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2017 BMW i3 Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2017 BMW i3 was new.


Performance: 8.3

The 2017 BMW i3 gets brisk acceleration from its electric motor, whether you're pulling away from a stop or driving on the highway. Its handling is nimble, too, thanks to the positioning of the heavy battery pack, which makes it feel planted to the road. The i3's range and energy usage are decent for an EV.

  • "The i3 even serves up downright respectable acceleration and handling that help it leave most EVs in the dust." -- Edmunds (2016)
  • "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 (2015)
  • "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)

Acceleration and Power 

The 2017 i3's EV powertrain consists of a 170-horsepower electric motor that's paired with a single-speed transmission. Unlike gasoline engines that have more power to give once underway, electric motors give all their punch immediately. That means the i3 is surprisingly quick from a stop, and it still has plenty of power to merge with traffic on the freeway.

The i3 60 Ah gets up to 124 mpg-e in combined city and highway driving. With the larger 90 Ah battery, you'll only get 118 mpg-e, and the i3 REX gets 111 mpg-e running on electric. The i3's driving range spans from 81 miles with the 60 Ah battery to 114 miles with the 90 Ah battery. The i3 REX has a two-cylinder engine that functions as a generator to charge the battery, which increases range. The i3 REX can drive 97 miles on electricity alone but a total of 180 miles with the gasoline engine charging the battery.

The Chevrolet Bolt and Tesla Model S can both travel more than 200 miles with a fully charged battery. The Nissan Leaf can only go 107 miles on a charge, and the Chevrolet Volt's EV range is only 53 miles.

  • "As an electric motor delivers its torque all at once, acceleration from a standstill is swift, propelling the 2,800-pound i3 EV to 60 mph is just seven seconds. With no mechanical transmission, momentum is uninterrupted by gear changes, giving the i3 an almost slingshot-like effect." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "While virtually all battery-powered cars offer snappier acceleration than most people expect (thanks to the instantly available torque that's characteristic of electric motors), their acceleration times usually end up being pretty humble. Not so with the 2016 BMW i3, which sprints to 60 mph as quickly as some sport sedans." -- Edmunds (2016)
  • "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)

Alternative Fuels/Charging

Using a 240-volt charger, the i3's batteries can be fully charged in as little as four and a half hours. Charge time can be cut down to as little as half an hour for an 80 percent charge with a DC Fast Charging station, which can be found at many public charging locations.

Handling and Braking

Despite its tall shape, the i3 is nimble around corners. This is in large part due to the heavy battery pack that is mounted in the bottom of the car, giving it a low center of gravity. The steering is precise, too, but don't expect to feel much feedback from the road. The i3 has regenerative brakes that provide braking force while also recharging the batteries. Like most electric cars, the regenerative brakes in the i3 allow for single foot driving, and the car decelerates significantly when you take your foot off the accelerator pedal.

  • "The handling is still actually quite good, despite the EV rolling what appears to be a full set of space saver spare tires. And highway cruising is about as nice as could be expected from a relatively tall city car with a short wheelbase -- high-speed Autobahn blasts made me a bit nervous, but thankfully the i3 never felt squirrelly thanks to its low center of mass." -- CNET
  • "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 (2015)
  • "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 (2015)

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