What in the hell are you thinking, BMW vehicle development Chief Technical Officer, Frank Weber? Seriously, casting shade on the BMW i3 — the most beloved and technologically advanced mass-market EV your company has ever built? This is not smart, and I won’t stand for it.
A new report from Automobilewoche, sister site of Automotive News Europe, has BMW “Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Development” Frank Weber responding to questions about BMW’s hotely-anticipated “Neue Klasse” platform set to underpin a number of new vehicles, including an entry-level one that will act as the successor to the beloved BMW i3. Apparently in response to questions about how the new i3 will compare to the old, Weber had this to say, per Automotive News Europe:
OK hold the phone. “In the eyes of others the i3 was not a real BMW. A bit of an outsider in the classroom”?!
Look, I’m not saying that Weber is technically wrong. I mean, read contemporary reviews of the i3 when it launched for the 2014 model year (it left the U.S. after 2021), and you’ll see quotes like this one from British car magazine EVO:
However, in spite of the rear-drive layout there’s no pretending that the i3 is as engaging to drive as most of BMW’s cars. That doesn’t mean there’s no fun to be had, especially as the weight is distinctly biased towards the rear of the car, but the DSC stability control system is keen to not let things get out of hand. Those thin tyres are designed more with low rolling resistance in mind than lateral grip as well so it’s all too easy to overcome their hold on the road – especially in the wet
The electric power steering is devoid of feel, but it’s pleasingly direct and the i3 has a fantastic turning circle, while the brakes (ventilated discs all-round) feel over-engineered for the car…
…ride comfort isn’t great. The electric B-Class or Golf annihilate the BMW in that regard and while the i3 feels stable and comfortable at motorway speeds, around town the large wheels seem to pick up every little imperfection in the surface underneath.
So yes, in the areas of ride and handling — two metrics that are extremely important to a dynamics-focused brand like BMW — the i3 was never amazing. So yes, you can consider it an outsider.
But that quote above about it being “not a real BMW” and then saying BMW won’t repeat the old i3, as if the i3 were somehow a bad product, is odd to me. The i3 is one of the coolest cars BMW has ever made. Ever.
When world-renowned automotive manufacturing expert Sandy Munro tore the i3 down about eight years ago, he referred to the i3 as “The Model T of our time.” He said “From an engineering standpoint, everything was jaw-dropping,” and that the vehicle represents “a watershed [moment],” and not just for cars, but also for aircraft and trains, specially because of the way BMW built the car out of Carbon-Fiber Reinforced Polymer.
It’s an unbelievably advanced vehicle, and would be even for 2023 in some ways, and BMW should be proud to have built it. This was an example of the company showing off its engineering prowess, so why is a BMW executive even saying that folks think it’s “not a real BMW”? What’s more “BMW” than excellent, advanced engineering?
I don’t get it.
[Editor’s Note: I agree 100% with David here. Frank seems to have forgotten about some really important BMWs that kept the company going when it would have died a grim, post-war death otherwise. Think about the Isetta, the 600 and 700 BMWs; those were real BMWs! They belong in the classroom as much as any M3 does. These were novel, innovative cars!
If you work for BMW and think of these cars, and their spiritual successors like the i3, as “outsiders in the classroom,” then I think you need to get sent to the office. – JT]