BMW North America has quietly launched an extended test drive program for its i3 and i3 Range Extender.  With a small amount of paperwork, a copy of your drivers license, current automobile insurance card, you can be on your way to a three day electrifying driving experience. The i3 is a new way of getting around for most and the extended test drive gives you the opportunity to see if you can live with an electric car before you buy it.

Unfortunately not all dealers are participating, only about a one third actually, so check with your dealership.

The BMW i3 is a whole new way of mobility as BMW likes to say.  Truthfully, driving an i3 feels more like feeling you’re being a pioneer. The quietness of being under way with the i3 is striking. When it goes down the street, you can hear a slight electric whine under hard acceleration or deceleration. Otherwise, what one just notices is the booming of the radio.  Then there’s the fact that you never have to stop at a gas station, unless you’re driving the i3 REx.

Got Range Anxiety?

The limited range of electric cars is one of the biggest hurdles for most. For my extended drive, my plan was to see if the BMW i3 BEV, pure electric variant, with the shortest range, could fit my daily life. In my case, my local dealer, Baron BMW, set me up with a BEV i3 in Ionic Silver Metallic loaded with tech options. It was fully charged and had a stated 77 mile range in Comfort drive setting.

My plan was simple, go everywhere in town with no intention of changing my driving style.

My longest mileage day with the i3 included a 26 mile round trip to work with mixed city and highway driving where the highway portion included following the flow of traffic up to 75 mph.  After I got home from work, I was off on another 23 mile round trip to my daughters soccer practice.  I also threw a trip to Coscto run where I loaded the i3 up with four cases of coke, and a bunch of other stuff, adding another 10 miles and a fair amount of weight in the cargo hold.  In all, I traveled about 60 miles driving as if I was driving my E92 M3 , and it was a longer distance than I normally drive in one day. At the end, the all electric i3 had about a quarter of a battery charge left.

The Driving Style’s Effect On The Range

Perhaps the most stark realization of living with a BMW i3 was how much driving style impacts the range. Running 75mph on the highway to work into a head wind on my second day of driving the i3, I watched the range drop from 82 miles to 59 miles during the 13 mile trip to work – despite the fact  I drove in EcoPro setting and never floored the throttle. Yet, even with this loss of range, I still had no trouble going to and from work.  The i3’s range in city lower speed traffic is way better than straight highway driving. InsideEVs lists city driving range at 81 and Hwy at 71.6 miles for the BEV i3.

On Saturday, I drove the BMW i3 to the local cars and coffee event and parked it just behind a stunning yellow 2004 Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale. I was bit surprised that I received as many questions about the i3 as the Ferrari owner as well. The i3 gets tons of looks while you drive and be prepared to answer a litany of questions when people figure out it’s yours. Everyone seems to love it. Parking it at work, I got peppered with questions. At soccer practices, again, tons of questions about the eclectic electric i3. People in my neighborhood were asking for rides. Over the years, I’ve had all manner of cool cars in my garage and none have ever gotten the attention that this i3 attracts.

The Amazing Cabin Tech

The larger 10.2” optional “Professional Navigation” that comes with the Technology Package has a stunning high-resolution LCD display. I liked to split it left side Nav and right side media. Then there’s the battery level indicator, estimated range, miles per kilowatts, PSI of your tires to the tenth., Active Cruise Control, Self Parking and back up cameras. I found myself digging way into the menus, Bluetooth streaming music. Was just having a field day with this high-tech cabin.

My last trip with the BMW i3 was to take my daughter to a soccer game. It was a surprisingly cool fall day and the i3 really stood out in the sea of sport-utes and mini-vans. Overall, I averaged 3.9 miles per kilowatt and wasn’t trying to hyper-mile. I drove as I felt at the moment, merge in traffic – bam – instant torque and no problems. In town and up to about 50 mph, I really liked then handling, but  over 60, it felt a bit darty on its narrow 155mm wide tires.

BMW states the pure electric version range is 70-110 miles. The 170 hp electric motor and one speed transmission are good for a 0-60 second time of 7.0 seconds and a top speed of 93 mph. If you need a greater range, the i3 Range Extender with its 1.9 gallon tank for the on board gas electric generator,  provides 120-185 miles.

Base price for the i3 is $41,350 and the i3 REX is $45,200, destination $950.

BMW’s extended test drive is a unique way to experience an electric car lifestyle.  It’s really important to drive one and then charge it and drive it again. It showed me, that the i3 BEV would meet my needs and allow me to drive my S65 V8 E92 less around town. Plus my M3 hates short trips and it’s important to warm its oil up each trip. An electric car is happy to move twenty feet and be shut off.

So, I’ll take my i3 in the Solar Orange BEV flavor loaded with tech.

Edited to reflect that EcoPro + does work over 55mph. The speed limit is adjustable in the settings.

As Tested

2014 BMW i3 – $41,350

Ionic Silver Metallic with BMW i Frozen Blue Accent                 $550
Giga Cassia Natural Leather & Carum SPice Grey Wool Cloth            $0
Giga World                                          $1,700
19″ forged aluminum (429) wheels with all season tires
Grey leather steering wheel with silver accents
Active-climate wool and soft olive leaf-tanned leather seat lining
Leather-covered instrument panel
Added sustainable interior details, such as open-pore eucalyptus wood
Sirius® Satellite Radio, Universal Garage Door Opener
Technology & Driving Assistant Package                        $2,500
Parking Assistant package                                 $1,000
PDC, Parking Assistant, Rear View Camera
Harman/Kardon Premium Sound                            $800
Heated Front Seats                                    $500
DC Charging                                        $700
Destination Charge                                    $950

Total MSRP of                                        $49,900

BMW i3
Reviewed by Chuck Vossler on
It showed me, that the i3 BEV would meet my needs and allow me to drive my S65 V8 E92 less around town
Rating: 4.5