Jekyll and Hyde could have just as easily worked as a sub-header for this story. The i8 is a veritable tour de force on BMW’s behalf where passion, performance, environment, and design come together in a car that is far more than a simple technological test-bed.
The new i8 evokes the future, the present and, in typical BMW fashion, a nod to the past. Its styling blurs timelines, however, the technology crammed within this car’s fascinating shell is as remarkable as it is effective. The BMW i8 will serve as a poster child to demonstrate how far the car business has evolved.
Truly, the BMW i8 is as eye-opening and jaw-dropping both as a fashion and green statement without ever compromising on what a BMW should truly be: an ultimate driving machine.
What is a BMW i8?
The BMW i8 reincarnates some of the great sport coupes from the past such as the 8 Series and the M1. As a flagship, but not in the contemporary sense, the i8 carries BMW’s future vision in one sleek body that encompasses design and technology.
The i8 is an unorthodox supercar, perhaps the first mass produced of its kind. From where I’m sitting, the i8 is likely to usher in the next generation of high-end supercars. The current trend features hybrids that use the electric engine simply as a booster. The i8 is as much of an EV as the Volt in the sense that it sports a gas engine, with performance aspirations like those of the Porsche 918.
2015 BMW i8 Price and Specs
The BMW i8 is a simple car to purchase. It can be yours for $145,000. Pick one of two colours, one of a very limited number of optional packages, and you’re done. The car I evaluated retailed for $146,500 USD. It included the $10,800 Pure Impulse World package. I guesstimate that the equivalent Canadian car’s price would land just below the $160k mark.
The 2015 BMW i8 is a high-powered plug-in hybrid that boasts a 131-horsepower electric motor on the front axle and an impressive BMW TwinPower Turbo 231-horsepower 1.5L 3-cylinder gas engine in the rear. You’re thinking that’s one hell of a powerful 3-pot… Wait, it also puts out 420 lb-ft of torque.
As such, the i8 is effectively an AWD car giving it all kinds of tried-and-tested advantages. The front electric and rear ICE engines can motivate their respective wheels independently or jointly depending on the driving demands and conditions.
As a plug-in hybrid, the i8 is as stellar on fuel as it is at covering ground. It’ll average as little as 2.5L/100km and can and will reach 100km/hr in 4.4 seconds. Top speed is rated at 250km/hr. Pure EV range is 24km (15 miles).
Driving the 2015 BMW i8
This is where BMW’s i8 shines in my mind. I can appreciate design as much as the next guy, but if the driving experience doesn’t turn me on, I’m out. And as you might guess, my expectations of the i8 were almost unreasonable. Very much unlike the M3 (which let me down), the i8 demonstrated that Bimmer hasn’t lost its way completely. In fact, it showed me that perhaps the Munich-based carmaker may have shifted its focus from “regular” performance cars to a far more significant vocation: making massive power environmentally friendly.
The i8 is an event. The scissor doors catch your breath and crossing over into the cabin requires some dexterity, but once onboard the i8 holds you in place. However futuristic the i8 may be, the cabin is a present evolution of what has become familiar to BMW owners. The start-stop button does little as the car starts up in EV comfort mode.
The customary shifter is moved into “D” and off the car goes, in pure silence. The driving position gives the vessel’s captain the impression that he/she is merely inches above the ground, which is actually the case. Switching between drive modes found that ECOPRO mode is best left for a future (if ever) complete weeklong road test.
Thus, I went for SPORT mode and instantly began using the wheel-mounted flappy paddles. In an instant, the silent earth-loving exotic coupe transformed into a growling, angry-at-said-world supercar intent on shaking foundations to the ground.
The miniscule gasoline engine snarls, pissed off at everyone and showing it by (if the throttle is sufficiently prodded) hooking up all four wheels and shooting forward like Usain Bolt.
The noise is almost unreal, as is the rate of speed. Never scary though as steering is precise, albeit limited on communication from the front wheels, and the amount of grip is tremendous. The low centre of gravity, long wheelbase, and wide track cover a large footprint, well adapted at sticking to country roads.
Once on the powerful brakes, aided by strong but not too intrusive regenerative braking, the BMW i8 returns to its docile self.
Inside and Out of the 2015 BMW i8
The carbon-fibre body and structure are just as sexy, in my eyes, as are the striking bodylines. The doors set the tone for what is essentially a concept car made for the rich masses. The number of complex creases and lines boggles the eye.
The smooth yet unfinished look of the carbon-fibre framing the door opening is extraordinary. Beyond that is the sumptuous cabin, covered in Pure Impulse Carum Spice Grey perforated leather that mixes recognizable BMW switchgear with some unique shapes and pods.
Of note, the front seats are supportive, the rear perches are symbolic as is the trunk, so pack accordingly. Gauges are fully digital and adjustable.
Comparing the 2015 BMW i8
The i8 has little competition at the moment, however, the promised and soon-to-arrive Acura NSX will pose the biggest challenge to the BMW. Time will tell how many more super premium cars will be offered featuring this type of hybrid powertrain. For the moment, the i8 is a technological show on wheels.