Test Drive of BMW i3

BMW i3 Roundel
A month ago, I had the opportunity to test drive a BMW i3, BMW’s new all electric vehicle.  I’ve never driven an all electric vehicle before, but really wanted to see how the BMW feel would translate. At some point I’d like to drive a Tesla and a Nissan Leaf for comparison.BMW i3 Logo
The vehicle I drove was part of a non-US spec fleet that has been touring the US for demonstration purposes. One of the features it has which will not be available in the US immediately is a sliding glass sunroof. It was explained to me that the US regulations require that the sunroof be directly connected to the metal roof of the vehicle, and the i3 has no metal in the roof of the vehicle. It’s all carbon fiber, and both stronger and lighter than the metal roof in most vehicles, but regulations were written without the future in mind.
BMW i3 Rear QuarterBMW i3 Front QuarterBMW i3 Doors OpenBMW i3 rear without brakesBMW i3 rear with brake lights

I’ve seen pictures of this vehicle in the past and thought it sort of funny looking. The first thing about seeing it in person is that the parts I don’t like don’t stand out so much. I’m not enamored of the look directly from the front, but the side profile and back view I quite like. When the doors are opened they have the comforting and very solid BMW feel. The front doors don’t have upper window frames, so when the door is opened the window slides down a tiny bit, and then raises after the door has been closed, to provide a consistent seal. the back seat doors are suicide doors, meaning that they are hinged at the back. When both doors are open, there’s no center pillar, allowing for easy access to the back seats.
BMW i3 Steering WheelBMW i3 Eucalyptus Dashboard
The dash board has two instrument pods, the smaller one with the speedometer directly visible through the steering wheel, and the larger central display. I did not like that the speedometer display could only display the speed using large digits. The electric motor is very responsive and it was quite easy to be over the speed limit in any situation. I believe that an analog dial in peripheral vision is much easier to recognize compared to a set of digits and with a computer display like this should at least be a user configurable option. The central console could display navigation options or details about how the car was operating. The car uses regenerative breaking. If you raise your foot completely off the accelerator pedal the engine would actively decelerate the car, producing power to put back into the battery pack. One of the modes on the central display would show the power usage of the vehicle. It was a really cool display, but very distracting when I really should have been paying attention to what was on the road.

I was not crazy about the texture of the dashboard and some of the trim panels. They were made of a fibrous board paneling, perhaps a type of carbon fiber. The salesman told me that it was both extremely light and extremely strong. He also indicated that my dislike might be a bit of a generational thing, and that people 15 years younger than me don’t associate the look with the same things. I can accept that, even though it’s not to my taste. I did like the curved eucalyptus wood panels on some of the flat parts of the dashboard.

Part of the driving loop I took had me accelerating onto the interstate. I don’t remember if I floored the accelerator or not, but I do know that it took off quite quickly, and I realized I was approaching 70mph, very soon after I’d signed the agreement that I’d not do anything illegal while drive the car. My first instinct was to take my foot completely off the pedal, which started the regenerating braking, as if I’d stepped on the brakes. Obviously it would take a little getting used to but I think it would probably happen extremely quickly. The example I’ve used when talking to people is driving a sport motorcycle with its huge power to weight ratio. In gear you get a feel for smoothly rolling off the throttle and holding at the speed you want to go. I was told that regenerative breaking encourages one pedal driving, in that you rarely use the brakes at all, and BMW is expecting the brakes to last over 100k miles, with the brake fluid needing service more than the pads. I don’t think I put my foot on the brakes even during the city portion of the drive. There are no gear changes, so both acceleration and deceleration are extremely smooth.
BMW i3 electric motorBMW i3 space for range extender motor
The i3 has an advertised driving range of 80 to 100 miles per charge, with the optional range extender motor version just under doubling the range. (for regulatory reasons the vehicle can’t drive farther using gasoline than it does under pure electric to qualify as an electric vehicle.)

I lifted the panel in the back hatch storage compartment and saw the electric motor offset to the left, and a large empty space to the right side. I was told that was where the range extender motor would fit, if the model was so equipped.

I don’t think I’ll be buying one of these any time soon, but it’s more because I’m happy with the 2002 X5 I am still driving after having ordered new from the factory with the configuration I wanted, than because of anything with the new vehicle. I use public transit or personal exercise for my daily commute, with my X5 being used for trips into the mountains for skiing, or longer distance drives closer to 500 miles each way that simply do not work with current electric vehicles. The fact that my X5 is paid for also makes the expense of a new vehicle a bit of a hurdle.
BMW i3 eDrive

BMW iPod Connectivity

Last Monday I came across a post on http://www.bmwblog.com/2014/04/14/add-ipod-connectivity-older-bmw-hard-think/ talking about adding iPod connectivity to BMW vehicles. I’ve got a 2002 BMW X5 with the high end dsp equipped stereo and navigation system. It’s got a 6 disk CD Player in the back, which was reasonable in 2002, but extremely limited in 2014.

I’d heard about the DICE model in the past, but never heard about the http://usaspec.com/ model. The state of the USA Spec website was slightly concerning, but the fact that I could order the part from Amazon was at least a bonus. That it explicitly listed compatibility with the DSP unit was also promising. I ordered the item, expecting it to arrive by Wednesday. The model that arrived on Wednesday had the right information on the outside of the package, but had a PA11-BMW instead of the PA12-BMW-dsp that I needed. Thankfully Amazon returns department set up a shipment of the correct model to arrive by Friday, and simple return label for the incorrect item.

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The first package came with all of the correct supplementary parts, just not the correct electronics. It’s got the DSP cable at the top right, the cable that connects the USASPEC PA12-BMWdsp to the BMW Wiring harness, the iPod connector cable, and a small coax male to male cable connector.
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The correct hardware has both the dsp connector and a four position dip switch.

I removed my CD Changer and plugged the device into the cables in its place. I plugged my iPod into the device. The iPod put the words BMW up on the screen, and also told me it was OK to disconnect.

I was not able to get the device working in my system. At one point I had music playing, and the text of the song names displayed in my instrument cluster, but not on the center console display. I never had control working from the center console radio.

After all of this work I found references that it is not compatible with the NAV system. I had seen some references that it was not compatible with the satellite radio systems, as well as other misspellings in the documentation, so I didn’t know if I’d be able to find a way to make it work.

I’ve been interested in having this working with my vehicle, and wouldn’t mind paying for an original BMW part if I can make it work. Unfortunately my BMW was built in May of 2002, and there was a revision in October 2002 that has an AUX port on the back of the head unit that would make connecting any device to the unit much easier.

I’ve read that various parts of the system can be swapped out, such as the fact my nav system is CD based, and I can swap out the CD Nav System with a DVD Nav system, and the console should then be able to do the newer 3d navigation that was in newer models.

I’d really like to know if I can buy a newer head unit and get the Aux port just by swapping out the in dash component.

Michelin Diamaris and directional tread?

I replaced my winter tires with my summer tires on my BMW X5 last weekend. I’ve got Michelin Diamaris as my summer tires, which were the OEM tire when I purchased the X5, and I’ve replaced a couple of times since I bought the vehicle in 2002. While I was installing the wheels, I noticed that the tread didn’t look symmetric to me, which seems strange from a water traction point of view. 

I went to the web site for the tires, http://www.michelinman.com/tire-selector/category/suv-crossover/latitude-diamaris/tire-details#pr-header-4536 and they don’t seem to have different tires for left and right in the part numbers. I downloaded the picture of the tire, and rotated it 180 degrees. Here’s what the left and right tires should look like side by side:



The tires have a specific pattern for the outside of the tire and the inside of the tire, but the inside portion has essentially half a V pattern to the center groove. Notice how the “V” in the inside portion of the tread would push water to the center of the tire on one side, while pushing it away from the center on the other. 

In the past I’ve had tires that had a symmetric V pattern, and the direction of rotation was very important for wet traction. Staring at these looks counterintuitive to me.

Has anyone else noticed this? 

Is my installation correct, or are these tires supposed to be delivered in a left-right pair?