Friday, September 28, 2012

The i3 Shows off in Paris

The 2012 Paris Auto Show is underway and BMW has once again trotted out the concept i3, albeit with a new interior. There aren't much changes to the interior, just different materials and colors and the outside is still the same as we've seen for over a year now. With the launch of the i3 about a year away, I suspect we won't get our first glimpse of the real production version until after the New Year, probably at one of the early 2013 Auto Shows. While Paris didn't reveal anything new about the outward looks of the car, BMW did put out a nice display of the CFRP body shell and drive module, take a look:

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

First i3 Interior Spy Shot Captured by Bimmerpost

Bimmerpost was the first to get a decent shot of an i3's dashboard. While much is still covered and the dashboard is obviously not in finished trim, you can see a lot of what BMW has kept and what they have changed from the concept i3. Compare this new photo with the concept i3 below:

BMW is keeping the gear shift know on the steering column. That oval 'Q' looking knob is the gear selector. If you push it forward you put the car in drive and if you pull back all the way you put it in reverse. I guess somewhere in the middle is neutral, there must be a distinctive click or resistance when you pass neutral or it would be difficult to know when you have placed it in neutral. The start/stop button is also on the steering column.

The two main instrumentation panels appear to be similar in size and location as the concept, and if you expand the picture to the right it looks like the display on the drivers instrument cluster is very close to what the concept i3 display looked like. It is fuzzy, but you can clearly see the main display is just about exactly what the concept display showed. You can see the current speed in the center, surrounded by an oval which displays the level of energy you are either using or gaining with regenerative braking. On the left is the outside temperature and on the right is the amount of miles you have driven on the current trip. Along the bottom there is line that represents the battery charge level with the estimated remaining miles you have before needing to plug in. If indeed I am correct about the oval circle encompassing the speed indicator, and all that is displayed is an amount of bars to show you if you are using or recapturing energy, then I will be disappointed. I want that to be represented in a numeric value for me to see like watt hours per mile. Five bars doesn't tell me anything about how much energy I'm using or how much I'm gaining by driving down a long hill. I'd like to see the actual energy flow in real value, not just bars please. I do like this small simple display unit though, and expect the production one to be all screen, unlike the one in the photo that has more painted surface than screen.

Now to the center stack console and here is where it gets a little dicey in my opinion. I'm not a fan of what I see in the picture. In fact it reminds me of the center stack console of my late 90's Honda Civic. I'm not going to go all out and slam it yet because the best feature, the large display screen is covered and hidden from view. However I can't help but look at what is visible, compare it to the concept i3 console and wonder what went wrong. They kept the tray to hold items between the controls and the display which I think is nice to have, but the button arrangement, vents and knobs remind me of something from the past, not the future of personal mobility. I loved the simple, modern, streamlined look of the concept i3's dash and I guess I was hoping for more of that look. I'm not giving up yet though because most of the dash is still covered and who knows, this might not even be the real production dash. The steering wheel was borrowed from a 3 series so perhaps what we see is only partially correct, however I have to believe what we see here is mostly what we'll get.

I know production cars never quite live up to the concept form. Designers can do wild things when they are making one car, and often some of the aspects of the things they dream up don't translate to making an affordable production vehicle, so changes are made. I doubt the manufacturers say "Yeah this concept is gorgeous, too nice for the public in fact so let's ugly it up a bit". I just really liked the look of the concept i3 interior (more so than the look of the exterior)and hope BMW manages to bring as much of it to the production version as possible.