2016 BMW i3 Driving Impressions

The BMW i3 is best for zipping around, as the acceleration time from 0 to 35 mph is just 3.5 seconds. Acceleration from a standing start is smooth and quick, as in all electric cars, but not as quick as some. The i3 without the gas engine will go from 0 to 60 mph in 7.0 seconds, while the heavier REx model takes 7.8 seconds. BMW claims a top speed of 93 mph; we got ours up to 83 mph and backed off with the needle still climbing.

The battery juice is gobbled up at higher speeds, so the REx would seem like the call for an i3 that’s driven on the freeway. You could drive across country with the REx, without ever having to stop for an electric charge, although it would take about 40 fuel stops.

On the highway, the ride is controlled but firm, probably because of the stiff sidewalls in those 19-inch tires, and it’s sensitive to crosswind. Handling around corners is nimble and crisp, and the tight turning radius of 32.3 feet makes i3 a blast in the city. When driven hard, the front tires squeal around sharp turns, while the back end jitters and skips on turns with rough pavement.

Besides the normal mode, there are Eco Pro and Eco Pro+ modes, which increase range by about 12 and 25 percent, says BMW. If you’re in one of those modes and floor it, they will be over-ridden, so you’re never stuck suddenly needing acceleration and not having it (when merging into fast traffic, for example). You can also change modes and keep up with traffic. Much of the power saving in Eco Pro+ mode comes from a reduction in heating or air conditioning.

Regenerative braking happens as soon as you back off the power pedal, so the car doesn’t coast. This can be a problem, because coasting is the key to smooth driving, being a gradual transition of speed. BMW says there is a some gliding programmed into the software, and the display confirms it, but we couldn’t feel it. Once, going down the ramp of a parking garage, we backed off and the car came to a complete stop without our touching the brake. When you re-learn how to drive, using just one pedal, you might think it works well.

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