BMW i8 BY AC SCHNITZER
The world’s first modified hybrid supercar revealed. Style Council AC Schnitzer’s ACS8 is the first modified #BMW-i8
we’ve seen so far and it’s drop-dead gorgeous. AC Schnitzer has added some additional pizzazz to the i8 to create a Frozen silver hybrid supercar fit for the 21st century Words: Bob Harper. Photography: Dave Smith.
Over the years I’ve been editor of BMW Car I have visited AC #Schnitzer
in Aachen numerous times and while this has allowed me a pretty good insight into the town’s history, hotels and restaurants it is, naturally enough, the cars from one of Germany’s longest established tuning firms that are the main attraction. Nevertheless, I have managed to pick up a little bit of the town’s history over the years such as it being the favoured residence of Charlemagne who built the Cathedral there in 796 (which still stands today), and that as well as being a famous spa town it was also the location for the coronation ceremonies for early German kings. It also hosts world’s largest equestrian event (this I only know having tried, and failed, to find a hotel room in Aachen while it was taking place), and has a brilliant carnival which takes place in February which always struck me as an odd time of year.
Still, as I mentioned, the main event when visiting Aachen is the trip down to Neuenhofstrasse where you’ll find AC Schnitzer, situated at the vast Köhl #BMW
dealer. And while we’ve tested some pretty amazing Schnitzer machines over the years, on our most recent visit we were treated to a little bit of surprise. Having spoken to the chaps there prior to our visit, I knew we would be sampling its M4 that had been shown at the Geneva motor show but the identity of the other car we were due to test had been a little bit of a mystery. I thought of a wide variety of machinery that has recently been released by BMW that Schnitzer’s boffins might have had a chance to fettle prior to our visit, but I certainly wasn’t expecting the sight that greeted me when the shutter was rolled up to reveal the latest projects in Schnitzer’s workshop. Sitting in the far corner gently replenishing its batteries is an i8 and it doesn’t require a second glance to tell that this is something rather special.
Even under the dim workshop lights you can see that this is no common or garden i8 – if any version of BMW’s hybrid super coupé could be so described. There’s something different about this example though and while it’s difficult to put one’s finger on exactly what’s different the colour looks subtly altered and the BMW ‘accent’ colours appear to be missing. There are smatterings of carbon fibre too, and the wheels are not as BMW intended. Yup, this is the first modified i8 we’ve come across and even at a distance across the workshop it looks stunning.
We’re pretty honoured that AC Schnitzer has allowed us to be more or less the first people outside of AC Schnitzer to have seen the car – the company won’t be revealing the car to the world for another three weeks at the time of our visit and the wheels have literally just arrived for the car and have been installed in the last couple of hours.
But why modify an i8 in the first place? The simple reason for updating the hybrid supercar is that plenty of AC Schnitzer’s customers have expressed interest in such a project, and the company was fielding phone calls about possible wheel upgrades even before those lucky enough to be on the i8 waiting list had even taken delivery of their cars. As you can imagine, though, delving into the i8’s complex hybrid drivetrain in an attempt to extract more power is not something to be taken lightly so for the time being there’s no additional power upgrade for the car. In all honesty it’s not something the car desperately needs and let’s face it – 231hp from the car’s three-cylinder 1.5-litre engine is probably about as far as you’d want to take a road-going engine anyway.
Now we’ve had a chance to view it briefly in the workshop it’s time to take it out for some exercise and to view it in natural light. We’ve decided to shoot the car within the confines of Aachen and as we meander our way into the town we become reacquainted with just what a glance-inspiring crowdpuller the i8 is. It’s impossible to drive it more than a couple of hundred yards before a smartphone’s pointed in the car’s direction and I wouldn’t like to guess at how many images of Schnitzer’s ACS8 (as the car will officially be known) have been digitally imprinted during our short journey.
Amid the click and whirr of camera shutters, we arrive at our destination and given the car seems to be the focus of the town’s population it’s slightly sad not to see a red carpet waiting for us! We’ve set up for the shoot on a large expanse of pavement in front of one of the town’s sporting stadiums and were we in the UK we’d be expecting to be chased off by a job’s worth security guard within a matter of minutes but they seem to have a much more laissez fair attitude in Aachen and we’re not bothered by officialdom. We do attract plenty of attention though and I’m soon worried that snapper Smithy is going to end up verbally abusing pedestrians as they sneak in for a closer look at the ACS8.
It’s definitely worth a closer look as with the Schnitzer additions it looks even more stunning than a standard example. Now the car’s out in the open and under natural light it’s plain to see that this isn’t the normal BMW hue of Ionic silver with BMW i blue accents, indeed the accents appear to be missing altogether. Just about the only disappointment with BMW’s £100,000 junior supercar is that it’s only available in four colours and Schnitzer obviously agreed which was why it decided to completely respray its example. The #BMW-i8-AC-Schnitzer-ACS8
has been treated to an entire respray in the BMW Individual colour of Frozen silver and the new colour really makes the car stand out, especially as Schnitzer has painted several of the sections that would be black on the standard i8 in Frozen silver. Thus the inner front spoiler sections and much of the rear of the car, as well as the swoopy sills, are now silver and this colour change contrasts really well with the sections where Schnitzer has added its carbon fibre additions. Schnitzer could obviously have painted the car whatever colour it liked, but this subtle change really suits it and does make it really stand out.
The bodywork additions to the ACS8 consist of a pair of carbon fibre spoiler extensions ahead of the front wheels which flip up at their edges to add a little more drama to the car’s frontal aspect, while along the side there’s a sill extension in front of each rear wheel, again in carbon, which help to channel air under the car. You can’t fail to spot the carbon fibre rear spoiler sitting atop the rear deck which, in the flesh, actually suits the car rather well. It’s a pretty tight fit, though, getting it to sit on the rear of the car as the rear screen still needs to lift to allow access to the luggage area and engine.
However, while the Frozen silver paint and Schnitzer carbon additions look great it’s the wheels and suspension that dramatically alter the look of the car. Even though a standard i8 rolls on 20-inch rims they almost still look small on the car and there’s still quite an appreciable gap between the wheel and tyre and the wheel arch. That’s been handily sorted by the chaps at Schnitzer by fitting a spring kit and installing larger alloys. The Schnitzer springs lower the car by approximately 20mm at the front and 15mm at the rear while the 21-inch alloys really do fill the arches. As standard the 20-inch wheels for the i8 measure 7x20-inches at the front and 7.5x20-inches at the rear and are clothed in 195/50 and 215/45 rubber respectively. There is a wider factory option that can still look a little weedy on a car of this ilk – we’re almost conditioned now to expect a mid-engined supercar to have a massive footprint – but Schnitzer has taken things further with a set of its new AC1 Lightweight Forged wheels. They measure 8.5x21- inches at the front and 9.5x21-inches at the rear and are fitted with 245/35 and 295/35 Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres. The chaps at Schnitzer tell us this is the very maximum that can be accommodated before you’d need to carry out some radical surgery to the car’s wheel arches.
has wisely decided not to try and improve upon BMW’s work other than the addition of a set of aluminium pedals and footrest along with a branded set of floormats. Once Smithy’s pronounced himself happy with the static and detail shots it’s time to try and get some moving shots in the bag, although this does prove easier said than done as by the time we come to do this rush hour is in full swing. As there have been no mechanical changes to the car we’re not expecting it to perform any differently from the standard item, but what is a surprise is that the suspension lowering and the larger wheels don’t seem to have affected the ride quality at all as we punt around town. There might be a little bit more meat to the steering though, although without driving the standard and modified machines back-toback we couldn’t confirm that for definite.
On the move though all the i8’s standard skill sets are still on show and one still marvels at how seamlessly the car swaps between driving modes and power sources, whispering along silently in electric mode and yet allowing the three-cylinder engine to sing stridently when it’s called upon to join the party. All-in-all Schnitzer’s done a great job on the i8, adding some visual drama to an already stunning and complex shape certainly isn’t easy, yet through the subtle use of colour and some slivers of carbon fibre it’s made an already arresting machine even more dramatic. The wheels and suspension really are the icing on the cake and indicate the performance potential of the i8 to a much greater extent than the regular production car. Now if it could only remove that little three-cylinder and replace it with the M3’s twin-turbo ‘six then we’d really be in business!
AC Schnitzer (UK)
Tel: 01485 542000
AC Schnitzer (Germany)
Tel: 0049 (0)241 56 88 130
TECH DATA #AC-Schnitzer-ACS8
ENGINE: BMW TwinPower Turbo: High Precision Direct Petrol Injection, Valvetronic fully variable valve control mated to BMW eDrive technology: hybrid synchronous motor with power electronics, integrated charging module and generator mode for recuperation.
TOP SPEED: 155mph
0-62MPH: 4.4 seconds
EXTERIOR: Repainted in BMW Individual Frozen silver, AC Schnitzer carbon fibre additions consisting of front spoiler elements, side skirts and rear spoiler.
INTERIOR: AC Schnitzer aluminium pedal set, footrest and floor mats.
SUSPENSION: AC Schnitzer spring kit, lowering vehicle by 20mm (front) and 15mm (rear).
WHEELS: AC Schnitzer AC1 lightweight forged, bicolour anthracite, 8.5x21-inch (front), 9.5x21-inch (rear).
TYRES: Michelin Pilot Super Sport, 245/35 R21 (front), 295/30 R21 (rear)
While the paint and carbon additions look great, it’s the wheels and suspension that dramatically alter the look of the car. As we meander our way into the town we become reacquainted with just what a glance-inspiring crowd-puller the i8 is.