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.
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.