Ba-Zinger! [COTY2014] : BMW i3 REx 60Ah Drive [review]

By davidkhoo, 12 December 2014

Singapore - If we had to tag just one, the i3 has to be our ‘It’ car for 2014. It certainly never failed to put a huge grin on our faces after every drive over the combined three or four weekends we had the car.

If you’re even going to talk about how you’d rather buy a 328i with the same money, be our guest, since the i3 clearly isn’t for you. Setting trends and riding the wave of a revolution is never cheap, and the i3’s price for early adoption is no exception.

The i3 is more than just a A-to-B city commuter, as it embodies an entire shift in lifestyle and perspective.

It’s also BMW’s OCD philosophy behind the entire ‘i’ project that adds to the i3’s appeal: the sales and marketing teams, production, up- and down-stream sourcing is largely sustainable and renewable.

Of course, the easier and ‘cheaper’ routes would have been to build it on an existing platform or production line, or to retrofit EV hardware into the architecture of a conventional ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle. Happily enough, this isn’t the BMW approach to the ‘i’ project…

Unfortunately, electric vehicles (EV) have been tarred by such a thick black coat that most detractors aren’t inclined to give the i3 the benefit of any doubt. Unlike the majority of every other EV out there, the i3 is purpose-built for mass production on a bespoke platform that is underpinned by a sophisticated carbonfibre passenger cell (and liberal use of lightweight composites elsewhere).

Now let’s see: the only other car with a carbonfibre tub we can think of is the McLaren and that’s well over S$1m; likewise the Tesla Model S is one other such purpose-built EV, but we’re looking at well over S$600k (estimated) if the brand ever surfaces here again. Now, the i3’s S$230+k no longer seems so dissonant, right?

Of course, any car worth its salt is more than the sum of its individual parts. The cabin will carry four adults and is made from sustainable sources, with a Nordic chic that is minimalist and classy.

Despite its clean-green credentials, the i3 rockets off the line like a scalded cat, although the only impression you get as it blitzes past is the faintest whisper of the rustling wind.

For those who haven’t driven EVs before, acceleration is controlled by an on-off pedal, and provides a salacious thrill from the instant gratification. For those who think they have, you might want to give the i3 a clean shot, since its handling, agility and driving pleasure far surpass any other EV we’ve ever tried in this price segment.

At full charge with the REx (a 647cc two-cylinder range extender) working in tandem, we’re looking at a conservative range of over 250km; based on our driving cycles, this translated to an overnight charge of only once every two-three days.

The feisty i3 isn’t just a zippy commuter in city traffic – like a golf-buggy on illegal steroids – but will even get the jump on far sportier machines, albeit without the huge carbon footprints of the latter. We think it reinterprets the concept of ‘fun’ in a whole new light.

PHOTOS Vanq

BMW i3 (REx)
Batteries: 360v, 22kWh Li-Ion (total)
Motor: 170bhp, 250Nm
(REx) Engine: 647cc, 2cyl
(REx) Power/rpm: 34bhp/4300rpm
(REx) Torque/rpm: 55Nm/4300rpm
0-100km/h: 7.9secs
Top speed: 150km/h
Efficiency: 13.5kWh/100km

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