In about six months, the 2015 BMW i3 electric car will start whirring along the roads of Southern California, and just before this year’s L.A. Auto Show, I got a chance to drive the futuristic little thing. Here’s what I learned.
For starters, there’s a lot of design going on here. Large glass panels, futuristic body panels, center-opening doors and cool light designs give the i3 a look like nothing else on the road. The cabin looks more like an industrial design project than a car interior, with floating info screens and a beautiful slab of open-pore bamboo that sweeps down from the glovebox cover underneath the iDrive screen. The seats don’t look comfortable but they are, and both rows of seats were designed so that passengers can easily slide across to the other side to get out in case parking is really tight. Very clever.
But alas, even BMW has a hard time making an electric car fun. While it has that characteristic electric car rush of acceleration, its steering does not feel as natural as in most BMWs, and its super-skinny tires and aggressive stability controls render handling very, uh, cautious. At least the price is attractive: $42,275 for the all-electric model; add $3,850 if you want to add a Chevy Volt-style, range-extending engine in the back.