The EPA rates the electric range at 72 miles, and it estimates that the gas engine will supply another 78, for a combined 150-mile range.
The starting price for the gas-assisted car is $45,200, but with options such as heated seats and navigation, our car rang in at $50,450. Thankfully, it qualifies for a $7,500 federal tax credit.
We took a brief stint behind the wheel of an i3 in Los Angeles in November but now we’re experiencing it on our home turf, in anticipation of a full test once the break-in miles are complete.
First impressionsThe two-cylinder engine kicks in imperceptibly if you’re at cruising speeds, but when you’re tooling around at about 15 mph, you hear a rather rough thrum emanating from the back.
The engine-powered generator maintains about a 20-percent battery charge and ensures uniform performance and instant takeoff, typical of electric cars. The tiny gas tank holds only 1.9 gallons.
Handling is surprisingly agile for a pod as tall as this one. You sit up high, as in a small SUV, but there’s very little body lean when cornering. But the ride is rather stiff. And other than the not-so-pleasant engine noise at low speeds, the cabin remains quiet.
Slowing down or stopping takes getting used to. The regenerative braking system activates as soon as you let your foot off the gas pedal, decelerating the car quite aggressively.
It’s entirely possible to come to a dead stop without applying the brakes at all. Uninitiated drivers may not like that very much.
The cabin feels surprisingly spacious, and the flowing matte wood trim evokes nothing so much as a Swedish furniture store. The rear-hinged rear doors swing out to reveal a decent-sized two-person backseat.
Controls such as the start button and the shifter have an unusual design, but once we got acclimated, we found them elegantly simple.
BMW’s familiar iDrive controller includes a power-source display diagram here, and the navigation system records all the places where the car was charged.In order to keep the weight down, no sunroof or power seats are offered.
But judging from the looks and thumbs-ups we’ve been getting, it’s certainly piquing the interest of passersby. We’ll have more details including electric range and charge times as we pile on the miles.