BMW i3 eDrive 40 L Review: Blending Luxury and Electric Power

BMW i3 eDrive 40 L Review: Blending Luxury and Electric Power

The BMW i3, a midsize electric car, originally hit the market as the i3 35 model. In February 2023, BMW introduced the i3 eDrive 40 L, elevating the vehicle's power from 210 kW to 250 kW and boosting its range from 526 km to an impressive 592 km. After a thorough test drive, the most striking aspect of this new offering is how BMW has maintained the premium chassis quality. The BMW i3 doesn't feel rushed or lightweight due to its electric powertrain, offering a driving experience reminiscent of traditional BMW models powered by internal combustion engines.

Dimensions and Design

Let's start with its size. The BMW i3 measures 4872mm in length, 1846mm in width, and 1481mm in height. In comparison, the current BMW 3 Series ranges from 4728mm to 4838mm in length (standard/long version), has a width of 1827mm, and a height of 1452mm to 1454mm (standard/long version). When it comes to wheelbase, the BMW i3 stretches to 2966mm, while the BMW 3 Series ranges from 2851mm to 2961mm (standard/long version). Clearly, the BMW i3 surpasses the 3 Series in terms of overall dimensions, especially wheelbase.

Electric vehicles typically require elongated wheelbases to accommodate battery storage. This, in turn, provides more legroom for rear passengers. In the case of the BMW i3, the rear width measures 1410mm, height is 930mm, seat depth reaches 500mm, and the longitudinal cabin length stretches to 2.1 meters.

To put these numbers into perspective, a 1.7-meter-tall driver reaching for items on the rear seats would have a hard time doing so, demonstrating the ample space available.

Powertrain and Performance

Let's delve into the powertrain. While the electric motor is housed in the rear, the front section remains spacious with essential components such as the electronic control unit, air conditioning compressor, and radiators.

The electric motor powers the rear axle and is securely shielded. Its maximum output is 250 kW, with a peak torque of 430 Nm, mated to a single-speed transmission. This setup propels the BMW i3 to a top speed of 180 km/h and accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in just 5.6 seconds.

The BMW i3 offers various driving modes, including Comfort, Eco, Sport, and Custom. In Comfort mode, it achieved an impressive 0-100 km/h acceleration time of 5.5 seconds, 40-80 km/h in 2.6 seconds, and 80-120 km/h in 3.5 seconds during our test drive. Despite being in Comfort mode, the BMW i3 managed to outperform its official acceleration data, likely due to the absence of passengers and cargo.

The standout feature of the BMW i3's performance is its linear power delivery. Whether accelerating from a standstill or during mid-range bursts, the experience is reminiscent of the classic BMW 325, offering both speed and comfort. Many electric cars on the market today, despite their quick acceleration, can feel abrupt and less comfortable. The BMW i3 sets itself apart by providing a smooth and comfortable ride thanks to its electric motor.

Impressive Chassis

Another noteworthy aspect is the BMW i3's chassis. It maintains the same high-quality feel as its gasoline-powered counterparts. Its rear suspension features a multi-link design, while the front suspension is a double-joint strut, an upgraded version of the traditional MacPherson strut. The use of dual lower control arms significantly enhances handling, making it superior in terms of control.

Additionally, the i3 eDrive 40 L comes equipped with an air suspension, an option that provides adjustable damping and ride height. Drivers can fine-tune the suspension settings according to their preferences, offering a choice between comfort and sportiness.

The air suspension undoubtedly contributes to the car's comfort. Furthermore, it excels in reducing cabin noise. During our testing, the BMW i3 recorded remarkably low noise levels: 35 dB at rest, 49 dB at 80 km/h, 52 dB at 100 km/h, and 55 dB at 120 km/h.

For reference, we conducted a similar noise test on a popular competitor, revealing noise levels of 41 dB at rest, 56 dB at 80 km/h, 59 dB at 100 km/h, and 63 dB at 120 km/h. The BMW i3, with its advanced acoustic insulation, outperformed the competition across all speed ranges.

Range and Charging

In the realm of electric vehicles, range is a crucial concern. The BMW i3 is powered by a 79 kWh lithium-ion battery sourced from CATL (Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd). It boasts an energy density of 140 Wh/kg and consumes an estimated 14.1 kWh per 100 km. According to the manufacturer, the BMW i3 offers an impressive range of 592 km (CLTC standard).

The BMW i3 features two charging ports, one on the front left and another on the rear right. When using DC fast charging, the battery can be charged to 80% capacity in just 0.68 hours. AC slow charging, on the other hand, requires 7.5 hours to reach a full charge.

During our comprehensive three-day test drive, which included both city and suburban driving, we encountered various traffic conditions, including severe congestion during rush hours. In heavy traffic, the energy consumption spiked, reaching around 20 kWh per 100 km. During the worst traffic conditions, we covered 26.8 km, resulting in an 82 km drop in range.

On the final day of our test drive in suburban areas, the BMW i3's energy consumption gradually improved to 14.3 kWh per 100 km. During this phase, we covered 46 km, with a 22 km decrease in range.

On the highway, we maintained speeds slightly above the legal limit for over 30 km, achieving an impressive energy consumption of 12.3 kWh per 100 km. These real-world tests confirmed that the BMW i3's range estimates are quite accurate.

Advanced Driving Assistance

Moving on to the driving assistance features, the BMW i3 impresses with its familiar BMW steering wheel feel. The control buttons on the steering wheel are ergonomically arranged, logically designed, and straightforward to operate. This user-friendly setup ensures precise and hassle-free control without the need to divert attention from the road.

While only the top-tier model comes with full-speed adaptive cruise control, the base versions feature standard cruise control. To upgrade, customers can opt for an additional package.

However, the BMW i3 includes a wide array of standard safety features, including lane departure warning, active braking, forward collision warning, fatigue alert, low-speed driving warning, automatic parking, hill assist, and six airbags.

One notable feature is the energy regeneration control integrated into the infotainment screen. Incorporating a control button on the steering wheel would enhance the user experience, allowing drivers to easily adjust energy regeneration levels based on road conditions, especially beneficial in hilly terrain.

The heads-up display is comprehensive, effectively reducing the need to glance at the instrument cluster. While it is exclusive to the top trim level, lower trims can access it by selecting the "Innovation Package." This customizable approach allows buyers to tailor their BMW i3 according to their preferences with options.

Exterior and Interior Design

In terms of exterior design, the BMW i3 retains the distinctive BMW family style. Standard features include automatic LED headlights with a unique blue accent in the lamp housing.

The rear design exudes a sportier appearance, especially with the rear wing, black lower trim, and accentuating strips.

Wheel options come in 18-inch and 19-inch variants, with tire sizes ranging from 225/50R18 and 245/45R18 (front/rear) for the former, and 225/45R19 and 245/40R19 for the latter, omitting the need for a spare tire. Our test vehicle was equipped with the ADVAN Sport V107, a high-performance tire that excels in noise reduction, wet handling, and comfort.

Inside the cabin, the i3 offers a choice of interior themes in black, black with volcano red accents, and black with mocha accents. The central infotainment screen is integrated with the digital instrument cluster, although its aesthetics may come across as somewhat unconventional. Personal preferences aside, the user interface is user-friendly and straightforward.

The center screen, measuring 14.9 inches, boasts standard features like smartphone mirroring (Apple CarPlay and Baidu CarLife), infotainment, voice control, 4G connectivity, over-the-air (OTA) updates, and a Harman Kardon sound system (standard with six speakers, optional 17-speaker setup on the top trim).

The area below the center screen features air vents and a variety of physical controls. Notably, the volume knob is both well-crafted and convenient to use. On the left, a large rotary knob, along with surrounding buttons, provides quick access to the infotainment screen, making operation hassle-free.

Moving further down, you'll find the gear selector, parking brake, camera switch, parking assist, and start button. Below these controls are buttons for selecting driving modes.

The seats are upholstered in synthetic leather, and the front seats feature power adjustment and driver's seat memory as standard. Heated seats are available for an additional fee.

The front seats offer ample space, with a width of 1450mm, height of 1000mm, and an adjustable height range for the driver's seat of approximately 80mm. The seat bottom can also be extended, providing a length of 515-565mm, catering to various driver body types.

The rear seats come with independent climate control and two Type-C USB ports. A central armrest divides the rear seats, featuring dual cupholders in the front and a felt-lined storage compartment in the rear section.

The electric tailgate is optional, revealing a cargo area with a depth of 980mm, width of 990mm, height of 435mm, and a volume of 410 liters. Beneath the cargo floor lies an additional storage compartment; however, the premium sound system in the top-tier model occupies a significant portion of this space.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, some argue that traditional automakers lag behind new entrants in integrating cutting-edge technology into their vehicles. However, whether it's a gasoline or electric vehicle, the performance during driving will always remain a pivotal aspect. BMW has always been known for its focus on performance, and if you seek driving enjoyment, it's challenging to exclude BMW from your list of potential choices.

While it may not be the most budget-friendly option, especially in the top-tier trim, it delivers a unique blend of electric performance and luxury, making it a compelling choice for those who prioritize driving pleasure above all else.

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