Tuesday, August 28, 2012

From an E to a 3: My luxurious fall from grace.

I hate driving ICE'd vehicles.  I have been driving gas-powered jalopies for 25 years, and I have been driving my purely electric Active E for 3 months, but there's just no comparison.  The E is faster, quieter, and far more comfortable to drive.  Not to mention it takes no gas--saving me time and money.

Last Tuesday I took my Active E in for its regular service interval.  BMW is now pulling the electric motor out of every car during servicing to be sure that the connection between the motor and the transmissions (called a spline gear) is in good shape.  (See Tom M's post on the spline problem.)  Some Active E's have experienced a failure of the spline gear (causing the electric motor to spin, but not move the car).  Unfortunately, the entire back end of the car must be taken out to access the electric motor and transmission, so it takes a couple days to do the servicing, leaving me to drive this lovely, light blue 328i loaner:

My blue ICE loaner

The good news: I have no spline damage, the motor looks good.  The bad news: there is a crease running the entire length of the battery cage underneath the car.  Apparently I hit something and the battery cage must be inspected.  They don't think there is any permanent damage, but the dealer is not allowed to open the battery cage, only BMW can do that.  Which requires a trip to Oxnard, CA, where BMW's vehicle distribution center is located for the West coast.  They have specially trained Active E Wizards on staff to work their magic on the battery.  Hopefully nothing major, but we'll see.

In the meantime, I have an ICE'd BMW to drive around.  This time it's a 3 series (see my previous comparison of my E to a 1 series loaner I received last time).  Don't take me wrong, I am grateful that my dealer (BMW of Riverside) provides loaners, and BMW loaners no less--a luxurious alternative to my graceful E.  But nothing cools me off faster than ICE'd cars.


The Good:

The 3 series is a bigger car than my E, which is based on the smaller 1 series. In fact, I can't believe just how big the 3 series has gotten.  It has grown over the years, and it feels much larger inside, and out, than past 3 series.

The 3 handles great, and even with its bigger size, it feels much lighter than my weighted down Active E.  This allows it to handle very well in curves (what you expect of a BMW of course).  And the car is really at its best on the freeway, where it has no problem speeding up to pass when needed.

The Bad:

Around town, however, that's another story.  After driving my E for three months I am used to a car that accelerates immediately, never shifts, is quiet, and slows before braking thanks to the regenerative energy system (I rarely hit the brakes in my E).  The 3 series is another animal altogether.  

The 3 has 6 (yes 6) gears in its automatic transmission.  And it shifts very quickly from 1st to 3rd when going 0 to 35 or 40.  The off-the-line torque and power is abysmal compared to my E.  The 3 may feel great off the line compared to other cars in its class, but it feels downright lethargic compared to the E's electron fueled powerhouse.  

Shiny wheels for a loaner car
The Ugly:

There's really nothing ugly about the 3, except for its thirst for fossil fuel.  I have really enjoyed NOT stopping at gas stations over the past three months, and it's an unwanted interruption to my day (and to my wallet) to have to do so now.

When I first drove the 3 series off the lot I hated it.  Nothing personal 3 series, but you vibrate, your slow off the line, you give me whiplash shifting a million times per second, and you don't have any way to stop without hitting the brakes (very rudimentary).  Now that I have driven the 3 for  a week, I am starting to appreciate some of its more positive attributes, such as handling, lighter feel, and great freeway acceleration when needed.  

If it was BMW's plan to force me to keep the 3 for a while so it would grow on me (it wasn't there plan), then it's working.  I no longer hate the 3 series.  I appreciate its more positive attributes, but I still pity it for not being electric.  If BMW made an electric 3 series, I'd run down to my BMW dealer and buy it tomorrow.  Unfortunately, there is no electric 3.  And I understand why, the added size of the car compared to the 1 series means added weight, which is the last thing the Active E needs weighing in at over 4,000 pounds.  But still, I can dream.     

So BMW, if you're listening, the 3 has grown on me as much as it's going to, you can have it back now.  I can't wait to once again feel the thrill of excitement when rocketing off-the-line in my electric E.    


  1. My experience is exactly the same. Well said.

    BMW should listen....the 3series has become a monster. My wife's 2001 model seems to drive better than the newer models and neither holds a candle to the Active E.

  2. I agree. I haven't taken the time to check the official stats, but it seemed like the 2011 3 Series is the same size inside and out as my old 2001 Audi A6, which at the time was in the same class as the 5 series.

    I got my E back yesterday and couldn't be happier to be driving electric again.