A PLASTIC electric car is about the last thing you’d expect from the company that builds the stonking M3, X5 family hauler SUV and 7 Series limo.
It sounds more like a kiddie’s toy than a breakthrough new BMWthat is heading down the road to the future.
But the i3 is not just a car.
It’s a new take on 21st century motoring, from its body design to the plug-in power pack and the way it’s built, and is seriously impressive.
The i3 is roomy, classy, perky, fun and almost certain to go into the history books as a landmark car. The new-age electric car has a 200km range that grows to 300 if a buyer adds a tiny motorcycle engine for battery top-up charging. It pioneers a new production process that could see plenty of body designs sitting on the same rolling battery pack.
After spending time with the brilliant dinosaur called the Mercedes-Benz S-Class— one of today’s glorious apex predators— my first drive in the i3 is like discovering the first mammal on the evolutionary road. I’ve got less than 10km and three hours to dip into the i3, at the first press preview drive in Munich, but it’s enough. For now.
The big questions will come for home-ground use from the middle of 2014, where things like the cost of plug-in coal power and the real-world range on Australian roads will be answered. That’s also when we will know the driveaway pricing, the support system (which sets a new standard in Europe— and the ongoing warranty and service costs. For now, BMWAustralia says the i3 will cost more than $50,000 and less than $70,000.
This is not just a car. Apart from the landmark construction process, where its carbon fibre-reinforced plastic body is bonded to a skateboard-style mechanical package like a life-sized Airfix kit, the i3 is the start of a new BMWGroup sub-brand that’s been created in a similar style to Mini. It will be closely followed by the i8 super coupe and other electric newcomers.
‘‘ BMWis playing an active role in changing the face of urban mobility. We come another step closer to reality,’’ head of planning for Project i Dr Martin Arlt tells Carsguide at, ironically, a former World War II airfield.
‘‘ Our development work has spawned a car that differs significantly from the current automotive industry norm in many ways. We haven’t