- Guilt-free, as charged #2017-BMW-i3 / #BMW / #BMW-i3 / #BMW-i3-I01 / #BMW-I01
It was with a certain amount of disbelief that I responded to David Lillywhite, when he told me we were getting a BMW i3 as a long-term test ‘pool’ car. ‘Haha, an electric car, in Octane, very droll…’ Turns out, it’s a great leaving present from our outgoing editor.
As I write this, the i3 has been with us just over a week and it’s been driven more than 400 miles. No big away days, just a lot of commuting, a couple of diversions in the evening, and a weekend of messing about doing family stuff. We’ve spent £2.50 on petrol, and only then because of an unplanned pre-office excursion one morning that drained the battery and called upon petrol power.
You see, it has what’s known as a range extender. There’s a 168bhp, 184lb ft electric motor driving the rear wheels, and it’s powered by a 94Ah/33kWh battery pack, which weighs a not-insubstantial 230kg.
When you run out of range (typically we’ve been managing a little more than 100 miles on a full charge), the engine kicks in to keep the battery charged: it doesn’t drive the wheels. You’d notice the difference if it did, as there’s just a 647cc scooter-based two-cylinder under the boot floor, generating away with its modest 34bhp. You can hear it, but only just; it’s much quieter then the gennies that assault your ears by temporary traffic lights.
The lack of a petrol soundtrack doesn’t mean this is an unexciting drive, however. It zings away from a standing start (0-62mph in 7.3sec!) and has you grinning with its silent verve. The steering is keen and sharp, and the low centre of gravity (those batteries sit below the floor and much of the structure is carbonfibre) means you can fling it into corners.
The i3 still feels so modern, four years on from launch, with a genuinely refreshing interior design and funky styling outside, and its focused nature is impressive. It doesn’t try to be an MPV or an SUV; instead, this is a fabulous car for two, plus an occasional couple (or kids) in the back, where there’s decent space though limited access thanks to small suicide doors that can’t be opened when the front ones are closed. The boot’s compact too, though those rear seats flip. And it’s not confined to the city. The i3 is comfortable at speed, and entertaining on sweeping A-roads. You just can’t go too far in it on a single charge. Which means we’ll keep you posted about whether we’re swapping our green guilt for range anxiety.
From top The i3 is quick – and saves our classics and our fuel on Octane commutes; appropriately futuristic interior.