With its butterfly doors and boldly sculpted bodywork, the BMW i8 is sure to turn heads on the street. However, there’s more to it than flashy looks: the i8 may be the most ambitious car BMW has ever produced.
Although it is in the sports car group, the i8 does things differently from other sports cars by using plug-in hybrid technology. Its three-cylinder petrol engine – related to that used in the Mini – is much smaller than its rivals, but combines with electric power to deliver impressive performance. It’s a car designed to be as exciting to drive as it is environmentally friendly.
You can choose the i8 as a coupe, or as the open-top i8 Roadster. Although both versions share their two-seater, mid-engine layout with the R8, the similarities are few. A large part of the i8 is made from strong and lightweight carbon fiber, a material that is also very stiff, which is good news for both handling and safety in the event of an accident.
The BMW i8 features BMW eDrive technology, which uses a highly turbocharged 1.5-litre BMW TwinPower Turbo petrol engine and intelligent energy management.
It can run solely on electric power and offers the dynamic performance of a sports car, with an expected 0-100 km/h time of 4.5 seconds. This car has a unique plug-in hybrid system that only this model has. Developed and produced by the BMW Group, it is the next step in the evolution of the Efficient Dynamics program.
A compact three-cylinder petrol engine with BMW TwinPower Turbo technology is combined with an electric drive system and a lithium-ion battery that can be recharged from a standard household power outlet. The 170 kW / 231 hp petrol engine sends its power to the rear wheels, while the 96 kW / 31 hp electric motor drives the front wheels.
This type of configuration allows the vehicle to be driven using only the electric motor. The maximum autonomy is 35 kilometers at a maximum speed of 120 km/h. The more powerful of the two power plants drives the rear wheels.
Calculated according to the EU test cycle for plug-in hybrid vehicles, the average consumption of the BMW i8 at the time of model launch will be less than 2.5 litres/100 km.
BMW offers the i8 as a coupe and a convertible, but only one trim level is available. Even though the i8 focuses on design over practicality, front-seat occupants won’t feel cramped. The i8 is a two-seater because the folding top occupies the space of the rear seats.
The seats have heating and touches of leather. Unsurprisingly, the i8 has negligible space for luggage and minimal space for the knickknacks of modern life.
Standard safety equipment is good, including six airbags, collision alert, and an automatic emergency braking system. The i8’s infotainment system will be familiar to owners of less exotic BMWs.
The system is very intuitive and is displayed on an 8.8-inch touch screen located at the top of the dashboard. Apple CarPlay capability is standard, but Android Auto isn’t offered on any model of the i8.
The exterior of the BMW i8 has a sports car look. The car has a refined aerodynamic balance with an impressive drag coefficient (Cd) of 0.26. The body of the i8 is made up largely of carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) and recycled aluminum or made with renewable energy.
The compact and futuristic design of the BMW i8 embodies a flowing “V-shaped black belt” concept. The belt design wraps around the front hood and runs along the sleek roof lines to wrap around the rear. The striking overall impression created by the interlocking design makes the i8 bold and unique.