Len Ingrassia: BMW electric car furthers range

The BMW i3 Sport with 20-inch wheels is an electric car with a 153-mile range on a full charge.Courtesy | Len Ingrassia

Five years in the marketplace, and the little electrified BMW gets fancier and will travel further than its predecessor. First glance at the hatchback will no doubt bring forth a peculiar nod trying to compare it with something else on the road.

As my Uncle Tony would say, “Fuggedaboutit!” There is nothing like the i3 or i3 Sport with its oversize tires and boxy shape.

Pros: upscale interior, great warranty, quick off the line.

Cons: pricey compared with rivals, questionable rear doors, small cargo area.

We drove the i3 Sport trim for a week and came away with mixed feelings, although the BMW nameplate has a lot going for it.

If much of your driving is on city streets and alleys, the i3 will make your journey a breeze with silent rigging, instant power to move about and the ability to park just about anywhere without using a drop of gasoline.

The 2019 i3 or i3 Sport will travel 153 miles on a full charge and another 40 miles with the optional range extender with its two-cylinder gasoline powered generator. That’s 35 miles farther than last year’s model but still less than rivals Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3, each selling for a lot less coin.

Unfortunately, charging a depleted battery on 110-volt house current took us more than two days. A 220-volt line reduces charging time to about seven hours, and a commercial 440-volt charger does so in under an hour, all for a price.

Base price ranges from $45,500 to $48,650, with the range extender adding $3,000 to either trim. Pricey options brought our test car to $58,700 with navigation, additional tech equipment, moon roof and wireless charging.

Stepping into the i3 is a bit daunting at first. There is no traditional gear shift to be found. Instead, an electronic shifter is connected to the steering wheel stalk with a small dial connector. It also contains the stop/start button which is slightly out of reach.

But once you get past those minor distractions, driving the one-speed direct-drive hatchback is a fun experience. Forward movement is strong, and there is utter silence as the hatchback zooms along reaching 60 mph in a scant 6.4 seconds in our testing. That’s quicker than many sedans on the road.

We found the front leather and cloth seats provided good support and worthy of a classic BMW. Fold-down rear seats seem less cushioned. Front and rear doors open outward with no middle pillar. The setup makes entry, exit and loading much easier; however, back-seat passengers can only exit when the corresponding front door is opened. In olden days, this combination was dubbed “suicide doors,” slang for their unsafe operation under certain conditions.

Storage compartments are plentiful throughout the interior and an adjustable center armrest hovers over a second cup holder up front. An iDrive controller, symbolic with BMW, displays features through a 6.5-inch display screen resting atop a curved and sculpted wood trimmed dashboard.

Len Ingrassia is an independent automotive columnist. Contact him at lenscarcorner@comcast.net.

What was reviewed

2019 BMW i3 Sport

Engine: 42 kWh high-voltage lithium-ion battery pack, two cylinder-powered generator.

EPA rated mileage: 100 combined electric; 31 combined gasoline.

Assembled: The i3 is assembled at a BMW facility in Leipzig, Germany.

Crash test rating: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the i3 and i3 Sport “Good” ratings, its highest in small and moderate frontal crash protection, side collision and roof strength and second best “Acceptable” for head restraint and seat safety. It received a second best rating of “Advanced” for front crash prevention when equipped with crash avoidance and mitigation equipment. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not rated the BMW i3 as of this writing.

Warranty: 4-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, 8-year/100,000-mile high-voltage battery warranty, 3-year/36,000-mile scheduled maintenance.

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