2017 BMW i3 Rex Test Drive: Zeitgeist Of The HOV Lane – Forbes

Posted: Sunday, February 12, 2017

When my lovely attorney visited the Santa Monica offices of a financial services firm during our week in a heavily optioned i3 range extender, she noticed a gaggle of i3s around the charging stands. Clearly, i3’s pleasant mix of Eco Cool, frontier-busting engineering and BMW prestige has won the hearts and minds of stock traders and market analysts wanting HOV lane access.

In Old Town Pasadena last Saturday night to see “La La Land,” BMW i3s seemed to spontaneously multiply at charging stations. One slipped up silently alongside us as we walked Green Street to the Arclight theater. After a slow start with the first version of i3, BMW has found a welcoming audience for its electric vehicle engineering.

BMW enhanced the battery packs for 2017, increasing range to 114 miles or so in the extremist ECO PRO+ setting, which limits top speed and acceleration, and turns off air conditioning and other ancillary systems to preserve charge. Tap into the range-extending gasoline scooter engine to trickle charge the batteries and you gain another 65 or so miles of range. But for anything less than the 200-mile drive from Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo for a wine country weekend, there’s no reason to wear the ECO PRO+ hair shirt. Toggle into COMFORT mode and suddenly, miraculously, i3 delivers considerably more performance. Los Angeles to Santa Barbara for a romantic weekend? You will not tap the range extender.

ABOVE: Front windshield’s massive proportions open the world

Inside, i3 has the sensibilities of a tiny aircraft in an eco-friendly sci-fi future. The tall, long forward doors open to 75-80 degrees. Combine that with seats placed nearly as high as in a compact SUV and it’s easy to lean in—no stress on the lower vertebrae. Once in, there’s ample room for driver and front passenger. At six three I did NOT require all available leg room or full extension of the steering column.

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