It must have come as a real shock to some, to find out that BMW confirmed the launch of its ‘i’ sub-brand, back in 2011, while others perfectly understood why the Bavarian automaker thought that it would be a good idea to put a propeller badge on cars with efficiency in mind, while still trying to retain the familiar brand qualities of an excellent drive and very solid engineering.
Now, more than two years after the announcement, we are witnessing the live unveiling of the first i-badged BMW, the i3, which is being simultaneously unveiled in three distinct locations around the world: New York, London and Beijing.
Along with the unveiling, BMW also confirmed some of the tech facts, as well as the pricing information. The i3, which features a pillar-less passenger cell made of carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP), will first launch in Germany and other Euromarkets in November of this year, retailing for €34,950 ($46,300) for the solely-electric variant, while the Range Extender option bumps up the price to €39,450 ($52,320). In the U.S. sales will kick off during the second quarter of 2014 with prices starting from $41,350 before any federal or state incentives, plus $925 for destination and handling.
They say the main selling point of the new i3 are its low running costs, which are said to be around 40 percent better than those of the very frugal 320dA (‘A’ meaning fitted with the eight-speed auto which is optionally-available), over a three-year period.
The EV/range-extender can sprint from 0-60 km/h (0-37 mph) in 3.7 seconds, while the usual benchmark sprint is dealt with in a very reasonable 7.2 seconds – this puts it close to a Mk. V VW Golf GTI, but the hot hatch will sail past, as the i3 reaches it limited top speed of 150 km/h (94 mph). These impressive figures can be achieved thanks to the car’s low curb weight of 1,195 kg and high power output of 168 hp (125 kW). However, the torque figure of 250 Nm (184 lb-ft) is a bit lower than that of some other green rivals – Chevy Volt gets 370 Nm (273 lb-ft), and the original Nissan Leaf got 280 Nm (207 lb-ft) which has been lowered in the more recent models.
Now we’re waiting for the first test drives of the i3, though we hope BMW doesn’t adopt the Renault approach and do an in-house review, because that will just repeat what has been said above (all of the figures) and say it’s excellent in every single way.
By Andrei Nedelea