BMW i8: road test

Posted on February 13th, 2015 by James Luckhurst

The BMW i8 takes the plug-in driving experience to a whole new level.

BMW i8: road test

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What is it?

The BMW i8 is a plug-in hybrid supercar that boasts scintillating good looks, blistering performance and edge-of-the-seat driving dynamics. It comes with a £100k-plus price-tag.

How safe is it?

The BMW i8 features a tough carbon fibre reinforced plastic body that is lightweight without compromising on safety. Front, side and curtain airbags are fitted as standard.

Who should buy one?

With targets such as the Audi R8 and Porsche 911 in its sights, the BMW i8 is a supercar with a defined target audience. Buyers will need to crave outstanding performance, but still have an eye on the environment.

DRIVING AND PERFORMANCE
BMW i8: road test

The BMW i8 is the second i model from the Bavarian company and that means it’s very different from traditional vehicles. In fact, it is a plug-in hybrid sports car powered by a compact turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol engine which works in tandem with a 96kW/131hp electric motor.
But any doubters who think hybrid means sluggish need should look at the i8’s performance capabilities and think again. That’s because the car can sprint to 62mph in just 4.4 seconds and tops out at an electronically-limited 155mph.
And those stats are all the more impressive when you take into account that the electric motor can power the vehicle unaided up to 22 miles and a maximum speed of 75mph can be reached in electric-only mode. In addition, the charge can be stored which will prove financially beneficial for motorists who travel regularly through congestion charge zones. And according to official figures, the i8 can deliver 135mpg with carbon emissions of just 49g/km. That’s pretty remarkable for a three-cylinder engine supercar.
The driver can easily switch between three different driving modes – Comfort, Eco Pro and Sport – plus there is an eDrive setting for pure electric driving.

If the vehicle is driven in Comfort or Eco Pro, then it tries to run on electric power alone, but once you slot the lever across into Sport the petrol engine works in combination with the electric motor.
To be honest, even with the most economical settings in place, the i8 delivers acceleration that’s comparable to a hot hatch. In Sport, the i8 truly raises the bar. There is an instant surge of power as the car delivers a constant wave of acceleration through the six-speed automatic transmission. This burst of pace is accompanied by a whine from the electric motor combined with a gentle growl from the petrol engine to produce a throaty roar that befits a supercar.
The roadholding is outstanding and tight bends can be attacked with confidence, although you can expect to hear a little road surface noise along the way, which is a very small price to pay for such a spine-tingling and thrilling ride.

The i8 takes about three hours to charge to 80 per cent from a domestic power source or two hours from a fast charger.

SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
BMW i8: road test

The i8 is not exactly spacious and not in the least bit practical, but what supercar is?
Despite the presence of two rear seats, the legroom is incredibly limited and getting in and out could pose a few problems for anyone who is not particularly flexible!

The car features gullwing doors which look amazing, but need almost half a metre to open fully which means you are pretty much scuppered if someone parks next to you.

But on a plus note, the driver and front seat passenger benefit from ample space in the futuristic-looking cockpit where there is an array of technology to be explored once you have strapped yourself into the bright blue seatbelts.
The interior is beautifully finished in high-grade materials, many of which have been recycled to maintain that eco-friendly theme and there are numerous packages that can be introduced to upgrade the leather and trim levels.
The boot can accommodate 154 litres of kit, and buyers can purchase some bespoke Louis Vuitton luggage that maximises the space as an optional extra.

SAFETY
BMW i8: road test

As well as more traditional and instantly recognisable safety systems, the BMW i8 has a high strength carbon fibre passenger cell which not only protects passengers, but also safeguards the high-voltage battery.

Front, side and curtain airbags are also fitted as standard and in addition, the i8 features several driver assistance systems. A number of cameras monitor the car’s surroundings and if a person or obstacle is detected the city collision warning with braking feature for pedestrians decelerates the car.

EQUIPMENT
BMW i8: road test

The i8 is richly equipped. Techno treats include a DAB radio, head-up display, enhanced Bluetooth with USB connection and voice control, a pitch-perfect Harman Kardon sound system, heated premium leather seats, sat nav, a leather instrument panel, cruise control and lots more.

There is only one actual trim level although there are numerous colour options and additional packs can be purchased to upgrade materials and introduce extra options.

COSTS

BMW i8: road test
A few optional extras on the test car bumped up the asking price from £99,845 to a whopping £105,880, but it’s still worth remembering we are in supercar territory. The Government’s £5,000 subsidy will also apply as the i8 is an electric vehicle.
And the running costs are certainly worth noting. The official combined figure for the i8 is 135mpg. A more realistic figure would be about 40-45mpg which is still impressive for a vehicle such as the i8.

WE SAY

The BMW i8 takes the plug-in driving experience to a whole new level.

AT A GLANCE:
Price: £99,845 (plus £10,035 extras)
Performance: 0-62mph in 4.4 seconds
Economy: 135mpg combined (electric mode only)
Insurance: tbc
Tax: Band A (£0 first year)