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Published on September 15th, 2014 | by Christopher DeMorro


Mercedes B-Class Electric vs BMW i3

September 15th, 2014 by  

Editor’s Note: One of our regular readers has told me that the Mercedes B-Class Electric is much better than the BMW i3. Having only driven the i3, I’m leaving that call to others for now. Interestingly, Car & Driver has a different opinion. Here’s the summary from Chris in an article reposted from EV Obsession:

BMW i3

This summer, two German rivals whipped up their own take on electric vehicles. In one corner there’s the BMW i3, a purpose-built electric vehicle with an optional gas-powered range extender. In the other corner is the Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive, which uses a shared platform but a drivetrain and battery pack from the one and only Tesla Motors.

Car & Driver pitted the two electric cars against each other in trendy West L.A., and they came away with the impression that one company definitely tried harder with its electric ambitions.

The Mercedes B-Class is, as C&D notes, about as plain as a car gets. While it zips from 0 to 60 MPH in just 6.8 seconds, it weighs 3,935-lbs compared to the 2,853-lbs of the carbon fiber and aluminum BMW i3. That lighter weight translated to a 6.5 second 0 to 60 MPH run, and a 15.3 second sprint down the quarter-mile, compared to 15.6 seconds for the B-Class. The BMW was also marginally better at the lateral-g skidpad and slalom test thanks to its light weight, low center of gravity, and 51.8% rear-weight bias.

The BMW i3 is rated at 61 miles per charge, and C&D came close to that with an estimated 79 miles of driving per charge, which the B-Class beat with 84-miles per charge. However, the i3 felt better, looked better, and got more attention when it came down to it. The B-Class, meanwhile, comes across as a more half-baked attempt to enter the electric car field.

But as Tesla has shown, a purpose-built electric car can take better advantage of the inherent benefits of an EV drivetrain, and not surprisingly, Car & Driver crowned the BMW i3 as king of this two-car segment.

Image Credit: Zachary Shahan | EV Obsession | CleanTechnica (CC BY-SA 4.0 license)

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About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.

  • AllElectric

    I have a Tesla. Wanted smaller car for trips around town. Could not wait to drive I3. Drive is good but inside it feels cheap and the two plastic BMW kidneys are so fake that I considered removing them after taking delivery. But then I thought about carbon fiber repair: how do I fix fender bender? I decided to go with MB. Yes, it weights a ton but easy to fix and the engine is made by Tesla.

  • TedKidd

    Ok, so it wasn’t just me, it was everybody. There were 4 of us. We went from the BMW, which we loved, to the Mercedes and laughed.

    And laughed.

    And laughed.

    If getting “more attention when it came down to it” is important to you, buy the I3 and spend the savings getting help with that narcissism problem. Otherwise, if these cars cost the same (which they don’t), the Mercedes would be hands down choice.

    The Mercedes made the I3 appear like my Gem e2. A glorified golf cart.

    We really wanted to like the i3. The salesman was awesome and the car drove great. And actually I did like the car, but I feel I need to counterbalance the bizzare bias of Car and Driver’s report (BMW a big advertiser??)

    I used Glass to video the experience:
    http://bit.ly/BMWi3testdrivevid (Unfortunately Glass ran out of juice for the Merc test drive…)

    If you only have 2 people, the shortcomings are small. But when you move to 3, 4, or 5 it immediately becomes burnt toast next to the eB. The back seat is LUXURIOUS, even has fold out trays.

    So, things I didn’t like, that weren’t obvious without the benefit of driving the Merc immediately after the BMW:

    – Stupid, ugly, inelegant, cumbersome on/off/shifting pod behind the wheel. Take a tip from Tesla, when someone does something really well, imitate. Mercedes controls are the best.
    – No regen paddles
    – Park Bench dash and door materials
    – Terrible/claustrophobic accommodations for rear passengers
    – Front seat belt attached to rear door, further instilling the feeling of being trapped.
    – Huge ugly inoperable window in back instead of something smaller that actually opens – FURTHER instilling the feeling of suffocating rear seat passengers.
    – Weird pop up mini iPad displays.

    I didn’t get a deep dive into the Merc, but it has:

    – Paddles for regen.
    – an AMAZING interior with memory seats.
    – Range charge option – (it’s a Tesla, remember? Don’t want to charge to 100% unless you absolutely need it.)
    – Awesome rear seat room and comfort.
    – Nice, normal looking – huge improvement over previous ugly duck look.
    – Great Mercedes/Tesla control stalks.
    – Smooth adjusting cruise (better than Tesla)
    – Great backup camera.
    – Etc….

    So, I didn’t like the ipad display on the merc either. Or that it didn’t have keyless go. And I couldn’t get the cruise control radar to work.

    And I did like the regen in the BMW better. I found the seats of both equally comfortable. The BMW is more “sprightly”, (but it’s much less car). BMW had AWESOME modular cup holders, and keyless go.

    Really I liked both cars. I think to do a fair review you would need a week really getting to know them. Setting them up the way you would if you owned them. I really think Car and driver didn’t do their readers justice with their incredibly BMW biased review. journalisticintegritywhere ?

    • Offgridman

      Just want to say I agree with you on the space factor of the new EV’s. The i3,Leaf, MiEV,, the hybrids from Ford, even the ELR to some extent, but at least in it there’s leg room. All give me the feeling of being encapsulated in a spaceship with no room to swing your arms or shift around in the seat. Of course with some the profusion of displays and readouts only add to this, and maybe there are some who like that aspect. And I realize that with an EV there’s some need to have more information on the vehicle but my preference would be more simplified basic display that you could flip through to get the extra. Also I have to wonder when the safety factor will come into this and trying to keep track of so much while driving.
      I have yet to try the Mercedes but if it is more like the Tesla which retains the basic driving experience without over doing the lights and whistles and giving you some elbow room I will have to agree that it is superior to the i3.
      Call me old fashioned if you like, but having chosen older model luxury cars for years for the space and quality of build have found them to be much easier to drive and much more comfortable, while still providing all the extra accessories in a understated way

  • dude

    Does it have to be so ugly?

    • CuriousCat

      I enjoy the styling. Too much of the same everywhere – styling might feel out of place in a year or 2, but give them props for trying to change the same old formula a bit.

  • Offgridman

    The i3 is a very well designed and executed EV but unfortunately like many of the city cars that we saw at this past weekends drive in EV show in Atlanta the interiors are designed for the average sized person. At 6’5″ and 215lbs yes I can sit comfortably and almost stretch out my legs, but even though it has the range extender I think my back would be screaming at me after driving for a couple of hours.
    Of course this is just a problem for me, as the past few cars have been big luxury models and I do have some back problems. It will probably suit a large number of the population.

    • 6’5″? maybe just cut a few inches off at the bottom. That should do the trick.

      • Offgridman

        I’ve had that suggested before,, so it’s necessary to point that would mean the loss of these size 14’s that keep me from tipping over in a stiff breeze. So it would cause more problems than it would cure. Thanks for caring enough to come up with a suggestion though. 🙂
        Also I sent a couple of questions in reply to your last email when you get a chance.

    • Kyle Field

      Bummer man. I was hopeful that the i3 would be a good fit for your larger frame… 🙁

  • Mike333

    Weight per Horsepower, and Breaking distance, is telling: i3 wins.
    Those skinny aero tires still work surprisingly well.

    On the other hand MB wins by 3 db on highway cruising.

  • Mike333

    The i3 leads in design by 10 years. It should have a long lifespan.

  • Mike333

    The advantage the i3 has in best in class kWh range, would be greatly appreciated with new smaller Zero Energy homes. Fewer solar panels would be needed to feed the home, heating, cooking electric and AC, and two cars.

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