New BMW i8 is simply electric on the road

The new BMW i8.

The new BMW i8.

First published in News

FACTS AT A GLANCE
BMW i8, £94,845 inc £5,000 gov grant
Engine: 1.5-litre petrol unit and electric motor producing a combined 357bhp and 420lb/ft of torque
Transmission: Six-speed dual clutch gearbox driving the rear wheels. Electric motor drives the front wheels
Performance: Top speed 155mph, 0-62mph in 4.4 seconds

CONSIDERING the quantum leap in design and approach to performance motoring, it would be easier to list what wasn’t new about BMW’s i8.

The car’s carbon composite structure has much in common with the firm’s smaller i3, while the mix of petrol and electric power in the form of a plug-in hybrid should ensure maximum flexibility regardless of the driving conditions.

The i8’s appearance is a world apart from BMW’s familiar, more conservative, family of conventional cars. Despite the presence of child-size rear seats, the i8 is realistically a two-seater, something the car’s dramatic, sleek profile makes no apologies for.

Taking the definition of dramatic to new heights, the i8 isn’t a car for shy and retiring types. Some sports cars downplay their potential, but that’s not the case with the i8. Pick a light coloured car and you can really see all the various styling details. It’s clear that considerable effort has gone into designing the car with the intention of making a bold statement.

Not content with just a token approach to producing an eco-friendly car, tThe firm has pulled out all the stops with a high power small petrol engine, advanced materials and construction methods - the potential is huge for economy and emissions gains with the convenience of short recharging times. And with the petrol engine at the back, the car’s boot is also modest, so no room for the golf clubs sadly.

For all the i8’s green credentials it’s first and foremost a sports car. That’s obvious from the low-slung driving position and the handful of electronic modes available to fine-tune the experience. That said, the default starting mode is electric, with the i8 offering an eerily quiet way to travel around town. Be more enthusiastic with the throttle and the petrol motor joins in automatically. Opt for Sport mode and you get petrol power with electric assistance.

The result is a supercar-like elastic power delivery allowing you to minimize gearshifts and concentrate on spearing from one corner to the next.

It’s hard to put a real world value on a car like the i8. Yes, it does cost close to six figures in basic trim, but the technology underpinning the car is pretty clever and tech-savvy early adopters buyers will no doubt be motivated by what the car can do, not what it costs.

That said, it’s generously equipped even by BMW’s standards, although there’s still ample room to personalise the cabin trim. One thing’s for sure, you don’t buy an i8 to save money on your fuel bill or annual road tax although it is a nice bonus. Who would buy one?

The i8 has ‘early adopter’ written all over it. If you’ve got the cash, enjoy performance motoring and appreciate the technology underpinning this rapid sports coupe, then you’ll likely want to be one of the first in the queue. And what better way to make a statement regarding your green credentials than by driving one of the most dramatically-styled hybrids on the market.

This car summed up in a single word: futuristic If this car was a…: a new gadget, it would be the shiniest thing in the shopLooks and imageAnd while BMW is no stranger to producing potent performance cars, the i8 is its first attempt at a hi-tech plug-in hybrid sports machine. Space and practicalityBehind the wheelValue for moneyUp front, there’s sufficient oddment space for mobile phones and associated clutter. You can’t expect any car at this end of the performance spectrum to be child friendly, and so it is with the i8 that its two-plus-two seating arrangement strikes an acceptable balance between macho performance and accommodating the occasional need to transport those of pre-school age. And spear along the i8 does; the car is rapid enough to demand your full concentration and sufficiently composed at speed to take even the worst road surfaces in its stride. Switching between driving modes serves to fine tune the experience, while for added excitement the rorty engine note apes that of Porsche’s 911.

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