LOS ANGELES – Ever driven a modern, electrically powered go-cart hard enough on a tight, twisty track to make your forearms sore?

If you found that experience exhilarating, you’ll love the new BMW i3. Off the line, it’s faster than any vehicle in the Bavarian stable, including many that are twice the price.

Of course, drag-racing an M3 only makes sense for about the first 2 seconds, because the M3 will pull ahead by 40 mph (64 km/h) and then leave the i3 in its wake. Drive the i3 hard like a go-cart, and range anxiety eventually will temper the tomfoolery.

But it’s good to know an EV can deliver street cred, at least one with the BMW roundel. Today’s electric vehicles, such as the Nissan Leaf, Fiat 500e, Chevy Spark EV and Ford Focus Electric, are fuel-economy plays for customers who want zero emissions and freedom from the gas pump.

The 170-hp BMW i3 is the first affordable EV to come along that begs to be driven hard. The rear-mounted electric motor, tight turning circle, low center of gravity, 50-50 weight distribution and darty disposition give the i3 a considerable edge over those that have come before.

Curb weight is the great differentiator. Weighing in at less than 2,700 lbs. (1,224 kg), the i3 is significantly lighter than the four other EVs – even the smaller and less practical 500e.

The i3 also makes more horsepower than the others. The Leaf and Spark actually generate more torque, but it’s hard to tell because both are heavier, especially the Leaf.

Positioning the i3 as a sporty alternative makes perfect sense for a brand that caters to well-heeled buyers who can afford both an M3 and an i3, perhaps even an entire fleet of cars.

Have a lunch meeting a short way from the office? Take the i3, enjoy the ride and feel great about saving the planet. Going on a weekend ski trip? Take the all-wheel-drive X5 and don’t worry about the fuel consumed.

Perhaps the most shocking element of BMW’s new third-generation EV is its price: Starting at $41,350, before backing out any federal or state incentives, the i3 goes head-to-head with EVs from mainstream brands.

Is it possible Chevrolet, Ford, Nissan and Fiat intenders could cross-shop a BMW for the first time? We’re about to find out.

BMW arrived unexpectedly at this crossroads by committing to sustainable mobility as part of the automaker’s Megacity program to study transportation needs in the world’s most populated urban centers.

The i3 achieves its goals by deploying the industry’s first mass-produced carbon-fiber reinforced plastic occupant cell mounted on an aluminum chassis, then wrapping the exterior with dent-resistant thermoplastic panels.