The international press have spoken and the i8 is a complex machine that offers seemingly something for everyone. Let’s take a look at a few notable quotes:
So it actually work as a sports car? For the most part, like a charm. In sports mode, using the paddle shifters, it disguises its hybridness entirely. It’ll leap ahead with lag that’s barely perceptible. Honestly it does an amazing impression of a 340bhp big six, rather than a 231bhp little triple. In sport mode some of the engine’s natural frequencies are amplified through the hi-fi, and it’s a strong, gutteral sound. The real pity is it doesn’t rev beyond 6500, and for some reason its shifts up by itself on the red-line, even if you’re in manual mode.
Even when the battery is pretty much depleted, by the way, you still get all the power of petrol plus electric. Remember, you never drive any car flat-out all the time, and so in the i8 (and any other hybrid), when all the engine’s power isn’t needed, spare is syphoned off to charge the battery just enough that for the next squirt of acceleration you can have the full petrol-plus-electric beans.
Is it 911 fast? Doesn’t feel quite at that level. You don’t get the high-rev drama or violence. But it’s ruddy quick, be in no doubt. I believe the 4.4sec 0-62mph claim, because traction’s so good.
It’s important to understand that the BMW i8 is a touring car, not a track car. It’s priced in line with cars like the Audi R8 and Porsche 911, but it’s a very different kind of car–one meant for use around town in electric mode, and then stretching its legs with the gasoline engine when performance that begins to approach the racy looks is desired.
While BMW will likely sell every i8 it sends to the U.S.–just 1,000 the first year, and likely no more than 5,000 a year after that–it remains to be seen if its remarkable looks and split personality will win it enough fans to justify the price tag.
But until that question can be answered a few years hence, the BMW i8 is a striking and attention-getting design that likely signals one potential future for sports cars: electric power around town, electric-assisted gasoline engines for performance.
The i8 feels like a sports car revolution. It delivers everything we’ve come to expect from some of the best performance models out there – but with 135mpg economy and 49g/km CO2 emissions. It’s a definite game-changer, and while the hybrid Ferrari LaFerrari, McLaren P1 and Porsche 918 Spyder will each set you back around £1million, the i8 costs ‘only’ £100,000 – or £99,845, to be exact.
At that price it goes up against an established crop of supercars. Yet not only do you get the carbon fibre body, 4WD and hi-tech powertrain, there’s also 8.8-inch sat-nav, parking sensors, head-up display and a design that looks unlike anything else on the road. The BMW i8 changes everything – the future of performance cars has arrived.
Should you buy one? If you genuinely don’t mind compromising on sporting clarity of purpose for lower emissions, enhanced economy and of-the-moment desirability, sure. But if that’s you, the sports car market would seem to be a strange place to go shopping for your next car anyway.
The BMW i8 doesn’t quite feel as exciting as it does fast; it’s secure and fluent, but not the last word in fun. Accounting for its novelty value, brimming supercar attitude and its low-emissions sense of environmental responsibility, it’ll be more than sporting enough to satisfy people who couldn’t otherwise have justified a sports car.
But it’s not quite convincing enough to hit the heights that true enthusiasts will expect of it. There is all the intriguing complexity in the world to contemplate here, but sadly not quite enough depth.
The car corners exceptionally well, with almost no perceptible roll, like a new 911, but from a seemingly lower seating position. Steering at speed on twisty roads is immediate and precise, much more so than you may be used to unless you drive a Ferrari or Porsche every day. You keep expecting some lag or roll somewhere in the system but it’s not in the steering or chassis. Several times it felt like there was an odd delay when we power it out of corners, as if the computer is deciding which and how much of the engine and motor to use. The delay is a bit disconcerting, especially since this is such a great car, sportscarwise, in every other regard. Once it chooses, though, you’re off. At the handling limit we could detect a small amount of understeer but it wasn’t enough to intrude on your canyon-carving fun. We’d also have liked the throttle and brakes to be smoother and more linear in their progression. As it is, they are a little touchy at the top of travel, something we never got fully comfortable with in a long day’s drive over great roads.
Do you want it? Yes, you do. While almost no one on Earth can afford a 918/P1/La Ferrari, a much greater number of eco-conscious sports-car lovers can afford one of these. Maybe Tesla intenders who want more sport and less practicality. BMW figures global annual production will be fewer than 10,000, though they weren’t very specific. EPA mileage figures will be out next month, but BMW expects EPA Combined should come in “in the 70- or 80-mpg range.” That ain’t bad for something this supercar-like.