BMW i3 First Drive – Whoosh!!!

Driving the BMW i3 is a huge change from my gas-hungry Jeep TJ. The i3 has a distinctly golf-cart feel with the smooth silent and instant acceleration. Once you’ve got it up to speed – only 7 seconds if you floor it (compared to 7.4 seconds for the Scion TC) – the ride begins to feel like a bullet train. The i3 hums along, floating like it’s on rails.

There is a little side-to-side liveliness on the despicably paved freeways of southern California. This might have something to do with the i3’s light weight but I’m guessing it has more to do with the narrow bicycle tires that aim to cut down rolling resistance.

The (Nearly) Self-Driving Car of My Dreams

The most amazing aspect of driving the i3 is the Active Cruise Control. Lock in your top speed and the car practically drives itself. You still have to steer but the car takes care of all the stopping and starting that makes bumper-to-bumper traffic such a soul-sucking exercise.

Oddly I find that I’m MORE alert when I’ve got the ACC engaged because a car that cuts in front of you won’t trigger the automatic braking right away. But it’s a zen-like awareness that’s vastly different from the brake-gas-brake-gas-coast-brake-brake dance that I do for at least an hour every day.

The BMW i3’s Dirty Little Secret

The best thing about driving the i3 is something I’ve never heard anyone talk about – sneaking up behind people in parking lots and tapping your horn. Man do they jump!

The BMW i3 is so quiet that people don’t hear you while they are walking. They tend to freak out when they notice that there’s suddenly a car right behind them. It’s funny but I’m finding myself being an ultra-defensive driver when there are people nearby. Much the same as riding a motorcycle, where you have to assume drivers won’t see you, in the i3 you have to assume that they won’t hear you and could easily step right in front of you.

In the Twisties

The BMW i3 handles twisting mountain roads like a champ. The short wheelbase and low center of gravity make the i3 more than adequate on ultra-winding hairpins (Potrero road anyone?). But the best part of the experience is the regenerative braking that starts as soon as you back off the accelerator. You’ve got positive control of the car through turns without ever having to reach for the brake.

In General a Pretty Satisfying Ride

The range extender is what sold me on the BMW i3, not the ride. To be sure it was important to have a comfortable, quiet cabin so that I can convert some drive-time into dictation-time. And the Active Cruise Control is soothing to already jangled nerves.

The zippy, smooth and powerful driving response is just icing on the cake.

 

[Image: BMW]