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.
Other L.A. Auto Show Highlights
2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA
The new, compact Mercedes GLA250 and GLA45 AMG attempt to bring the style of the CLA class to the crossover segment. Sporty and fun-looking, it will arrive in March with base prices in the mid $30Ks.
2015 BMW i8
Low-slung styling, swan-wing doors and a powerful plug-in hybrid powertrain will make the i8 the sexy counterpart to the i3 when it arrives next Spring carrying a price of $135,925.
2015 Porsche Macan
Due early next year, the Macan is essentially the Cayenne’s little brother. Smaller and lighter but at $51K no cheaper, the Macan embodies the Porsche spirit better than the porky Cayenne. Make mine blue.
2015 Lincoln MKC
Lincoln’s take on the Ford Escape brings better interior materials, lots of tech and great looks. It becomes available next summer at a starting price of $33,995.
Mercedes-Benz AMG Vision Gran Turismo
Designed for a video game then brought to life as a one-off concept, the Vision Gran Turismo is a mouth-watering, rolling impossibility. Still, it proved sexy enough (and phallic enough) to get more than a few of us kinda horny upon the sight of it. Indeed, things like this are why I love cars so much.