Cars

Published on October 7th, 2014 | by Guest Contributor

7

BMW i3 vs Mercedes B-Class Electric (Exclusive)

October 7th, 2014 by  

By Ted Kidd

I was recently mentioned in the editor’s note to an article on CleanTechnica, Mercedes B-Class Electric vs BMW i3. The short point is that, unlike Car & Driver, I much preferred the Mercedes B-Class Electric over the BMW i3.

mercedes-electric-1

New Mercedes B Electric — really nice!!

mercedes b electric

bmw i3 backseat

Suicide doors and back seat room for a 6′ 5″ tall guy!

Ok, so it wasn’t just me, it was everybody I was with. Four of us checked out both cars. We went from the BMW, which we loved, to the Mercedes — and laughed…

And laughed…

laughing in BMW i3

LMAO! Debbie cracking us all up with her riff on how much nicer the Mercedes is.

And laughed.

If getting “more attention when it came down to it” is important EV purchase criteria for you, ​definitely ​buy the i3. Then you can spend your savings getting help with that narcissism problem.

When driven back to back, the Mercedes made the i3 appear like my Gem e2.

Glorified golf cart

… which is basically a glorified golf cart.

We really wanted to like the i3. The salesman was awesome. He let us take the car for the afternoon, and the car drove great. And actually, I did like the car, but I feel the need to counterbalance the ​BMW bias of Car & Driver‘s conclusions (BMW a big advertiser? Someone own an i3?).

​​MPGe​ gets 5 points​? When people go from paying 20-50¢ a mile to 2-4¢​ per mile​, I don’t think ​saving ​​an additional ​¼ cent is worth the space on the page, much less 5 extra points​! (Car and Driver’s ​upper group rankings have Mercedes 85, BMW 78 — which I think does better justice to ​how ​these vehicles​ measure up​.)

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

I used Glass to create a video of the BMW experience. (Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough battery to record the Mercedes test drive.

So, things I didn’t like about the i3. Things that might not be obvious without the benefit of driving the Mercedes immediately after the BMW:

  • Stupid, ugly, inelegant, cumbersome on/off/shifting pod behind the wheel. Deb had a hard time getting it started, and in gear. 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 seatbelt 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.
bmw i3 cupholder

Nice backup sensors.

I didn’t get a deep dive into the Mercedes, but I liked:

  • Paddles for regen.
  • An AMAZING interior with memory seats.
  • A 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 — improved for 2015!
  • Smooth-adjusting cruise (better than Tesla).
  • Great backup camera.
  • RANGE mode — the battery pack charges to 80%, range mode allows a periodic full charge, meaning this car CAN go 100–120 miles when you need it to.
  • Etc….

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

mercedes b-class electric

New Mercedes B Electric — really nice backup camera feature!! (Hey Tesla, add these lines!?)

And I did like the ​more powerful ​regen in the BMW. 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. Ultimately I don’t like the weird for weirdness sake look​,​ or ​the poor design of that back door. The front seat needs a built-in seatbelt (like my ‘98 Dodge had) and the rear window needs ​be smaller and it needs ​to operate.

Really, I liked both cars, possibly more than the Car & Driver folks did. But the Mercedes is so much nicer and more useful that I think Somebody didn’t do their readers justice with their BMW-biased commentary.

About the Author: Ted Kidd is a Rochester NY Electric Vehicle fanatic, Energy Activist, and Energy Efficiency expert in the residential and small business market.

All images copyrighted by Ted Kidd.


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  • Kyle Field

    I took the i3 for a test drive a few months back and just this week was able to review the Mercedes B Class ED. My high level take aways are as follows:
    Drive Feel – I preferred how the BMW drove. The throttle response was snappier, the steering was tighter. The Mercedes felt like I was driving an economy car – no “instant torque” feel, loose steering.
    Interior Space – As the driver, the BMW felt more open and comfortable. The drivers area of the Mercedes felt a bit cramped to me. Perhaps it was the width of the drivers area but it just felt a bit tighter than the i3. Obviously the rear seats of the i3 are a bit of a joke but as I plan for this car to be a commuter for my wife and expect the rear seats to only be used infrequently, this is not a show stopper.
    Controls/Interface/Nav – The interior of the Mercedes (and the overall feel of the car, actually) felt like a “normal” car. No special whizbang gadgets or tech…just the normal stuff you would expect. The Nav/Multimedia display was literally just a hair bigger than my phone which felt extremely tiny for me. My 5 year old prius has a larger screen. On top of that, it’s not touch screen which feels counterintuitive in the modern world. Being a tech guy, I was also peeved that the screen was low resolution to the point of being pixely. The BMW screen was no masterpiece, but it was much more functional and intuitive to me. Overall, I liked the BMW controls/multimedia interface.
    Design – This is admittedly the most subjective area but my personal preference was again with the BMW. If I’m buying a high tech, electric drive luxury brand car, I don’t want it to feel like a low end economy car. The Mercedes felt like that to me in the sense that the exterior design is very basic. Just a low end, 5 door hatch…similar to a toyota matrix, ford focus, etc. Even the Nissan Leaf looks better and feels like a more high tech car (again, just my opinion). The BMW is a bit over the top in terms of exterior design but I like that it’s just laying it all out there. “Yeah, I’m a completely reimagined take on BMW…as I should be because I’m a reimagined BMW that uses no gas :)”.
    Luxury – The Mercedes felt like more of a luxury car. Seats were more plush, leather, wood trim etc etc. The BMW has these options as well, but it just didnt feel as luxurious. I guess that’s what I realized…I prefer a car that feels “techy” vs luxurious. Luxury is actually a bit of a turn off in the sense that I’m buying this car for the practicality of it.
    Efficiency – The BMW is WAAAAAY more efficient that the Mercedes. The Merc has a rating of 87ish MPGe whereas the BMW is up near 114. This plays out in a big way – you will use 50% more electricity in the Merc vs the BMW. The Battery in the BMW is way larger (28kwh vs 22kwh). The charging time on the Merc is an extra hour (3hrs vs 2hrs to full charge). Cost is not a huge issue here, but why make an EV that’s not efficient? This to me is an indication of a first gen car where they’re just testing the waters. BMW went all in and made a great car, Merc did a find (Gas components) and replace (EV components) and came away with a heavier, bloated compact car…which also weighs ~1000lbs more.

    Anyhow, I think I’m netting out towards the BMW…but it’s all personal preference. My wife likes the luxury hence us looking at BMW and Mercedes. Her call as to where we end up 🙂

    • Now I’m so curious to drive the Mercedes and wish I had found the time while in Berlin 😛

      • Kyle Field

        The other thing I wanted to share but didnt have time with my earlier post was related to volume. The dealer I visited (Thousand Oaks, CA, USA) had one in stock which was great. I asked about options (color, range extend charge, etc) and they shared that they have another 2 dozen on the way in the next month or so. Beyond that, if we wanted a specific build, we could request it but it would take 2 months. I was impressed at how much of a pipeline they are building which leads me to believe they are planning to push some volume and really put it to BMW.

        I also learned that the B Class hasn’t previously been sold in the USA (the gasmobile version) so the B-ED is the first one to hit our shores.

        • Bob_Wallace

          If recent price information about the current and very near future price of batteries is correct then it’s probably time for more manufacturers to get serious about establishing a market presence.

          Time to get off the bench and into the game.

  • I was glad to read this article because after driving both [pure EV] cars back to back at my NDEW event recently, I liked the B-Class better as well. I agree with just about all of Ted’s points and can add one more. According to my BMW salesman, the i3 does not have a sport mode. Thankfully the B-Class does, and I was stunned at how much power it has from a standing start. I was also delighted at how much wheel spin the Mercedes allowed under acceleration, [and this was from a 20 mph roll, on dry pavement, with four adults in a car that is much heavier than the i3]. The i3 allowed no such shenanigans. My EV colleagues and I were grinning ear to ear while test driving the B-Class and we were not expecting that.

  • Gerwin Hop

    With his focus on seats, the writer would better buy a couch

  • Offgridman

    Even without an opportunity to try the Mercedes I can agree with all your points on the i3. Why is it that so many of the new EV’s and hybrids have to make you feel as though you are trying to drive a Gemini or Apollo space capsule, with their overly complicated displays and controls, and lack of elbow room. It may be the driving experience that some enjoy, but it is definitely not for me with my almost forty years of driving.
    At the same six feet five as yourself and back that has had issues for most of my life, various models of luxury cars have been my choice and necessity for almost thirty years. So I know that it is possible to have all of the bells and whistles in the way of accessories while making them unobtrusive and easy to use. As you say Tesla, even with their IPad like center display has managed to figure this out. Some have made complaints about having to scroll through the various menus to get to the option that they want to adjust, but that is easier to me than trying to find the right display and switch someplace on the dash or steering wheel to do what you want. Yes in time it is possible to adjust to any new vehicles controls and idiosyncrasies, but the more time you have to spend doing that, the less time your eyes are on the road, and the more of a hazard you are to yourself and others.
    Due to all the features and accessories that have become available in cars through the years I really look forwards to the implementation of voice controls and some ability at self control in more of our vehicles. The death and injury rates on our highways is totally ridiculous for our so called modern society. And for those that would complain about the loss of the driving experience in controlling a one to two ton metal bomb at high speeds, can you please go do it on a enclosed track and leave the rest of us to travel safely.

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