It looks like a spaceship but is the i8 really the future of motoring? We take one for a test flight.
We might not have flying cars yet, but the #BMW-i8
is about as close to piloting a spaceship as you’re going to get. Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: BMW.
The i8 might not seem like a #Drive-My
sort of car, but considering we’re already starting to see lowered examples on fancy wheels, I wouldn’t be surprised if we feature an i8 before the year is up and secondly it’s about as futuristic a car as you can imagine. Even if you don’t like it, as a #BMW
fan you really should be able to at least admire and respect BMW for making it in the first place. So, what do you need to know? Well, it’s a lightweight, carbon fibre-bodied plug-in hybrid, with a 1.5-litre turbo three-cylinder petrol engine delivering 231hp and 236lb ft to the rear wheels via a six-speed auto ’box and an electric motor producing 131hp and 184lb ft to the front wheels via a two-stage automatic transmission. Turn them both on together and you’ve got 362hp, 420lb ft and four-wheel drive combining to give a 0-62 time of 4.4 seconds and a top speed of 155mph.
Take things easy and BMW claims a combined figure of 134.5mpg (good luck with that) and a CO² figure of 49g/km, which is impressive; as for that fuel economy figure, yes 134mpg isn’t likely to happen, but on a cruise over 60mpg is achievable which, taking into account the performance is also very impressive.
You’ll either love or hate the looks but regardless of which side of the fence you’re on, you can’t deny it’s a spectacular thing. It looks like a spaceship and there’s literally nothing else out on the road like it – if you like attention, you will love driving the i8. And driving it is quite an experience – the doors go up, which immediately makes you very excited about getting in and BMW has made the interior feel familiar, yet futuristic at the same time. It’s a surprisingly large car, quite long and wide for a 2+2 with hardly any rear seat space or room for luggage, bit visibility is good all-round and it doesn’t feel big to drive.
In all-electric mode it’s brisk, but not fast, the electric motor delivering maximum torque at 0rpm, which means the i8 steps off the line sharply though the acceleration drops off quickly. It’s perfect around town or in traffic though. The petrol engine will cut in when you want to go fast or you can stick the car in Sport mode, and then the dials glow red, you get a rev counter, lots of engine noise piped into the cabin and both motors at your beck and call. It sounds fantastic, regardless how real the soundtrack may or may not be, and it feels fast; with 4WD you can put all the power down with ease and the acceleration is impressive and relentless. Driving the BMW i8 quickly is addictive and worryingly easy – you really need to keep an eye on the speedo to keep hold of your licence. It’s good to drive, too – it can feel skittish at speed on rough surfaces thanks to those 20s, but the handling is sharp and the brakes are strong, making the i8 an impressive all-round performer.
If you want an i8, the first hurdle you’ll have to overcome is the price, because it costs £104,590. Ouch. The second hurdle you have to deal with is waiting for one – all of 2015’s production run is sold out so if you slapped 100 large down on a salesperson’s desk in a BMW dealership today, you’d be handed your suitably futuristic key sometime in 2016. I wager 99% of you won’t be rushing out to buy an i8, but it’s a special car and BMW deserves respect for making it.
DATA FILE #2016 #BMW-i8
ENGINE: 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine, hybrid synchronous electric motor
TRANSMISSION: Six-speed automatic (petrol), two-stage automatic (electric)
WEIGHT (EU): 1560kg
MAX POWER: 362hp (combined)
MAX TORQUE: 420lb ft (combined)
0-62MPH: 4.4 secs
TOP SPEED: 155mph (limited)
EMISSIONS (CO²): 49g/km
FUEL ECONOMY (MPG): 134.5mpg
PRICE (OTR): £104,590