The all-new BMW i8 hybrid is fast and stealthy.
Who would have thought a few years ago, that a super performance, high-end sports car would have a hybrid gas engine/battery combo like a Prius or Chevy Volt? Well, welcome to the future with latest edition from BMW with introduction of the i8…
For some, the idea of an electric/gas powertrain making an average of about 43 miles per gallon “fuel” mileage is not consistent with any meaningful speed or power. Well, forget about itâ€”the i8 turns a zero-to-60-mph time in about 3.8 seconds with an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph.
This performance comes as a result of a somewhat unconventional spin. In the rear of the car is a small, 1.5-liter turbo, three-cylinder gas engine, producing 228 horsepower tied to six-speed automatic. This powerplant handles the power to the rear wheels. But the high-tech part is accomplished via a 129-horsepower, electric motor mounted in front, pushing power to the front wheels. Keeping track of all power needs are computers deciding when to operate what. Batteries are charged by plugging in, or with some regeneration of power with no throttle or brakes usage.
At low speeds with a minimum accelerator usage, the electric motor will silently propel you along. Range in this mode is just more than 20 miles, before the gas motor has to help out. Turning on the sport mode or hitting the accelerator adds the gas engine to the equationâ€”and major thrust. Added to all of this is the i8’s light weight, courtesy aluminum and carbon fiber mixed in the body. Manual shifting is possible with the use of paddles behind the steering wheel.
Well, enough of the performance and handling issues. Looks make a sports car, and the i8 certainly falls on the right side of the aesthetic equation. Yes, of course, there is the traditional BMW two-grill format upfront (in a somewhat stretched form), but the rest of the body is low and slick, with some interesting cuts and slices.
Getting into the i8 creates a stir among the spectators, since the doors open up and not out. Inside, four seats are presentedâ€”although, back “seats” are for keiki or simple storage. Climb in and experience a fully leather-lined interior. Form-fitting front seats hold riders in place.
A big dial on the center console controls the large video screen that sits atop the dash. And that video can show the interchange between front and back powerplants. As with many cars these days, push a start button and you are off, initially silently, with the electric unit in control. Also, as is typical with an electric motor, initial low-end torque is available instantly. And, of course, if you want more, the transition to full takeoff is but a throttle push away.
Clearly, BMW has seen the wave of the future, and more electrical motivation in all vehicles is coming. But that does not mean dullness is part of the program, and undoubtedly with the i8, BMW has maintained its usual level of excitement.
PERFORMANCE: 0-60: 3.8 SECONDS, TOP SPEED 155 MPH (ELECTRONICALLY LIMITED)
POWERTRAIN: ELECTRIC MOTOR 129-HORSEPOWER TIED TO 2-SPEED AUTOMATIC; GAS MOTOR 228
HORSEPOWER: 1.5-LITER, 3-CYLINDER, TIED TO A 6-SPEED AUTOMATIC
FUEL MILEAGE: 28 MPG IN GAS MODE; 76 MPG, EQUIVALENT IN ELECTRIC MODE FOR A COMBINED 43 MPG
SOUND SYSTEM: HARMAN KARDON, 360-WATTS, 11 SPEAKERS
All photos courtesy BMW Pressclub