Two days ago I was in a 2013 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Black Series, a growling symbol of power that made sure everybody down the whole damn block knew what was coming. Yesterday, I drove the BMW Active E, an all-electric version of the 1 Series and a car that is quieter than a hummingbird and a mosquito contesting their wing speed. It was a really weird transition.
I'd never driven a fully electric car. I'd heard all the stories about how soft the Prius is and how the Fisker Karma actually produces sound to make sure surrounding people are aware that the car is near, but you can't fully appreciate the tranquility that you experience until you ride in one yourself. I ended up pushing the start button a few times, waiting to feel or hear even the slightest indication that the engine was running. What I got instead was a grinning BMW rep with the response, "yep, it's on."
The simple interior design matched the quaint soundless motor but contradicted the stereotype that electric cars make for nothing but a complex electrical mess of wires, batteries, and computers.
One of the first notable driving differences was the fact that there isn't an idle speed. The car just sits there, waiting for you to actively give it the go-ahead to move from its resting position. Unless, that is, you're on a tilt, in which case you'll start rolling—like a manual does in neutral.
Driving a total of about 15 blocks in the thick of New York City rush hour on 42nd and 6th, there was nothing but stop-and-go traffic. The pedal was pretty responsive (no considerable drag like dinky three- or four-cylinder cars), though the rated nine seconds to 60 is nothing that'll get your girl wet. The ride was extremely smooth and comfortable on the NYC roads scattered with garbage-filled potholes and loose metal sheets covering construction spots.
With no music running, the cabin provided somewhat of a temporary escape, pushing the exterior Times Square madness to the back of my cluttered head. The simple interior design matched the quaint soundless motor but contradicted the stereotype that electric cars make for nothing but a complex electrical mess of wires, batteries, and computers.
When I arrived back at my starting point, I didn't even have to tap the brakes. The inherent pull back once I let go of the gas brought me to a halt, leaving me wishing I could take it for a more extended spin. When we do, we'll let you know how well it really holds its charge, how it feels on the highway, and how long I have to wait for the battery to reach full bars.
Snap Verdict: The Active E seemingly proves BMW was able to bring some style and sport into the all-electric automotive world. With 170 horsepower and up to 100 miles on a charge, it would be a fantastic way to get to and from work. Too bad people didn't have these when everybody in NYC was lining up for a few gallons of gas.