The new BMW i3 electric vehicle (EV) is getting high praise from interesting venues: blogs and magazines normally focused on technology and devices. Meanwhile, some traditional car magazines and review outlets seem less impressed.
The BMW i3 is the German automaker’s answer to the success of the Tesla Model S. Weighing in at a miniscule 2,650 pounds thanks to a carbon fibre shell and with a 80-100 mile all-electric range, the BMW i3 launches for the second quarter of 2014. It’ll start at $42,275 (before a $7,500 electric vehicle rebate), in the range of other EVs like the Volt, but some tens of thousands less than the Tesla Model S.
According to Ad Age that price difference between the Tesla and the i3 is critical. Buyers of Teslas are the same demographic as buyers of BMWs. The i3 is BMW’s first move to give those buyers a vehicle they can purchase from BMW instead of Tesla.
Unfortunately for BMW, that has meant that is set up a head to head comparison of a Model S and an i3. And the i3, according to reviews, is no Tesla.
Motor Trend called the BMW i3 “a vacuous driving experience” and a “transportation zombie” in their review of the vehicle. And that was just in the first few paragraphs.
But Motor Trend aside, blogs and tech journals have latched onto the i3. Possibly less concerned with its ability to match the sporty Model S, Autoblog called it un-BMW like, but found that “The i3 fits better with the tagline “Pure Driving Pleasure,” or with the new generic umbrella, “Designed for Driving Pleasure.”” Wired Magazine devoted a very stylish slideshow and review to the i3, focusing on both its svelteness, surprising pickup for an eco-oriented car and sticker price compared to the Tesla.
It seems that BMW may have missed their mark, but created a compelling EV nonetheless. The i3 might not compete with the Tesla Model S, and it doesn’t seem to carry the premium response reviewers enjoy about the BMW brand. But it certainly seems to be an interesting EV that is priced to compete with the Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt and others.
BMW seems to realize this. As Ad Age pointed out, the advertising for the i3 began with open roads and hints of performance; typical BMW focuses. Certainly something that indicated it would compete with a Model S. But now the ads are focusing on heavily-trafficked urban environs as backdrops, all indicating that BMW is highlighting other aspects of the car.
The upcoming BMW i8 will feature more performance. Maybe then BMW can put the Model S squarely in its sights with a more premium, BMW-feeling car.