site search by freefind
MotorBar: 1200+ unique in-depth car reviews. Plus travel & destinations, and 1000 DVD and CD reviews. Online for 14 years. Written by experts.
BMW i8

Click to view picture gallery“Every last one of BMW’s £100K
  i8 petrol-electric supercars is already
  sold in the UK. As the next batch
  doesn’t arrive here until September
  2015, we were lucky indeed to spend
  some meaningful time behind the
  wheel of one this week...”


PRICED AT A SMIDGEN UNDER £100K (£99,845) on-the-road, so well-heeled buyers won't be reliant on the Government's low emission vehicle grant of £5,000
although we can't see anyone actually turning it down!

While desirability is obviously a key buying feature, every single UK purchase is being validated by BMW to ensure sales go to non-speculative buyers.

If you're seriously interested on getting your name down for next year's batch, you'll need to visit one of the forty-seven BMW dealerships designated as 'i-specialised' agents to sell the i8. However, once you've got one it can be serviced by any BMW dealership.

“Undeniably the most
adventurous production
car ever made by BMW,
the hybrid-powered
i8 accelerates to
62mph in 4.4 seconds,
tops out at 155mph
and officially returns
135mpg!
Undeniably the most adventurous production car ever made by BMW, the i8 uses their EfficientDynamics technology both in body construction and its hybrid power. For prolusion it marries a 227bhp, 1.5-litre, three-cylinder turbocharged direct injection petrol engine to a 96kw electric motor the electric motor drives the front wheels via a two-stage automatic transmission.

When the petrol unit chimes in, it drives the rear wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission, a set-up that in Sport mode all four wheels are putting down the power.

There is the facility to charge the high-voltage, liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack from the electric mains supply: using a dedicated BMW i Wallbox, a zero-to-80% electric charge can be achieved in two hours or, via a 240V 13amp three-pin socket, the same 0-to-80% charge takes over three hours.

The battery can also be recharged via the electric motor on the overrun; the high-voltage starter motor being used as a generator which is powered by the petrol engine. All the on-board charging modes during driving are seamless and fully automatic.

The two sources of power combine to produce 357bhp with 420lb ft of torque giving a restricted top speed of 155mph with zero to 62mph taking a very quick and genuine supercar 4.4 seconds. Emissions are a lowly 49g/km and the official EU Combined Cycle fuel consumption is a very non-supercar 135mpg. As well as providing a power boost to assist the petrol engine during acceleration, the electric motor can also be selected to power the vehicle by itself for up to 22 miles at a top speed of 75mph.

The ultra-low emissions means no annual road tax bill and the London Congestion charge is free; company car executives will pay just 5% Benefit-in-Kind tax although the insurance rating is a top-band 50.

As for real-life fuel consumption, my short test drive didn't come up with a realistic figure as we were trying all the driving mode options on narrow and rain-soaked Cotswold roads and lanes. However, from the experience of one BMW technology guru, around 60mpg is quite possible on a long run but around the mid-twenties if full power is used for trackday use, but these are 'unofficial' figures.

“With so much torque
there is huge
pulling power and
immediate overtaking
speed,
and huge grip courtesy
of the four-wheel
drive system...
The i8 always starts off in Comfort mode with the electric motor and petrol engine combining to give the most efficient mix of power supply. Move the auto gear lever left to activate Sport mode and the petrol engine rapidly surges into life, sounding like a V6 engine as it delivers the full rapid power delivery experience.

With so much torque there is huge pulling power and immediate overtaking speed, with huge grip courtesy of the four-wheel drive system. The steering is curiously light and feels out of keeping with the i8's performance potential, but the 50:50 weight balance is impressive. Generally the car rides well on the firm side as you would expect but not that uncomfortable despite the use of 20-inch aerodynamically-design alloy wheels.

The most uncomfortable element is getting in and out. Opening the lift-up scissor-style doors is always going to be an issue in car parks and once open, how do you get in? The solution is to back in posterior first, negotiate over the high side-sill and let yourself down into the snugly fitting sports front seat while watching your head on the low roof. Next, pull your legs in over the high sill of the carbon-fibre reinforced plastic bodyshell tub. I didn't venture into the two sculptured rear seats as they looked suitable only for small children and the effort of getting into the rear (and out again!) was for me a struggle too far…

Once inside, the front cabin feels like most other high-performance supercars. The standard leather trim extends beyond the seat surfaces to parts of the centre console, instrument panel and interior door panels. Exposed carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic elements of the passenger cell are visible around the entry apertures when the doors are opened and are totally in keeping with the lightweight supercar nature of the i8.

The instrument panel uses BMW's horizontal lines and layered design emphasising the width of the interior. The centre console is home to the gearshift selector, the controller for the iDrive operating system, the Auto Stop-Start button, the eDrive button and the Driving Experience Control switch. The iDrive system includes a free-standing 8.8-inch display with Professional Navigation as standard.

The front cabin feels
like most other high-
performance supercars
with leather extending
beyond the seats
to the centre console,
instrument panel and
interior door panels;
exposed carbon-fibre-
elements subtly
emphasise
the lightweight supercar
nature of the i8...”
As you'd expect, the i8 offers the driver scope to tailor the drive and suspension settings to meet individual preferences. As well as the electronic gear selector for the automatic transmission, the driver can also use the Drive Dynamic Control (aka the eDrive button). This gives the driver a choice of five operating modes: COMFORT, ECO PRO, SPORT and eDrive for pure-electric driving in combination with the COMFORT or ECO PRO modes.

Superficially it all seems very technical but in reality after some brief tuition and a short drive, the systems and functions are logical, enjoyable to use and make the i8 easy to drive.

Using fusions of carbon-fibre reinforced plastic and aluminium body components, the 4.6-metre long i8's kerb weight is just 1,490kg which is reflected in its performance and fuel efficiency.

The aerodynamic design is instantly recognisable as a BMW product but with a 2+2 seater coupe layout. In true BMW sports style it's fronted by a long curvaceous bonnet, low height twin-kidney front grille, low air intakes; adding to the lean-and-mean look are deeply sculptured side panels blending into wide wheelarches.

What £100K buys you: Stunning looks, mind-boggling technology, rarity and high tech ownership proposition, and low taxes, and an easy but thrilling driving experience. Any compromises? Well, it's hard to get in and out of, the steering's light, and it's more high-speed road cruiser than trackday supercar.

While the BMW i8 is the snapshot of the future for performance cars, underneath its glitzy carbon-fibre skin is some of the practical hybrid technology that will soon become common for many more conventional family cars, albeit less costly than this pioneering supercar showcase.
David Miles

BMW i8 2+2 Hybrid Coupe | £99,845
Maximum speed: 155mph | 0-62mph: 4.4 seconds | Official Average: 135mpg
Power: 357bhp | Torque: 420lb ft | CO2 49g/km