BMW takes on electric, and in a big way with this quirky, not-so-very-BMW, BMW i3 REx.
It’s sleek, a little-bit hipster and very eco-conscious, with materials of it being built through utilising and recycling various materials.
Regenerative braking fun.
Tech-forward, a digital girl and boys dream.
Electric cars excite me, and for so many reasons. It’s cool to finally see the auto industry adapt, towards a more eco-conscious way of driving. It’s certainly been a long time coming. I mean, remember when people used to talk about hydrogen as the future of cars (what even happened to that?!)?
Electric, in my mind is a good step forward towards improving the auto industry. Cars have been around for so very long, but change is few and far between.
During my time with the i3 REx, I ventured down to the Mornington Peninsula to soak in the coastal life, checking out Mount Martha and more. Once I was done, driving back to the city suburbs.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect, as the i3 is the second electric car I’ve had the pleasure to borrow, the first being the Tesla Model S P90D.
These two cars are vastly different but, the when it comes to driving pleasure, the i3 does not disappoint- not in the slightest.
If there is one thing that we could sit and talk about all day is the design, however I’ll do my best to cover the main points.
The i3 is a very non-BMW-esque looking car- both inside and out.
In my not very qualified opinion, the i3 is an architectural masterpiece. The engineering put into this car is incredible. For sure, I appreciate the engineering and design in all cars, but the i3 is next level- being hugely sustainability and green focused. I honestly think it’s an incredible vehicle, even purely from a design stand-point.
Open the rear-hinged suicide doors and you’re greeted with a cabin space that makes you feel like you’ve been transported into the future. It’s incredibly spacious, open plan and the dash lines are eye-catching with two screens built in. As far as digital goes, this car has got it down pat.
You’ll also find, that there is a considerable amount of floor space. This is thanks to the batteries being packed flat under the vehicle, meaning you have an entirely FLAT floor surface. Which is totally freaky at first, but it grows on you, because YAY more room for other things.
Every detail in this car has been considered, every material utilised and placed exactly where it should be.
The i3 is built from recycled and sustainable materials. Which according to BMW, 95% of these materials can then go on to be recycled at vehicles end of life.
If you ever get a chance to, check out the interior of the i3, and I mean REALLY have a look at it. It’s made of many parts, and many materials, both sustainable and inspiring.
For example, the door trim, panels and dashboard are made from renewable natural fibers and recycled plastics, naturally tanned leather, and open-pore eucalpytus wood (sustainably sourced from 100% FSC®-certified forestry). The body being made from carbon fibre. On top of this, the textiles are made of up to 100 % recycled polyster. Like I said, the i3 is nothing short of impressive.
All these things are great, but without sustainable production, this effort is completely redundant. Luckily, BMW have thought of this, so the enitre production of every i3 has been thoughtfully and sustainably planned out.
When we are talking about performance, the design definitely plays a huge part into the cars ability to perform. The materials utilised help to ensure the car can be a light as possible, which is a feat in itself, especially when you’ve got bulky batteries underneath the car which could weigh it down substantially.
Additionally the BMW i3 actually comes in two general forms: pure electric (aka i3 BEV) or electric with range extender (aka i3 REx; the variant I have).
This car is quite gutsy rear-wheel drive, with the capability of accelaration from 0-100km/hr in less than 7.2 seconds (depending on the variant). (For BMW official specification comparisons of the variants, see here.)
Whenever I’m reviewing a car, tech is something I always get excited about. Without fail. I’m drawn to technology. The i3 has some pretty nifty tech features outside of the standard, but of course, this is due to it being an electric car.
- ACOUSTIC Protection for Pedestrians
I bet you’re reading the above and thinking, ‘hang on, what?’. That’s okay, I was too. In a nutshell, electric cars are very quiet, and this comes with certain disadvantages. For example, the car being so quiet that if you were a distracted pedestrian, you might not hear the vehicle and could risk your life.
Acoustic protection for pedestrians is there as a safe guard. How it works is that the i3 essentially plays an exterior-audio when you’re traveling approximately 40km/hr or less. If this audio didn’t play, it would be likely that people might not hear your car approaching. Which could be potentially disastrous, especially in school zones.
Safety thought out, not just for the passengers inside.
How cool is that!?
- Instrument Cluster
This is a fairly standard thing in any car, ever. But in the i3, it’s something very unusual and different to what you would be used to. Essentially the instrument cluster in the i3 is a 5.7″ rectangle digital screen which tells you everything you need to know about your drive, like you would in a traditional car, except with a few exceptions.
Obvious to mention, it tells you your electric range.
- Multifunctional Steering Wheel
The gear shifter has moved from your centre console, to the side of your steering wheel. This frees up the interior space, and is a more logical place for it, especially since it’s an electric powered auto, there’s really no logistical need for it to be in the centre of the vehicle (besides standard drive trains).
You basically never need to touch it, but it is fairly easy to knock…few times I’ve gotten it into neutral, so just be wary of your hand placement and you’ll be fine.
Standard Tech Features:
- AC Rapid Charging
- Acoustic Protection for Pedestrians
- DAB+ Digital Radio Tuner
- DC Rapid Charging
- Exterior LED Light Elements
- Extended Smartphone Connectivity
- Fuel Tank Breather System
- Instrument Cluster w/ 5.7″ Digital Colour Display
- Multifunctional Steering Wheel
- Navigation System Professional
- Parking Assistant
- Rear View Camera
- BMW ConnectedDrive Features
Tech Options fitted to Variant Tested:
- Electric Glass Sunroof
- Harmon/Kardon Surround Sound System
- Innovations Package
- Comfort Access System
- LED Headlights
- Driving Assistant Plus
Let me start off by saying that BMW has had a really great crack at electric, for a persons standard use, this car is perfect.
I’m not the standard person, so this makes things a bit difficult. I live an hour and half outside of Melbourne, this means I am missing out on a lot of the charging facilities that are available in Melbourne. It also means that if I want to charge the car, I need to do it at home.
The i3 REx uses the Combo SAE J1772 connector.
Fast chargers (e.g. at DC fast-charging station: DC; 125 A; 50 kW (80 %)) for BMW are few-and far between so I had to be extremely strategic with my travels. If you can find a fast charger, they are awesome with the ability to charge your car to full in roughly 30 minutes.
Otherwise they are able to be charged utilising the ChargePoint network, however this is generally metro locations with some outer city, such as Daylesford. These chargers roughly chargers work at 6.6kW, taking four hours to complete a charge.
My complaints aside, the BMW i3 REx has been built for the urban environment- that is it’s intended use afterall.
To me, this is the only downside of the BMW i3, but for a lot of people this may not affect them. Utimately it comes down to infrastruce (ie. available public chargers) as well as battery capacities and output availability. (This is the sort of thing that will improve overtime, and is something BMW is striving towards.)
As for home charging the new 94Ah model will take 14 hours from empty using a 1.8kW regular wall-plug charger. If you have BMW’s long-term home charger installed, that drops to 8 hours at 3.7kW (purchased separately). Once charged this gave me an electric range of approximately 190km. Plenty for the average driver, especially if your daily commute to work is roughly 30km each way.
On top of this the range extender is a 9-litre auxiliary petrol tank running a 28kW, 650cc motorcycle engine underneath the boot, behind the rear seats. The benefit of the range extender is that it will give you roughly 100-130km range-boost if you run out of electric power. It’s important to note that this allows for continued electric power (recharging the batteries), hence, range extension.
Now that we’ve covered the boring stuff, electric cars are just so fun to drive, period. For those that are familiar, electric cars utilise regenerative braking- you may also notice this in your petrol and diesel BMWs, but the difference with this in an electric means that essentially you are only using one pedal to drive. That is, as soon as you lift your foot off the accelator, the car rapidly begins to slow down. The benefit of this, besides the obvious for fuel efficiency is that 1) it acts to recharges/juice the battery, 2) makes driving very enjoyable.
Imagine, driving down the Black Spur (a windy, and fast road), and being able to rapidly accelerate and brake with ease. Fun, is definitely the word I would use to describe it. Driving should be a pleasure, and the i3 certainly achieves this.
With all this talk of electric and design, we can’t forget that safety is a major player in any vehicle you buy, electrics being no exception.
The i3 REx has a few nifty features built in as standard, of course, you always have the option to add more if you so require.
Safety Features: Standard safety equipment includes six airbags (dual front, front side, and curtain), electronic stability control ABS brakes, reversing collision avoidance, tyre pressure monitoring, rear view camera, front and rear park sensors, and front and rear seatbelt pretensioners with load limiters.
Lane departure warning and distance keeping cruise control are available with the Driving Assistant Plus option package.
Forward collision warning and distance keeping cruise control are avaiable with the Innovations Package.
There is a front boot, although space in here is rather limited. I preferred using this to store the battery charger and power cable so that I could charge at my AirBnB accomodations over my trip.
The standard boot however is very roomy. The i3 is almost like a cross between a compact SUV and a hatchback, space is not dissimilar to these.
You wouldn’t be using this car to move your house, but it definitely can handle shopping trips and weekends away with ease.
Overall the bootspace is 260 litres, plus extension capability of 1100 litres with the seats folded.
It is important to note however that this car is actually a 4 seater and can comfortably fit 4 adults.
With car brands like Tesla becoming more prevalent in Australia, electric cars are starting to trend. But still very slowly. A lot more education needs to be done for people to understand how electric cars all work and what the benefits are. I for one are in this segment. Sure, I know what an electric car is, I’ve had a few experiences with them, but I am definitely no electric guru. With anything, there is always so much to learn. (I mean the general physics around them is something I definitely want to try and understand better!)
It’s great to see brands like BMW investing in future mobility and things like electric, and the i3 is a great step forward. There are other offerings in their range for hybrid-electrics, and of course the infamous BMW i8 which blurs the lines between sports car and electric.
Albeit, charging time takes a bit long, and may require a bit of strategic planning. If you live in the City, it’s perfect for that, and if you like a roadtrip on the weekend, it can handle this too- as long as you allow enough time for charging when you get home.
Additionally, infrastructure is a huge thing holding brands back, so hopefully we can see charging stations more accessible outside of the CBD regions for the BMW vehicles and alike.
That being said, I’m really excited for the future of electric cars, and the i3 just confirms that BMW are in it for the long-haul.
The BMW i3 REx is a stand-out electric and car which defies the definition of what a BMW is. Incredibly eco and sustainably conscious, making it one of the most ‘green’ cars in the world.
It is a quirky little addition to life. It’s perfect for those short-trips, and even trips down the Coast.
A hugely pratical interior cabin, with comfort and space optimised.
The BMW i3 is a pleasure to drive and I can’t wait to see what else BMW has in store for it’s electric hybrids, and the BMW i sector.
Competivitely priced in comparison to other competitors offering electric, and still is able to offer a considerable drive range, which for those suburban/ city dwellers is more than enough.
The BMW i3 is roughly priced around $70,000-82,000 (VIC) depending on the variant and on-road costs.
The BMW i3 REx (94Ah) With Range Extender I reviewed was priced at $80,880 not including on-roads.
For more information on the i3 and other offerings head to BMW Australia.
Review vehicle provided on behalf of BMW Group Australia
Photography by Noah Esposito