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2015 BMW i3 Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2015 BMW i3 was new.


Performance: 8.7

The 2015 BMW i3 has lively acceleration, agile handling and accurate steering, according to auto journalists. They say the i3 has a quiet and comfortable ride, and that the regenerative brakes may feel odd at first but don't take long to get used to.

  • "If you want an EV that engages the driver for less than half the price of a Tesla Model S, the i3 is the one to have. Happily, it's also supple and quiet in normal driving, making for an unmistakably luxurious experience." -- AutoTrader
  • "So while the powertrain is indeed brand new and interesting, anyone who defines a BMW simply by the way it drives is going to come away confused. It's not that driving dynamics don't matter, but they matter a lot less when you're moving slowly through a city. And that's where the i3 simply shines." -- Autoblog (2014)
  • "Many electric cars have surprising straight-line acceleration. That's just the nature of electric motors -- they have an abundance of torque, which translates to push-you-back-in-the-seat acceleration. It's no surprise that the i3 has similar performance." -- Kelley Blue Book (2014)

Acceleration and Power 

The 2015 i3 is powered by a 170-horsepower electric motor and comes with a single-speed transmission. According to the EPA, the BMW i3 gets 137/111 mpg-equivalent city/highway, which is great compared to other EVs' ratings. The i3 has a range of about 81 miles on a full battery, which is comparable to how far most other EVs can travel. However, the i3 has an optional range-extending, two-cylinder gasoline engine that works as a generator and charges the battery, which BMW says extends the i3's total range to up to 150 miles.

Critics find that the BMW i3 has quick acceleration from a stop, and some said it seems faster than other EVs. They add that the i3 has ample power for highway passing.  

  • "With its 170-horsepower electric motor driving the rear wheels, the i3 can scoot to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds, which is impressively quick for an EV." -- Edmunds
  • "Truth be told, the car feels even quicker than that around town because there's no waiting for the motor to hit its stride; the full 184 lb-ft of torque is always ready to rock. That responsiveness is par for the course in an EV, though." -- AutoTrader
  • "With no more than 2900 pounds to push around, the motor feels strong, and it effortlessly flings the car into gaps in traffic. Figure on a 0-60 time of just under seven seconds, although the 0-30 sprint will probably be a class above." -- Car and Driver (2014)
  • "Once at speed, the BMW i3's acceleration is still impressive. When we were at freeway speeds and needed to pass slower traffic, for example, the i3 still had plenty of juice for doing so thanks to an electric powertrain that provides instant thrust." -- Kelley Blue Book (2014)

Alternative Fuels/Charging

According to BMW, the 2015 i3 can be charged in approximately 20 hours by plugging into a 120-volt outlet, or in about 3.5 hours with a 240-volt outlet. DC Fast Charging stations can charge the i3 in 30 minutes. Fast Charging capability is newly standard on the i3 for 2015.

Handling and Braking

The i3 is rear-wheel drive. Reviewers are impressed with the BMW i3's nimble handling, saying it has strong grip in turns and a well-balanced ride. They add that the i3's steering is accurate but a bit numb. Auto journalists note that the regenerative braking system, which helps recharge the battery and works by slowing the car down gradually as you take your foot off the gas pedal, can feel strange at first. Once mastered, they say you'll learn to drive the i3 in city traffic without frequently having to use the brake pedal.

  • "What is less expected is the i3's exemplary handling, which comes courtesy of a nearly 50-50 front-rear weight distribution and BMW's expertise in rear-wheel-drive dynamics." -- AutoTrader
  • "The regenerative braking system is pretty strong, so the i3 slows dramatically whenever you lift your foot off the accelerator. While this can be disconcerting at first, you find yourself adapting quickly enough that you'll eventually wind up using the brake pedal only when you need to stop more aggressively. It makes sitting in stop-and-go traffic far more pleasant." -- Edmunds
  • "The real test of its BMW-ness, if you will, came on the twisty roads of Mulholland. Here the i3 stayed commendably planted, and because it's rear-wheel drive, it behaved more like a sports car when entering and exiting tight turns than, well, your average front-wheel-drive electric car. With its higher profile and shorter stance, the i3 is no 3 Series, but its low center of gravity helps the car stick better than you might suspect." -- Kelley Blue Book (2014)
  • "There's no appreciable feedback from the (of course) electric power steering, but it is nonetheless very quick and precise. On our first pass through a tight slalom course, we clipped two cones because we were unprepared for the i3's quick turn-in behavior." -- Car and Driver (2014)

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