Motoring expert Chris Walsh saw a glimpse of the future test-driving the new BMW i8…
Being a supporter of outrageously powerful and completely unnecessary 6-litre V12s, it’s with a sense of mild panic that I enter the mysterious hybrid world yet again. And when I discovered that this particular version is boasting a 1.5-litre 3-cylinder teeth puller, you literally couldn’t measure my excitement. But I’ve since learnt to judge each hybrid on its merits, and when you take time to properly understand the new BMW i8 hybrid; it really does have quite a few merits to consider.
Put simply, the i8 is truly revolutionary and it holds the future of the supercar in its cylinders.
But before all that, it’s important to understand that the i8 is still promoting itself as a practical 2+2-seater with an intentionally modest price-point that is squarely aimed at future Audi R8 or Porsche 911 customers. And that seems to be the right way to go as, at one point this year, the waiting list for the i8 was in the region of 24 months! Sadly, I got less than 24 hours with the i8, but even within that relatively short timescale, I totally understand what all the fuss is about.
Put simply, the i8 is truly revolutionary and it holds the future of the supercar in its cylinders (all three of them). Initially, performance arrives in the form of two turbos that boost that little three-cylinder to 231 hp and give it a maximum torque of 320 Nm direct to the rear wheels via a six-speed automatic gearbox.
Then, buried deep somewhere within the car’s midriff, is the synchronous electric motor that provides an extra 131 hp and 250 Nm of torque through the front wheels, via a two-stage automatic transmission. There is nothing that revolutionary about that, you may say, but when you consider that this permits the i8 to reach 0-62 mph in 4.4 seconds, achieve 135 mpg and emit just 49 g/km of CO2, I’m sure you’ll now agree that this is really rather special.
And to help deliver the range of experiences BMW wants you to have, the car is given a familiar smattering of BMW technology. Selections of driving modes like ‘comfort’, ‘Eco-Pro’, ‘Sport’ and then full electric are available at your discretion. The Sport mode gives you an ultra-intense mix (and soundtrack) provided by the engine, electric motor and energy recuperation from the high-voltage battery, while the full electric setting gives you a potential range of up to 23 miles on electric power alone.
And while you are zooming around on nothing but free power, the astounding looks are sure to turn more heads that an Audi R8 and a Porsche 911 put together.
Model: BMW i8
Priced (as driven): £99,845 (£105,840)
Powerplant: 1.5-Litre Hybrid
Drivetrain: 4-Wheel Drive
Transmission: Six-Speed/Two Stage Automatic
Power: 362 hp (combined)
Torque: 570 Nm (combined)
Weight: 1560 kg
0-62 mph: 4.4 Seconds
Top Speed: 155 mpg (limited)
Combined MPG: 134.5 mpg
CO2 emission: 49 g/km