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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

3-2-1-LAUNCH!.... Err, Not So Much


Reading the ActiveE's owners manual I came across something interesting on page 50, the "Launch Mode". 

I admit, I had visions of long smoking burnouts and blowing away some ICE cars off the line to prompt a "What does that thing have in it?" question when they catch up to me at the next traffic light.

However it was not to be.

You can activate the launch mode by deactivating the Dynamic Stability Control which is the top button below the center display unit in between the two air vents. You then basically "power brake" by flooring the accelerator while depressing the friction brake. When you release the brake, the car should "launch" forward in a blaze of glory as all the torque from the electric motor is suddenly released as the rear wheels break free of their grip on the pavement and spin furiously forward. A little checkered flag icon appears on the display and I'm thinking this is going to be a Tesla-like experience. How cool is this that BMW put this on the car? It's like they are encouraging us to drag race!

Nope. When I released the friction brake the car behaved pretty much the same as it usually does. Don't get me wrong, the ActiveE does have a lot of torque and (especially in low speeds) is a lot of fun to drive as it offers plenty of power to have fun. It's just that when you include a feature that's called "launch mode" and it lights up a checkered flag icon, I think it's reasonable to assume you're ready for the races, and it just isn't so.

Just like the MINI-E, BMW has tuned down the torque available from a standstill and at very low speeds. This is because the car, with its 184 lb/ft of torque would spin the tires like crazy if they didn't do that and it would also put a tremendous amount of stress on the gearbox. For this reason, you don't get 100% of the car's power until you are going about 10mph. I had hoped that the launch mode would make all of the power available from a standstill, too bad it doesn't. Perhaps because this is a test car and it's BMW's responsibility to maintain and repair them they won't let us do a "proper launch". For what it's worth, I'd like to see the launch mode on the i3 put 100% of the power to the rear wheels from a standstill. Otherwise like the ActiveE, all we'll have is a "failure to launch".

12 comments:

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    1. I'll still need to borrow your Tesla to do the smokey burnouts Michael, OK?

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  2. love the rocket picture. that's too funny

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  3. BMW can't afford to make a weak debut in the electric cars market, I'm more than sure they will fix it :)

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  4. Did you notice any more power than usual? Could this feature actually be left over from a 128i or 135i and isn't applicable to the active-E?

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    1. It's hard to tell, so if it is more power, it's not much more. I don't know about the left-over feature. If it didn't apply I'm sure they would have removed the icon and taken the instructions out of the owners manual.

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    2. Tom - I tried it with mine, and it was a noticeable difference. I'd say the performance was about the same as the 2009 135i I just traded for the ActiveE. My unscientific count was 5.5 seconds 0-60 - I'll post back when I have real measurements.

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    3. I didn't notice much of a difference, but I must admit, I was really looking for off the line wheelspin. The torque on this car should light the tires up for a good while, but BMW has it dialed down so much for the initial launch it's not possible. I will do some testing on this in the future, perhaps on a track with real 1/4 mile times both way.

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  5. Are you sure the i3 will be RWD?

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    1. Yes. 100% certain. It will have the same 168hp motor and 184lb-ft torque as the ActiveE. Check out my i3 blog for i3 info: http://bmwi3.blogspot.com/

      I even have a picture of the whole drive platform with the motor on top of the rear axle.

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    2. Cool, great to hear. But yeah, if the motor is in the back, it doesn't have to be heavier than FWD I suppose, electric propulsion is just a great thing :)

      They already compromised their RWD philosophy with the Mini (I don't say it is a bad thing, but I think you know what I mean). Now electric drive provides such an easy solution to carry on with the RWD heritage, I really like it :)

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  6. It is a leftover from all other BMW's with this latest software, they all have launch mode, the 135i smokes tires like nothing else

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