For the first time, nonlinear gyrokinetic simulations of I-mode plasmas are performed and compared with experiment. I-mode is a high confinement regime, featuring energy confinement similar to H-mode, but without enhanced particle and impurity particle confinement [D. G. Whyte et al., Nucl. Fusion 50, 105005 (2010)]. As a consequence of the separation between heat and particle transport, I-mode exhibits several favorable characteristics compared to H-mode. The nonlinear gyrokinetic code GYRO [J. Candy and R. E. Waltz, J Comput. Phys. 186, 545 (2003)] is used to explore the effects of E x B shear and profile stiffness in I-mode and compare with L-mode. The nonlinear GYRO simulations show that I-mode core ion temperature and electron temperature profiles are more stiff than L-mode core plasmas. Scans of the input E x B shear in GYRO simulations show that E x B shearing of turbulence is a stronger effect in the core of I-mode than L-mode. The nonlinear simulations match the observed reductions in long wavelength density fluctuation levels across the L-I transition but underestimate the reduction of long wavelength electron temperature fluctuation levels. The comparisons between experiment and gyrokinetic simulations for I-mode suggest that increased E x B shearing of turbulence combined with increased profile stiffness are responsible for the reductions in core turbulence observed in the experiment, and that I-mode resembles H-mode plasmas more than L-mode plasmas with regards to marginal stability and temperature profile stiffness. (C) 2015 AIP Publishing LLC.