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BMW’s belated M1 successor, the i8 bears passing resemblance to the iconic mid-engine 1970s Bavarian near-supercar. The hybrid-powered i8’s provenance as a product of BMW’s futuristic efficiency-biased ‘i’ sub-brand and not its hardcore skunkworks ‘M’ division, however identifies it as something other than an outright sports car or contemporary hybrid hypercar like the McLaren P1. It is instead a luxury 2+2 GT with sporting and exotic aspirations.
|Engine||1.5L / 3-cylinder|
|Power||362 Hp / 570 Nm|
|Top Speed||250 km/h|
Catering to a similarly tech-savvy, trend-, brand- and environmentally-conscious, and upwardly mobile clientele as Tesla, the i8 uses stiff, lightweight carbon-fibre construction to off-set weighty hybrid components. Design is M1-inspired, with moody, squinting headlights, compressed double kidney grille and low, louvred bonnet, but busier and more complex. Up-swinging doors allow easy access over high sills to a clinically futuristic cabin with good driving position, high tech displays and some familiar switchgear.
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Cleverly packaged, the i8 is – apart from the similarly sized but conceptually different Lotus Evora – the only current mid-engine with 2+2 seating. Positioned behind practical occasional use rear seats, a 1.5-litre turbocharged 3-cylinder combustion engine develops 231HP at 5800rpm and 320Nm torque at 3700rpm, and drives the rear wheels. A 131HP and 250Nm electric motor meanwhile drives the front wheels, and provides an electric-only 120km/h top speed and 37km range.
Well-integrated, the i8’s hybrid system provides four-wheel-drive traction, instant electric motor torque and combined 362HP and 570Nm for brisk 4.4-second 0-100km/h acceleration, 600km range, 2.1/100km fuel consumption and 250km/h top speed. Best in default driving mode for efficiency, performance, refinement and consistency, its character however alters from near silent electric whine in EV driving to manic, exaggerated, stereo-enhanced, throbbing offbeat 3-cylinder growl and aggressive gearbox shifts in Sport mode.
With rigid construction contributing to ride refinement and handling ability, the i8’s packaging keeps major weights within wheelbase, including hybrid batteries in the centre tunnel for stability and 50:50 balance. Its low centre of gravity and sophisticated adaptive suspension provide taut cornering body control, while ride is firm in Sport mode but forgiving otherwise. Meanwhile, default stability control settings cautiously thwarted vertical and lateral movement through choppy corners.
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Accomplished and capable, with neutral handling, quick and precise electric-assisted steering, reassuring stability and agile handling, the i8 is dynamically adept, but is not, nor is intended to be, a textured, raw and visceral sports car. It is rather a complex car with layers of high tech systems that delivers a more managed, if somewhat clinically precise driving experience, practical and refined daily usability and smoothly plump delivery.
- Efficiency, rigidity, and refinement
- Practical 2+2 seating
- Generous torque
- Clinical character
- Massive difference in driving mode personas