What Makes the BMW i Series Special?

In the 105 years BMW has designed and built cars, it has earned a reputation for pushing the envelope and bringing cutting-edge engineering to the masses. A shining example of this commitment to innovation is the i Series, a line of BMWs that focuses on alternative fuel technologies, new materials and a forward-looking driving experience.

Past i Series were something of a specialty product, a niche in the BMW portfolio showcasing new technologies like hybrid powertrains and provocative design. However, several new models on the horizon will bring the i Series to the forefront of the BMW lineup.

Early i Series Models

You may have seen an i Series model on the road, as they’ve been available for almost 10 years. The compact i3 launched in Europe in 2013 and the United States in 2014. It offers fully electric power, with the option for added motivation from a two-cylinder range-extender internal combustion engine (ICE).

Some readers may be surprised to learn that the i3 is still being produced today. Owners praise the car for its low fuel consumption and airy, premium interior. The i3 also boasts advanced carbon-fiber reinforced-plastic (CFRP) construction, which keeps weight under 3,000 pounds without sacrificing safety.

If you’re looking for something more evocative, you may have noticed the i3’s stablemate, the i8 — which is now out of production. It used carbon fiber and CFRP to deliver a battery-powered car under 3,400 pounds. A comparably sized Tesla Model 3 can exceed 4,000 pounds, and a Model 3 can reach 5,000, eating into the benefits of the car’s electric powertrains.

Alas, BMW says it will no longer make use of carbon for future i models because battery technology has improved to the point that it’s uncalled for. Still, the i3 and i8 demonstrate the philosophy of the i model line with their use of the latest materials to achieve safety, performance and efficiency.

The Future of BMW i

The i brand celebrating its 10th birthday in 2023 represents BMW’s distinctive offering for buyers who want to enjoy the luxury brand’s driving experience in a package that incorporates the latest sustainability technologies.

Many automakers have struggled with the challenge of how to make electric cars more easily acceptable. Only recently have powertrains and packaging enabled EVs to look and function like their ICE-powered counterparts. They still deliver the benefits of a reduced carbon footprint, silent operation, instant acceleration and regenerative braking associated with gas-powered cars.

The new BMW i4, iX and iX3 will join the i3 as full-time i series offerings, creating a complete line of fully electric i models, replete with all the luxury and performance you would expect of a BMW. The iX3 is already available at the time of writing, and all three models should be ready to do battle with rival EV offerings like Ford’s Mustang Mach-E, Audi’s e-tron line, the upstart Hyundai Ioniq 5 and all things Tesla.

Living up to The Name

Will these new offerings from the Bavarian Motor Works offer the drive a BMW should? All signs point to yes.

In the world of EVs, power is easy to come by. Still, the forthcoming i4 sedan will tout 523 horsepower and upwards of 600 pound-feet of torque, placing it squarely in competition with Audi and handily outpacing the Mach-E in top GT Performance guise. More meaningful for would-be EV buyers might be the i4’s projected 373-mile range and fast-charging capabilities, which should make it a viable alternative to a Tesla. Plus, you get the added benefit of BMW’s build quality and driving dynamics.

You can walk into a BMW dealership today and buy an iX3, perhaps the least aspirational of the i series cars, but a highly functional electrified take on the X3 crossover. With 286 miles of range and performance that easily surpasses a base-model X3, it’s a great solution for people who want a “normal” crossover that just happens to be electric.

It seems that models without numbers represent the fullest expression of the i credo. The i4 and iX show off bleeding-edge features like the new iDrive 8 infotainment interface, optional BMW CarData telematics and what BMW calls “shy tech.” This is a concept where features like radar sensors and cameras are integrated smoothly into the vehicle’s exterior, while inside, the stereo seems to play without any speakers in sight.

It’s all part of the magic of i. If the M brand is any indicator, BMW knows how to develop a product line. Look forward to more innovative and sustainable offerings from this new subbrand. It doesn’t seem too outlandish to think that someday, we might even see a collaboration between the two.

A Closer Look at BMW Telematics

Have you ever pulled up your favorite GPS program and been pleasantly surprised when it knows just where you’d like to go next? If so, you’ve experienced the benefits of telematics.

Tele-What?

Telematics are services that combine communications technologies with vehicles, computers, and electronics.

Until recently, the banner of telematics was largely carried by companies like Apple and Google. But BMW’s new ConnectedDrive service will offer a fully integrated suite of technologies that surpass and expand on what you might do using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

A Brief History of BMW Telematics

You’re probably aware that your BMW’s onboard computers record data about the car’s operation. For example, a check engine code or your favorite seating position.

BMWs have supported the use of onboard SIM cards since way back in 2001, as any proud E38 or vintage 8-series owner might remind you as they brandish their sweet armrest-entombed Motorola.

However, it’s only recently that wireless technology has become potent enough to relay meaningful information about your car back to BMW corporate servers in real-time and make use of it effectively.

Introducing BMW CarData

Great, so now your car company can track your every move along with your cell phone provider! Don’t lock yourself in the basement just yet, though, because the BMW ConnectedDrive service is completely opt-in.

The service is available as a subscription and can provide several intelligent benefits. It’s been available in Europe since 2017 and is available in the USA since 2020. For example, how about using the car’s voice command system to pull up directions to your next destination on-the-fly?

Directions are only the beginning, though, because the telematics integration built in to new BMWs allows for a host of helpful services and features. All aspects of the driving experience can now be fine-tuned to fit your preferences.

One of the most helpful components of CarData is the ability to request and download your car’s data at any time and manage how it’s used. You’re in control. And there’s a lot you can do with your car’s data.

Tunes, Tuneups, and Cheaper Insurance!

Only you and BMW can see data collected by BMW CarData. However, you can opt to share the data with whomever you decide.

So, in the scenario that you choose to share your data with BMW only, you might get reminders about your vehicle’s service at regular intervals or advice to bring your car in to resolve an outstanding error code. You would also be eligible for over-the-air software updates from BMW, which they promise will take no longer than 20 minutes.

Get a little more adventurous, though, and you might find there are a lot of things you can do with ConnectedDrive and CarData. Imagine authorizing your insurance provider to access your car’s data, revealing that you average a very high number of miles-per-gallon because you follow speed laws and don’t drive aggressively. Add to that that you’ve had no accidents in the past year, and congratulations! You’re eligible for a refund. Or at least a lower rate.

BMW has also promised that CarData and the sister service BMW ConnectedDrive will allow you to take advantage of enhanced functionality from your car’s infotainment system. So you might authorize your favorite streaming radio service to view data on your listening habits and get suggestions about new music or playlists through your BMW’s infotainment interface.

You Control Your Data

BMW Group uses the phrase “trust through transparency” to describe the CarData data sharing architecture on their own website. Rather than shy away from the topic of data governance, CarData is positioned as a system that gives you total control. And from the looks of it, they’ve done a good job.

All third parties that make use of BMW CarData data pay for it. In exchange for their compensation, they get the right to offer special, exclusive services to CarData users. Subscribers can log in to the CarData portal at any time and download a report that will show exactly what data was forwarded to what provider, when, based on your consent.

In a world where it seems our data is being traded, bargained for, and stolen out from under our noses every day, it’s a refreshingly honest approach.

Is CarData for You?

Telematics has historically been the realm of fleet operators who want to keep a close eye on the maintenance of their vehicles to minimize unplanned repair costs. However, the possibilities with these new technologies go far beyond knowing when to check your oil.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are CarData’s two biggest problems. The two popular cell-phone-derived car integration suites might appear to offer the same things that CarData does at first. In fact, they’re somewhat different.

BMW’s decision to launch telematics before many third parties have had the chance to develop more robust offerings might mean it’s slow to catch on. But look for the service to develop a following as more customers are able to take advantage of their vehicle’s data.

The BMW Owner’s Guide to Engine Oil

Whether you’re driving an old beater or the newest model to roll off the assembly line, there is one thing that every BMW has in common — the need for regular oil changes.

What do you need to know about getting engine oil for your car? Can the handy among us change their BMW’s oil at home? Let’s take a closer look at engine oil for the BMW and everything you need to know about it.

Conventional or Synthetic Oil?

When you drive to your local auto parts store, you have two types of oil to choose from — conventional and synthetic. Conventional oil is petroleum-based while synthetic is manufactured with a variety of chemicals and natural elements. Which one do you need for your BMW? That depends entirely on the year, make and model you’re driving.

The best answer to this question is going to be in your owner’s manual. That little booklet in your glove compartment offers a wealth of information on everything from recommended tire pressure to the type and weight of oil you should use for various seasons.

Does Brand Matter?

There are nearly as many brands of motor oil as there are cars. Does the brand of oil you choose matter, or can you just grab whatever is on sale at your local AutoZone?

Again, we recommend referring to your owner’s manual. You may find that it only suggests weight and type, but there are cases where the manufacturer recommends using only BMW branded oil. This is a bit pricier than what you might find on sale, but it is specifically designed to protect BMW engines. If your manual doesn’t recommend BMW branded oil, there will likely be a list of brands that the brand considers safe to use for their vehicles.

What Color Should Your Oil Be?

You should be checking your oil at least once every couple of weeks just to ensure that it’s maintaining levels. For older cars that aren’t equipped with oil level sensors, you may want to bump that up to once a week. When you do, make sure you’re checking the color of your oil as well as the level. Fresh oil should be transparent and amber in color. Over the course of regular use, it will slowly darken. This is entirely normal over the course of a few months, but if your oil is turning black quickly, it could be the sign of another problem.

The same goes for oil that turns milky or opaque. That is usually a sign that there is water in your oil, which could be from a blown head gasket. That is why checking your oil regularly is so important. If you don’t, it could be months before you spot that problem, leaving it to wreak habit inside your engine while you wait for your next oil change.

Can You Change Your BMW’s Oil?

Many DIY mechanics like to change their own oil and do their own maintenance at home, many only taking their car to the shop for major repairs that they don’t have the tools or experience to accomplish. Can you do the same with your BMW?

The short answer is yes, especially on older models. The long answer is more complex. Many modern BMWs built in the last 10 years or so come equipped with engine covers that make it nearly impossible to work on your own vehicle. In some cases, there isn’t even a dipstick for you to check your oil. That said, there are still ways that you can change your own oil so you can skip your trip to the shop. Just make sure you have everything you need on hand so you don’t have to make a mad dash to the parts store.

How Often Are Oil Changes Needed?

Twenty years ago, getting your oil changed every three months or 3,000 miles was the golden rule of automotive maintenance. Older engines and older oil formulations necessitated these frequent changes, but we’re living in the 21st century. The old rule is a thing of the past. Most BMW owner’s manuals recommend changing your oil every 15,000 miles.

If you don’t drive much, you can get away with this extended interval, but in most cases, you’re going to want to change your oil every 7,500 to 10,000 miles. That way you’re getting the most out of your oil but you’re not pushing it to absolute extremes and potentially putting your engine at risk.

Don’t Skip Your Oil Changes

No matter how new or old your BMW is, it can benefit from regular oil changes. Don’t skip this essential maintenance step, no matter how inconvenient it is. Losing an afternoon to an oil change is still less hassle than dealing with a broken-down car.

The Ultimate BMW Forum