BMWi, the German automaker’s global marketing moniker for its technology showcase electric vehicles, uses the phrase “Born Electric” to represent the date a driver acquired their first electrified BMW. I was born electric on April 6th of this year, when I picked up my 2017 i3 with Range Extender in Mineral Grey.
The i3 first showed up on my radar when it was released in 2014. The original color in all their ads was Solar Orange and it was glorious. I fell in deep lust with the spaceship (by way of roller skate) styling, swoopy wooden dashboard with floating screens and futuristic tech. As the driver of a very different weird car back then–a 2008 Scion xB–a BMW, any BMW, seemed hopelessly out of reach.
Fast-forward four years and actually getting one started innocently enough. My better half wanted to go to IKEA, which is on the other side of town from where we live. After the 41 mile jaunt, I figured a quick visit to the nearby BMW Center would be a just reward. I simply wanted to see an i3 up close and in person, but ended up test-driving a certified preowned model that was right up front and charged. It’s at that point that I knew I would pursue this.
Physically, I’m a pretty big guy. Visiting the dealership to look at and sit in an i3 would, in my mind, allow me to put the matter to rest. I figured my size would make me uncomfortable in such a small car. Before getting the i3, I was 90% sure I’d end up with the newly-redesigned Honda Accord.
Somewhat surprisingly, I fit in the i3 fine. Shoulder room is tighter than ideal, but legroom is ample. A cockpit with no center console also makes for a spacious driver’s perch. The high windshield and short hood mean visibility out the front is superb. The slit-like rear windows at each side and thick C-pillars create the now-trendy floating roof. But note, the 2014 i3 had this look before myriad Nissans and Lexii. While stylish, the smallish portholes did cause concern while looking over my shoulder prior to changing lanes during my first few drives in the i3. Oh, how I hope blind spot monitoring follows backup cameras as the next safety tech to become standard on all makes and models.
I left the test drive obsessed with the car. After initially looking at off-lease 2015 models with low miles, I quickly turned my attention to new ones. The dealership where I took that fateful first test drive called to see whether I was interested in a new 2017 in their inventory. They floated a ridiculous lease offer with an obscene down payment and a monthly note that could’ve been the mortgage on a starter home.
Over the course of the next several weeks, I went back and forth with the salesman at that dealership and didn’t take any of it personally. I didn’t have to get a car right then and was under no pressure to get a deal done. The salesman is doing his job, trying to get paid. Everybody’s gotta eat!
After about a month, the dealer presented an offer I was happy with. A no money down 30 month lease with monthlies not significantly more than I was paying for my current Honda. I grok that leasing isn’t the smartest way to go financially, but feel with such a quickly evolving technology, a shorter commitment is justified. Having the backing of a full warranty and no maintenance costs offers peace of mind — for a price. Of course, your mileage may vary when it comes to leasing vs. buying. I just wanted to be candid about what I did and my thinking behind it.
The dealership, Chapman BMW in Chandler, Arizona, won some points by not trying to sell me on ridiculous add-ons. My wife recently bought a Honda (we were big on Hondas for awhile) and an otherwise okay buying experience was marred in the finance room, where the dealer attempted their shell games with the extended warranties and insanely marked up accessories. VIN etching anyone? There was none of that at Chapman.
After a brief walkthrough with a BMW Genius, I was behind the wheel. The odometer had barely turned in my expensive new car and I was facing a metro Phoenix rush hour in bumper-to-bumper traffic for the 40 miles home.
First impression odds & ends and a range-extended road trip.