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The BMW i3 electric car mixes virtue and fun

LAS VEGAS—I found a piece of open road, and I floored it. Not in some fancy sports car, but in the BMW i3, an electric vehicle (EV) built from the ground up to be as energy-efficient as possible.

But this is an EV from BMW, makers of the Ultimate Driving Machine. At a time when most EVs are sedate econoboxes, the i3 had some stereotypes to overcome—and a nearly impossible role model in the Tesla Model S luxury EV.

Promisingly, a test drive at the LA Auto Show had pushed TechHive contributor John Brandon back in his seat with a gasp. You can’t say that about a Nissan LEAF.

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The center display on the i3 can show a map and navigation directions, among other infotainment.

As if sensing my skepticism, the i3 found an empty stretch of road (completely unexpected in the middle of Las Vegas). I briefly pushed the car to more than 80 mph. It’s no M Series (BMW’s high-performance line), but it takes advantage of the instant torque of electric motors to give the car some satisfying oomph at lower speeds.

The dual in-car displays help you manage the car’s charge (among other things) and determine whether you have sufficient range for your next trip. (BMW estimates the car’s range to be between 81 and 99 miles.) A smartphone app lets you manage many of the same features remotely.

I’ll also give this to BMW: The company loves its i3 unconditionally. It touts the car’s efficiencies and proudly shows off the weight-saving carbon-fiber paneling, suddenly making it sound like an aesthetic choice rather than a sacrifice. The Tesla Model S is still the coolest EV around, but the BMW i3 is cool because it’s does what it does and does it well, no matter what anyone else says .

 

This story, "The BMW i3 electric car mixes virtue and fun" was originally published by TechHive.

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