mph arrives in around seven seconds.

Full review here

14 responses to “Road & Track not sold on the BMW i3”

  1. Giom says:

    Lol, maybe someone should enlighten them that it wasn’t the i8 they were driving. Small little oversight on their part.

    • Tom says:

      To be fair, they are expecting a BMW. I agree that the i3 is purposely build as a city car, hence the free loaner program for distance travelers. Not many people will be driving through slaloms within a city. That said, driving a BMW, whether you are in a city or not, has a distinct fee and perhaps the writer is just trying to convey that message.

      • Giom says:

        Yes, but, common sense must be exercised in this very significant case. BMW has other virtues too. Like reliability and solid build quality. You can’t jump into a 116i and shoot it down for not being as quick as an M3. The i3 is so new and such a departure from anything BMW has done to this point, surely it must be judged on those merits.

  2. Scott Villeneuve says:

    Jason Cammisa has always written like this, and his wit and satire are totally off-putting and cocky. He thinks he’s on top of the world, and he’s been through more magazines in a short time than I have fingers on my hands.

  3. Guestos says:

    HaHaHa, who reads magazines,(motortrend).

  4. Kommodore says:

    BMW should do a completely different sub-brand with this i-lineup. Much like what was done with SMART.

    • Michael says:

      I completely agree with you. They have set themselves up for experiences like this where people are looking for something consistent with what they have come to expect from the roundel that the i3 adorns and are disappointed when it falls short of that. Had they made a stronger separation, people would have still associated the sub brand with BMW’s quality and maybe even its prestige but wouldn’t have the same ‘experience’ expectations.

    • philternent says:

      As A Leaf driver for 2.5 years with an I3 on order I think you are right. I am not a BMW convert, just an I3 convert, I don’t really like BMW brand particularly, not interested in “driving experience” as far as speed around corners and would be happy with another brand on the car, if the Leaf had a range extender or real world 150 mile range I wouldn’t be changing, the leaf is great for me and my wife, very relaxing and calming to drive. If BMW had offered another option on I3 with more batteries (another £3000 worth) in space occupied by range extender, with whole car detuned to say 0-60 in 10 seconds but with extra batteries providing 150-180 mile range that would have been fantastic.Mostly 80 miles does me, but once or twice a month I need to go 100-120 miles. At this point in time the fast charge outlets in UK aren’t set up to really give you the confidence that if needed then there won’t be someone using one you need (and have gone off for an hour or so shopping) or it may be out of action, so the range extender is a great plan B option. Will give me confidence to use for all of my journeys, so occasionally last 20 miles wil be using petrol, but the first 80-100 will be electric instead of all 120 being petrol, as I do now.

  5. BottomGear says:

    Looks like Tesla still rules the electric car roost? As a BMW enthusiast, I’m sad, but as a US citizen, I’m glad!

  6. Tommolog says:

    Everybody is entitled to their opinion. The one problem I had with the article is the opening paragraph. It gives the impression the author had a bias against the i3 before ever stepping into it. We know that happens, people are human and there are a lot of people that simply can’t accept BMW going off in a new direction with the i brand. Take a look at what he wrote:

    “The electric i3 is the most important BMW of the moment, the car that resulted when the German brand strained the whole of its R&D effort and $3.7 billion through a filter of sustainability and efficiency. Ironically, the car became a resource pig, sucking the company’s other product budgets dry and watering down its more mainstream offerings. BMW has risked its entire business on the development of this car, so it had better be amazing.”

    Really?? This alone proves to me he doesn’t understand what BMW is doing. He has no clue the R&D spend on the i3 & i8 will benefit the entire product line within a few years. The use of carbon fiber and aluminum will cascade across all the vehicles they sell making them lighter, faster and more efficient. They will also have PHEV offerings (notice the recent X5 PHEV announcement) which will raise their CAFE average and allow BMW to continue to offer the high performance cars that aren’t that energy efficient.

    To begin the i3 review with the nonsense about it costing BMW 3.7 billion and “sucked the company’s other product budgets dry” is so ridiculously inconsistent with anything truthful I can’t imagine why anyone would want to continue reading. It’s shameful journalism IMO.

  7. digivue says:

    I’ll reserve my judgment until see the results of the crash tests to see how all these new materials holding up.

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