Sunday, June 8, 2014

That's Tom's BMW i3!

The new look
Before the wrap


A few weeks before I took delivery of my i3, I announced that I would be getting a complete body wrap for it shortly after I took possession. I was never really in love with the color choices that BMW offered for the car and also didn't particularly like that the hood on all of the cars was gloss black, regardless of what color you chose, so I wanted to see what the car would look like monochrome and with a more bold color.

Laurel Grey looked better than I thought it would!
I do have to admit, once I started seeing the i3s in person at dealerships, the colors BMW selected did begin to look better than I expected. In fact, my Laurel Grey i3 looked so good, I had reservations about going through with the wrap after all! The Frozen Blue accents look great and the Laurel Grey is a very dark grey, which nearly eliminates the color difference of the black hood, making the car look all the same color from only a short distance.

I had it done at Designer Wraps in Millville, NJ

The infamous rear window dip
Well as you can see, I went through with the wrap and I'm really happy that I did. The bright red metallic wrap (3M Metallic Red for those interested) looks fantastic and the black trim I used on the side doors really achieved the effect that I was looking for. One of the questionable design effects on the i3 is the drastic drop in the window line in the transition from the front to the rear window. BMW said they did this to allow a better outward view from inside the vehicle, particularly for the rear passengers. Since the rear windows are fixed and cannot be opened, by making them as large as possible the rear passengers hopefully won't feel "trapped" inside. By using a black wrap overlay that extends from the corner of the front door to the bottom of the drop at the leading edge of the rear dip, I was hoping to give the appearance that the entire opening was one smooth stream-flow. It looked good on paper, but would it achieve the effect in person? Take a look and tell me what you think. I'm pleased and believe it gives the car the design effect I was hoping for.
The black line hides the dip and smooths out the flow of the window opening.

One of the good things about vehicle wraps is that the wrap protects the paint underneath very well. It resists scratches and chips from small rocks and when you do take it off, the car is pretty much perfectly preserved. I'll probably leave the wrap on for about a year and when I take it off it will feel like a got another new i3. As I mentioned above I was really pleased with my Laurel Grey i3 once I finally saw it so I won't mind removing the red wrap once I tire of it. Here in the US, all of the test drive cars were either Solar Orange or Andesite Silver, so if we wanted a different color we had to order it without actually seeing the color in person. I was probably one of the very few people in the US who did see most of the other colors because I go to many of the various industry automotive shows. I saw a Laurel Grey i3 for a short time at the Geneva Motor Show a few months ago so I was able to get a quick glimpse of it in the flesh for the first time. At that point I had already ordered my Laurel Grey i3 months earlier sight unseen.  

The red grills gotta go!
While I really like the overall look, there is one thing I don't like and I am going to correct. I had the center of the BMW double kidney grills wrapped red like the rest of the car. It just didn't translate from paper to reality as well as I had expected. There's too much red in the front of the car now and I'm going to remove the red wrap inside the grills and return it to the gloss black of the stock i3.

I wrapped the lower rear bumper black
Stock i3s have a color coded rear bumper insert

Another reason I decided to get the wrap is because I write for a few online car sites, like BMWBLOG, InsideEVs, GreenCarReports and PlugInCars and I thought it would be cool to have the distinct color so the readers would immediately know that's my car when they see a picture of it, and that might inspire them to read the article (or perhaps make them quickly leave the page!). I'm sure others will get wraps and customize their i3s also, but for now if you see a custom red i3 with the black out trim on the side doors in a news story, I think it's safe to say, "That's Tom's i3." : ) Please let me know what you think of it in the comments section below.

Some pictures we took during the wrap process:

I had a leftover ///M badge from my April Fools post so I stuck it on for kicks
UPDATE: I removed the red wrap from the BMW kidney grill. It definitely looks better all black.


  1. "By using a black wrap overlay that extends from the corner of the front door to the bottom of the drop at the leading edge of the rear dip, I was hoping to give the appearance that the entire opening was one smooth stream-flow."

    Hat's off to you Tom. The effect works, and significantly enhances the looks of the car. Hope BMW takes your cue and incorporates the concept in either future paint detailing or structural changes.

  2. So how much does it cost? I might do my rear bumper to avoid dings.

  3. I'm glad you've decided to remove the red you had put in the grill centers, it kind of erased the signature kidney grills. I also like that you fixed BMW's design mistake, and fixed that awkward window line, it makes the view from the passenger seat nicer, but it doesn't help the view other people have looking at the design. I'm thinking of just having the hood done to match the body color, I was thinking of having a shop paint it, but I may now investigate wrapping the hood. I was also going to investigate a tint that looks like paint to correct the window dip, I've seen headlights done with a film that matched the paint. I thought if they could do a strip of it on the lower part of the rear passenger windows that might be away of correcting the look.


  4. Hello Tom, is there anything like photovoltaic car wrap? I know I probably shoot a bit to far here, but it is a shame BMW did not give us this option, considering the roof and the hood are black anyway. If it having the roof covered with photovoltaic cells would be sufficient to keep the air-conditioning running at some minimum during the summer time, it would be great, wouldn't it? Are you aware of any options here? Thanks, Zsolt

  5. I think you turned a great looking car into a

  6. [Your comment system doesn't work properly on ipad]

    … turned an elegant modern car into a pimped over-the-top ugly mess. Why not add a giant air-intake and splitter in the front and a bad-ass wing in the back? That would maybe fit the color.

    I personally love how BMW i designed the i3, colors and accents and all.

    1. Thank you for the comment Matthias! Styling is obviously a personal choice and I am happy to hear you love the i3 as is. The overall reaction has been extremely positive so far, and I've even received messages from BMW employees that like what I've done. I like it, but will probably change a few things around before I ultimately take the wrap off and enjoy the stock color arraignment.

      Jedem das Seine!

      Best wishes,

    2. I like both the color change on the hood and the black treatment at the top of the doors. I have an ionic silver I3 Rex and just had the hood and parts of each A-pillar molding painted silver to match the body color. My shop left the grill centers black and painted the washer nozzles. Total cost was $800 including $52 to cover the cost for one broken a-pillar molding (they are very hard to remove). All who have seen it so far strongly prefer the new look.

      Next task is the door treatment - graphic film is on order.

    3. I like the sound of it David! Pictures please!


  7. Hey Tom, I saw my first i3 "in the flesh" today, and I couldn't, for the life of me, figure out how to tell if it was done charging! Is there no public charging indicator?

  8. Hi Tom,

    nice color. Is the film from 3M? If yes witch is the name of the color?

    1. Yes Claudio, it is made by 3M. The mane is "3M Metallic Red".

  9. Really ahead of its time, considering BMW has made this a factory color for the 2017 i8. Looks great.