As you would probably expect AC Schnitzer’s workshop at its Aachen HQ tends to play host to some pretty tasty machinery. As the electric roller shutter rises almost silently to allow us access we spot a brace of the company’s 30th anniversary celebratory ACL2S machines – the black show car and the wilder green version seen in the press images – then there’s an M2 receiving an extra dose of adrenaline along with some slightly more mundane machinery all being fitted with a range of upgraded alloys and carbon accessories. But all of these cars are playing second fiddle to the main event that’s sitting almost centre stage and exuding pheromones and an alluring aura. It’s almost as if it’s absorbing all the light in the workshop, injecting it with an extra dose of sparkle and then projecting it out again – whoever chose the metallic red hue for Schnitzer’s latest take on the i8 certainly knew what they were doing as it’s utterly mesmerising.
What follows next is the most nerve-wracking part of the day as I gingerly negotiate my way out of the workshop. I’ve literally just jumped out of my RHD VW Passat and stepped into a LHD i8, a car that’s not necessarily known for its excellent visibility, and have to extricate the stunning machine without catching the alloys on the workshop ramps or bumping into the other priceless machines in here. And as is almost invariably the case I wonder how I’ve managed to break the car as soon as I’ve stepped into it as the engine won’t start… Damn these hybrids and their ability to travel silently – never fails to catch me out!
After much toing and froing we’re out in the open and the ACS8’s stunning wrap looks even more eye-poppingly startling out in the sun. It would seem like other road users concur and a guy in an SL Merc almost rear-ends the car in front as he gawps at the Schnitzer while a chap in a Golf whips out his phone to video us as we glide silently past him. A lad on a pushbike narrowly avoids ploughing into a lamppost as he seems incapable of taking his eyes off Schnitzer’s latest creation and I quickly want to escape Aachen’s confines before the car is responsible for some sort of traffic incident.
It always takes a few minutes to reacclimatise oneself with an i8 as there’s a little more to it than your run-of-the-mill BMW but I’m more or less back in the groove by the time we hit the Autobahn although frustratingly traffic’s heavy and opportunities for introducing the loud pedal to the carpet are few and far between. No matter though, the ACS8 has more in its armoury than simple straight-line speed and I’m hoping the roads we’re heading for will give me ample opportunity to delve into its performance.
The short trundle along the congested Autobahn and then more miles along heavily-camera’d A roads does allow me to discover that despite its suspension upgrade and increase in wheel diameter the Schnitzer i8 can be a very cosseting companion when not on a charge. Under the ‘Inferno Red Chrome’ wrap (to give it it’s official title) you’ll find an AC Schnitzer spring kit that lowers the car by 25mm at the front and 20mm at the rear and in combination with the AC1 lightweight forged wheels this i8 does have a more menacing stance than a standard machine. The wheels 8.5×21-inches at the front and 9.5×21-inches at the rear and are clad in 245/35 and 285/30 tyres front and rear respectively – the largest possible wheel and tyre combination that can be housed within the i8’s arches.
And it has to be said that they do look great on the car with the much wider than standard footprint giving the car a more cohesive look – a standard i8 can almost look like it’s running on space saver wheels and tyres from some angles so narrow are its wheels. The forged Schnitzer rims are 4.4kg lighter than the 20-inch Turbine style BMW rims – impressive given their significantly larger dimensions – but once tyres have been added they actually end up weighing the same as the BMW items, but that there’s been a significant increase in the amount of rubber in contact with the road without adding any weight is impressive in itself. The ride’s still nicely compliant and road noise is well muted and it’s only the largest of potholes that send a little shudder through the car’s carbon tub.
We finally wend our way off the camera-infested roads and just when I think it’s about time to have a good play with the i8 on some challenging roads we come across a series of the German equivalent of ‘Road Closed Ahead’ signs. Typical eh? Our playground for the day is full of diggers and earthmovers but we’re hopeful that despite this we can find somewhere else on the edge of the Eifel to stretch the car’s legs. And just when we think we’re going to be out of luck we come across a spot that Smithy reckons will be suitable for our static pictures and a scant few hundred meters further on there’s a wonderful ribbon of Tarmac that wends its way down the hill in a series of switchbacks. Perfect.
Smithy’s keen to get the static pictures in the bag first as perhaps he can see the glint in my eye at the possibility of putting the ACS8 through its paces on these roads and in case I run out of talent he reckons we should get a set of pictures in the bag first. This does, of course, give me a chance to have a good look around the i8 to see exactly what’s been done to the car. We have driven a Schnitzer ACS8 previously – a silver one a couple of years back – but this machine features significantly more in the way of carbon aerodynamic parts and looks all the better for it.
At the front there’s a more aggressive central front lower spoiler and combined with the flippers on either side a delicately crafted canards in front of the wheel arches it gives the i8 a much more purposeful look. Sitting atop the ‘bonnet’ there’s a carbon surround for the central air outlet while along the lower edges of the car are carbon side skirts which help to accentuate not only the car’s low slung nature but its width too. At the rear there’s a three-piece lower rear diffuser and you can’t fail to notice the carbon rear wing either. Sitting behind the front wheel housings are a pair of carbon air vents that are a new addition – there’s no vent here at all on the production car – and sitting on top of the rear wings are another pair of beautifully crafted carbon air vents, again where there are none of the normal i8. Our Schnitzer host confirms that it takes a brave man in the workshop to cut the holes for these vents in the i8’s carefully crafted wings – one slip and he’d be very unpopular indeed. The last additions are some carbon mirror caps and some rather lovely carbon slivers that sit in the door handle recesses.
Overall it’s a visual treat. I particularly like the carbon vents aft of the front wheels – they really do look the part and are almost factory in appearance. I’m not quite so convinced by the ones on the rear wings and those of you who have been reading the mag for a while now will probably know I’m not a huge fan of rear spoilers, but that’s the joy of upgrading your car – you only really have to fit the items that you like. If my pockets were deep I’d go for everything bar the rear vents and the wing. But that’s enough dreaming of having the money to spend on a machine like this, what I want to know is how it copes when you give it some beans.
Smithy decrees that the corner at the top of the series of hairpins is the best one for photography as it’s the only one bathed in sunlight and this means I’m going to have to run the car up and down the hill several times for the camera. Such hardship. The first couple of passes are akin to sighting laps, working out where the road goes and watching out for lumps and bumps in the Tarmac that might throw the car offline, but then it’s pedal to the metal in all-out attack mode. And what a treat it is.
The i8 might only have a three-cylinder 1.5-litre engine mounted amidships but it sounds so much better than any unit of this size and capacity has a right to, and while I know the sound is artificially massaged and amplified I really don’t care as it’s utterly glorious. It wails as you extend it and elicits wonderful pops and bangs on gearchanges and is an absolute riot to listen to. Shifting the car into Sport mode and using the paddles to swap cogs brings out the best in the beast and the extra rubber and lowered ride height really do give the car significantly more front-end bite. Where a standard i8 might feel like it has too much understeer dialled into its chassis the Schnitzer car just turns in and gets on with the job of cornering with a flat controlled attitude. You can feel the power being shifted from electric motor at the front to the conventional engine at the rear as you transition through each cornering phase and as confidence grows and each corner is tackled slightly faster the car just grips and grips.
Every now and then the DSC light will flash away to itself and I’m sure a more talented wheel man than I could have it exiting each corner on the lock stops but over the years I’ve discovered that bringing a car home in one piece is far more preferable to bagging that one glorious drift before you run out of talent and plant a very expensive supercar in the Armco.
Once the fun’s over and all the pictures have been taken we amble back to Schnitzer’s Aachen HQ enjoying the calmer Dr Jekyll side of the car’s character. Yes, the Schnitzer upgrades are expensive, but there’s no way you can fault the quality of the components or their fi t and finish and when you’re spending over £100,000 on a car what’s a little extra to guarantee exclusivity? The i8 is without a doubt one of my favourite BMWs of the modern age – I love its looks and the technology – and with Schnitzer’s upgrades it has that extra pizzazz to make it feel even more special.
CONTACT AC Schnitzer UK</span></p>
<p><span style=”font-size: 8pt;”>Tel: 01485 542000
AC Schnitzer (Germany)
Tel: +49 (0) 241 5688130
It wails as you extend it and elicits wonderful pops and bangs on gearchanges and is an absolute riot to listen to.
Overall it’s a visual treat. I particularly like the carbon vents aft of the front wheels – they really do look the part.
AC Schnitzer’s carbon fibre additions to the i8 are of the highest quality and really do look the part, with the pieces around the door handles and behind the front wheels looking especially smart.
TECHNICAL DATA FILE AC Schnitzer ACS8 BMW i8 BASED
ENGINE: BMW TwinPower Turbo: High Precision Direct Petrol Injection, Valvetronic fully variable valve control and supercharging mated to BMW eDrive technology: hybrid synchronous motor with power electronics, integrated charging module and generator mode for recuperation CAPACITY: 1499cc
MAX POWER: 362hp
MAX TORQUE: 420lb ft
TOP SPEED: 155mph
0-62MPH: 4.4 seconds
AC Schnitzer upgrades
Carbon fi bre front spoiler elements: £3915.18
Carbon fibre side skirt set: £3915.18
Carbon fibre rear wing: £2606.27
Carbon middle front spoiler: £1997.01
Carbon canard set: £1343.20
Carbon bonnet vent with middle strut: £3458.47
Carbon mirror caps: £1208.66
Carbon vents, front: £1477.75
Carbon door recesses: £1011.57
Carbon vents, rear: £1477.75
Carbon rear diffuser, three piece: £4095.18
Suspension spring kit: £903.02
AC1 Forged 21-inch alloy wheel/tyre set in anthracite or bi-colour with Michelin 245/35 R21 and 285/30 R21 tyres: £9089.05
Locking wheel bolts: £73.52
RDC valves installed: £318.84
Pedal set: £213.72
160mm decals x four: £31.16
ACS8 decal: £8.77
Prices quoted include all parts, labour and VAT.