BMW i8

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

158

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

Current page

163

Current page

164

Current page

165

Current page

166

Current page

167

Current page

168

Current page

169

Current page

170

Current page

171

Current page

172

Current page

173

Current page

174

Current page

175

Current page

176

Current page

177

Current page

178

Current page

179

Current page

180

A concept that became reality | by Andrew Frankel

We landed at Inverness Airport and they’d positioned the i8s on the Tarmac, just across the apron from the aircraft.

Parked under artificial light at numerous motor shows, BMW’s new supercar had always seemed more concept than reality; but seeing seven of them lined up at a windswept airfield in the north of Scotland, with right-hand drive and number plates, some small fragment of the future seemed to have broken loose.

It was a Miura moment. My age at the time of the seminal Lamborghini’s launch was best measured in months, but you don’t need much imagination to guess how the show-going public greeted that car. It looked otherworldly, and quite brilliant too.

The return of such futuristic design would be cause on its own to celebrate the arrival of the i8, because I think we’ve seen a few too many traditional coupés in recent times, but the i8’s looks are more than matched by the technology beneath its skin.

The construction method is faintly reminiscent of a Porsche 904 insofar as both have a base platform onto which a structurally enhancing body is fitted, but where Porsche used steel and glass fibre, BMW now favours aluminium and carbon fibre. More unusually still, most of its power comes from a British-built, three cylinder 1.5-litre petrol engine based on that found in the latest Mini. It is the smallest engine to drive the wheels of any production BMW and surely the smallest ever to be appended to anything within a shout of the title of ‘supercar’. With a tiny turbo, it directs 228bhp to the rear wheels while a further 129bhp flows through the front courtesy of a nose-mounted electric motor. In addition there’s an additional 20bhp electric motor in the back that triple-tasks as a starter, alternator and filler of holes in the petrol engine’s torque curve. Make no mistake: this is clever stuff.

But in essence what you’re looking at is a 357bhp four-wheel-drive supercar, capable of 0-62mph in 4.4sec.

The dihedral doors flip up. BMW insists they’re built this way to save weight rather than provide additional Gotham-appeal. What it doesn’t mention is they make the i8 needlessly difficult to enter and rather inelegant to exit. And middle-aged Americans – perhaps some distance from their sporting peak – must make up a sizeable constituency of this car’s intended clientele. I fear they’re not going to like this aspect of the car’s character.

Once inside, you’ll find a brilliantly airy and spacious cabin. Write off the rear seats as anything other than additional storage space and focus instead on the large glasshouse giving spectacular all-round visibility for a mid-engined car. And the controls are simple enough for anyone who’s driven a recent BMW to operate immediately. Amid all this post-modernity it’s important that the car makes you feel at home, and it does. The electronic dash is a disappointment, however. Normal analogue clocks would look as absurd in here as digital dials in an Isetta, but their first duty is to be easy to read, and they’re not.

The i8 has four different drive modes (including all electric, which will accelerate the car quite smartly up to 75mph), and a sport setting that runs the petrol engine all the time, but the comfort default is fine for most journeys. Even here it’s powered by electricity most of the time and will genuinely run for about 20 gentle miles before the petrol engine kicks in. If you choose to charge the car from the mains (and I bet most will not, unless they’ve got friends visiting), you’ll fill 80 per cent of the battery in three hours from a wall socket, or two if you buy BMW’s fast-charge station.

At first this revolutionary new BMW feels, well, a touch odd. The ride on its unfashionably skinny low rolling resistance tyres is a little stiff at low speeds, the steering accurate but entirely artificial in its lack of feel. It’s also very quiet unless you’re on a coarse surface, where the lack of competing noise sources can make the tyres sound unreasonably intrusive.

But if you raise the effort level a little, the i8 starts to come alive. The suspension becomes much more supple when given only a little additional work, and you’ll start to feel the character of its performance (which is pretty much the reverse of what you might imagine, having read its specification sheet). You do not expect a tiny, three-cylinder turbo to respond like a large-capacity normally aspirated V8. But, with the seamless aid of all its electrical assistance, that is precisely how the i8 feels. Power delivery is instantaneous, even from idling speed: it just goes and goes hard. The petrol motor has an entirely split personality, too: almost inaudible at a high-speed cruise but sounding like a finely tuned V6 when asked to deliver its best. More than once it made me think of the Honda NSX. And the six-speed gearbox is a smooth, self-blipping triumph.

The i8 is, of course, nothing like the paragon of environmental saintliness its absurd official figures (134.5mpg and 49g/km) suggest, but you can’t blame BMW for exploiting the insane way in which it is allowed to make these calculations. I drove it hard and fast for a few hours around the Highlands and got 29mpg, so I expect you’d achieve nearer 40mpg in normal driving.

By Porsche 911, Aston Martin Vantage or Jaguar F-type V8 standards, that is still exceptional.

What it won’t do is indulge your inner frustrated racing driver like these more conventional cars, but if you drive sensibly, and comfortably briskly, the i8 is genuinely excellent.

Does it matter that this veil of composure slips if you decide to push it as hard as it will go? I doubt it will trouble the majority for a second. Even so I’d not be doing my job if I didn’t point out that grip levels are modest by the standards you might expect of a modern, mid-engined supercar. When they are exhausted, you get 50 shades of understeer, none conducive to having a good time. It shows little desire to re orientate itself when you snap the throttle shut, either: it just understeers a little less. I regret that the i8 is not better balanced, but acknowledge that this is hardly the most important priority for such a car.

And this is the key to understanding the i8. It is so different, so complex and so good at letting you leap to the wrong conclusions: only time at its wheel will reveal its true character.

This is a sporting car, but not a sports car. Nor is it a Grand Tourer in the Mercedes SL tradition, for it is much too sharp for that. It combines elements of both and does so very well, but adds a third component of its own, a 21st century savvy that no current rival can match. It is the odd one out, but only because it is so demonstrably far ahead of its time.

It has the field to itself and its every success will be deserved.

Factfile
£99,845

Engine: 1.5 litres, three cylinders, turbocharged plus 129bhp electric motor
Power: 357bhp @ 5800 rpm
Torque: 420lb ft @ 3700 rpm
Transmission: six-speed automatic
0-62mph: 4.4sec
Top speed: 155mph
Economy: 134.5mpg
CO2: 49g/km

You may also like

Related products