The BMW i8 was the German company’s halo car to signal an electrified future. A future where being kind to the environment didn’t mean sacrificing speed, style or driving enjoyment. From its aerospace-inspired carbon-reinforced plastic construction to its small petrol engine and big battery combination, the BMW i8 was a ground-breaking machine that seeks to promise a mean green future.
The BMW i8 has all the visual ingredients of a supercar. It’s long and low, with a stylised wedge shape full of aerodynamic flourishes and, most importantly, a pair of wild, wide-opening butterfly doors.
You may have arrived at your destination in silence – courtesy of the electric motors – but you’ll attract attention when you get out. The proportions are those of a classic mid-engine sports car and you can see some similarities with the late 1970s BMW M1, which was also ahead of its time.
As a final showpiece, BMW i8s came in a wide range of bright and somewhat retro colours to contrast with various exposed carbon fibre sections. These add to the car’s theatre.
The rarest of all is the Roadster version. Even more visually arresting than the coupe thanks to a pair of speed humps behind the cabin, the BMW i8 Roadster is not an introverted motor.
The BMW i8 has all the visual ingredients of a supercar.
What's it like to drive?
From the looks of the BMW i8, you might well expect a massive V12 engine to be sitting behind the cockpit. This, though, is a supercar with a clean conscience - so instead you have a three-cylinder turbocharged engine from a MINI to drive the rear wheels and a pair of electric motors to drive the fronts.
The combustion engine is tuned to an impressive 231hp, while the battery-driven motors add another 131hp. That means the BMW i8 offers the performance to match its looks, accelerating to 62mph in just 4.4 seconds.
BMW’s use of carbon fibre has kept the weight of the i8 as low as possible, but there are still batteries stowed inside so the car isn’t quite as agile as something like a Porsche 911. It is, however, a fantastically frugal grand tourer that’s also fun on twisty lanes.
The combustion engine is tuned to an impressive 231hp, while the battery-driven motors add another 131hp.
The interior of the BMW i8 is not quite as futuristic as the outside. You’ll have to climb over the wide sills which proudly display the car’s carbon construction before settling into the sculpted sports seats.
Once inside, you’ll find that the major controls such as the gear-selector and the i-Drive rotary dial are familiar from other BMWs. The quality of the leather, metal and carbon materials is second to none and it really does feel special inside, with a swoopy organic design to the dashboard and centre console. Despite a smattering of switches to access the car’s different drive modes, the interior feels uncluttered and all the technology is easy to master.
You may find yourself relying on the parking sensors more than in other cars as the visibility is a little restricted. A cool head-up display can project useful info onto the windscreen so you don’t need to take your eyes off the road and a powerful stereo with its own 20GB hard drive is fitted.
The cabin feels snug and, although the glove box is a decent size the cupholders are espresso-sized and there’s not a lot of additional storage space. This is a statement car and an environmentalist’s favourite weekend toy – there’s room for a briefcase or a few shopping bags in the boot, but the rear-end engine can make for warm groceries.
The BMW i8 does have a couple of small seats in the rear. They’re really for kids only and for short trips at that. The BMW i8 has a compact boot and, more often than not, you’ll find yourself using the rear seat space as extra storage.
Even if you have the specially-fitted Louis Vuitton luggage set, there’s only really enough space for a weekend away.
Thanks to its ingenious drivetrain that positively encourages city driving, the BMW i8 is a supercar you will want to use every day – but watch those beautiful butterfly doors in car parks. Still, its practical features mean this sports car won’t need to spend its whole life in the garage.
Reliability and running costs
You won’t be spending a fortune at the fuel pumps when you drive a BMW i8, unlike many high-performance rivals. Thanks to its ability to travel over 30 miles on pure electric power, the BMW i8 claims an official fuel consumption figure of 128.4mpg.
On longer trips the combustion engine has to do most of the work, so the real-world economy is still likely to be above 40mpg which is still impressive for such an exotic machine. BMW’s warranty covers the batteries for 8 years or 100,000 miles but if you want even more peace of mind you could consider a cinchCare package.
What we love
The BMW i8’s styling and hybrid powertrain still make it stand out on the road. Even though it has been around since 2014,it looks like it’s come back from the future. This car combines incredible performance with amazing fuel economy and electric silent running for city driving.
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The BMW i8 is an incredibly innovative car that looks amazing, is searingly quick, yet easy on the environment. As more high-performance cars go hybrid or electric, you can call yourself a pioneer if you drive a BMW i8.
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