It’s field-trip time. We held this month’s meeting at Passport BMW in Marlow Heights, MD. Unfortunately, the dealership only had a corporate-owned display model of the new i3, and headquarters says it can’t be test-driven. Test-drive i3s with the range-extender engine (“REx”) were due the next day, held up at port by final stickering of the hybrid variant. (Full-BEV i3s are already in customer hands.) Still, the club checked out the elegant interior and surprising back seat.
We were met by Sean, Passport’s i3 point man. After plenty of tire-kicking, we kicked off the meeting proper at 7:12. General Manager Joe welcomed us and gave a quick brief… we then gave him an earful that was anything but brief. Passport, like other dealers branching out from gassers, is willing to learn, and admitted “everything’s going to have to evolve.” Even their body shop is onboard. Club members shared their war stories of clueless or simply inexperienced dealers, and some outright haters. This is why Tesla starts their own showrooms. We also offered our suggestions for talking to both the current, educated EV base, and the coming buyers who haven’t done their own research. Passport was quite receptive to all this, in addition to their hospitality.
Phan from BMW Corporate then gave a fuller presentation. Although the i3 can out-handle a MINI and beat every other BMW, 0-30 (yes, EVERY other), it’s not some design exercise or track-day ringer. It’s a fully-fleshed-out system for the future, with the materials and factories also engineered for sustainability. The Leipzig factory is powered by wind; the cloth fiber is harvested from what was considered a weed. That it’s a blast on track day is then an added bonus; yes, it’s a real BMW. Phan has been to BMW track events around the country, and shared the “EV grin” with folks accustomed to ICE lag, backlash, and windup, not instant EV torque. And this is all before the i8. Continue reading