2014 BMW i3 Real Life Review

Four months ago I leased a 2014 BMW i3 with a range extender. I currently have 2100 miles on the car.


It’s an electric car, that’s just how it works

The car’s range will vary greatly depending on how you drive, what electronics you have on in the car, and the weather. It’s summer now and with the AC running I can go about 70 miles on the battery. Last month I didn’t have to run the AC so hard and I could do 85-90. I understand from other drivers that winter weather will decrease the range to 50-60 miles depending on how cold it is. At highway speeds (70+) range is about 60 miles. With a gas car, steady speed on the highway is your best fuel economy. With an electric with heavy regen braking like the i3, in the city hitting some stop lights is the best for battery economy.

Range anxiety… I was so worried about getting stranded that I paid $5K for the range extender; a motorcycle engine in the back of the car that will charge the battery giving an extra 50 or so miles of range. I’ve used it once. In a gas car having 30 miles of range left warrants an immediate stop at a gas station, in the i3 it’s all good. It’s a weird attitude to have.

You’ll need to install a 220V L2 charger in your garage. The L1 charger that comes with the car will charge it from empty in 18 hours. An L2 charger will charge from empty in four hours. Between the charger and the electrician this was an extra $500 expense.

The i3 is an around the town car. It’s not the best choice for a weekend trip to grandma’s house.

What I don’t like

In the four months I’ve owned the car it’s spent 18 days at the dealer being worked on. I’ve had trim pieces come loose, BMW Assist stopped working, the rear seat came loose,  a drive train malfunction warning/vehicle stall, and awful tire noise. BMW of Northwest Arkansas has been good about getting everything handled under warranty and keeping me in a loaner car. Even so, wondering if my car is a lemon tickled the back of my brain often.

The i3 has very aggressive regenerative braking, so much so that’s its not often the brakes are used. This means that when you do use the brakes it sounds like you’re braking in a car that hasn’t been driven in a year. Lots of grinding and some squeaks.

The car forgets settings. Every time you start the car the radio volume defaults back to just slightly too quiet. The zoom on the nav will sometimes default out. The driving mode always defaults to comfort.

With blue tooth audio playback there is no way to play/pause from the steering wheel or iDrive. This is a thing with every BMW I’ve driven. Edit 8/21/15: An anonymous person was kind enough to point out that pushing the ‘power’ button on the radio will pause Bluetooth. The left and right rocker switch on the far right of the shortcut buttons is a previous/next track button.

The trunk is pretty small. It doesn’t look that way but you’ll have a hard time fitting an entire cart of groceries into it. The rear seats fold down though, giving you a ton of room to work with. You get more road noise with the seats down so you can’t keep them that way all the time.

The front trunk, the frunk, is a joke. It’s smaller than a case of beer and not water proof. I put the L1 charger that came with the car in a ziploc back inside of the frunk. I opened it up the other day and there were some old leaves inside. This is a $50,000 car.

The beep when you lock the car via the key fob is ear piercing. It is really loud.

Things I didn’t like that I fixed

You’re able to change a lot of settings on BMWs by ‘coding’ them. You connect to the car’s on board computer and change some settings. I’ve increased the size of the fuel tank (yes really), enabled turning on the gas engine at will, and changed the keyfob to open the trunk instead of the frunk.

The car came with white carpet floor mats. They looked great until the first day it rained. I replaced them with some all weather mats.

What I like

It’s fast. I always win the zero to the speed limit stop light race. The throttle response is instant. Acceleration is smooth, no gears to change.

One pedal driving. With the regen braking all I do to stop is let off of the accelerator.

The i3 drives like a proper car. It’s hard for me to put into words exactly what that means. If you’ve driven a proper car before you know what I getting on about.

I like the design of the car inside and out. Some people say the outside looks dorky or that the inside looks like it was made by Ikea. I would agree with those people. I like the way it looks. There is a lot of room on the inside.

I like that I don’t have to stop at a gas station once a week. I don’t care about the environment so much as I care about not wasting the time to stop and gas up.

You can fit two rear facing car seats in the back without the driver and passenger having their knees touch the dash. You would be surprised at the cars you can’t do this in; pretty much anything that isn’t a mini-van or full size SUV.


I like my i3. It’s not perfect, but then again I’ve never seen a car that is. I’m happy with the purchase and I have a lot of fun driving it.

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