2014 BMW i3: Does It Need a Start Button?
July 1, 2015
The interior of our 2014 BMW i3 is refreshing. When you hop in, you can see the work of an automaker aggressively trying new ideas and taking new approaches to design. Take the gear selector. It looks like a stubby "D" in profile and feels like some kind of throttle stick in use.
But why is there a start/stop button?
The Tesla Model S doesn't have one, and it works great. After you hop in, you simply put the car in gear and drive off. I'm reminded of this every time I hop in the i3 to go somewhere. Can we ditch it, BMW?
Back to that shifter. I like its look and feel, but the choosing a gear seems backwards in operation. You twist the dial away from you (pushing forward with your thumb) to select drive and twist back for reverse. I'm used to a stalk you push down for drive, and I've ended up in the backwards gear a few times by accident (for the record, Erin didn't have these difficulties).
But why do we need to twist it? The location makes me think "stalk," like the Model S, so my brain thinks it works like one, even though the gear labels clearly indicate the direction to twist it. Still, I wonder why it doesn't move up and down like a more familiar rocker switch.
Beyond both being electric cars, the i3 and Model S share a neat trick: Flat floorboards. You don't need a transmission tunnel when you don't have a transmission, and that means you don't need to encroach on interior space with a bulge running down the middle of the car. You can leave the floor flat, opening up storage space and making the interior feel larger. It's a nice spot for handbags, though it would be nice to have a small bin here.
Carlos Lago, Road Test Editor @ 6,456 miles