BMW i8 I12 (2014-on): reviews, problems and specs
It’s been a while since we’ve seen it for the first time, yet it still looks as a prototype. This is the i8, the BMW halo sports car, a super-efficient plug-in-hybrid that gives us a hint about the future we actually live in.
Although it can be seen as an M1 successor (the other mid-engined BMW that amazed the world), BMW i8 is not here following the rules of performance cars. It is here trying to rewrite them.
- THE LOOKS
- The hybrid powertrain is superb
- There's only one, and that's the best also
- The price is not quite motivated, but understandable
- The fake engine sound might not be your favorite cup of tea
Stay Away From
- You won't be able to stay away from anything related to this car
Known Problems & Recalls
- None yet
BMW i8 is animated by a hybrid powertrain consisting of an 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine associated with an electric motor. You may think that using a MINI three-cylinder engine for a sports car it’s a bit of a stretch, but it does a superb job when aided by the low-torque 129 hp/184 lb-ft (131 PS/250 Nm) electric unit. The combustion engine — augmented by TwinPower Turbo technology — has an output of 228 hp and 326 lb ft (that’s 231 PS and 320 Nm in metric) and the hybrid system combined output is rated at 357 hp, with 420 pound force feet of torque.
BMW tried to tuck all the essential parts inside the wheelbase, while staying as close as possible to the 50:50 front-rear axle weight. On paper, they succeeded: the combustion engine is placed in front of the rear axle; the battery is laid under the seats. Does that feels right behind the wheel? Yes, yes it does.
In Sport Mode, the car feels agile and precise through the weightened steering wheel (we’d ask for a little bit more here, though) and the hybrid-specific all-wheel-drive (electric power for the front axle, conventional combustion at the back) works laudably to keep the car on the apex. Of course, that means it won’t get tail happy, but it will bend around the corners at an impressive pace.
You’ll have to push it really hard to get it sliding — understeer that would be — and when that happens, the electronic aid will set things straight before you know it.
BMW invested hardly in keeping the car weight as low as possible, so the LifeDrive architecture boasts carbon fiber and aluminum as the main materials. As result, the safety cell can absorb a head-on impact at up to 40 mph without suffering deformation and compromising the occupants’ corporal integrity.
Besides that, the BMW i8’s safety equipment that comes in standard is comprehensive: it comes with six airbags, including head/curtain airbags that extend to the back seats as well. And then there are, of course, the active safety electronic aids — Driving Assistant Package comes in standard, with adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beam lights, speed limit info and city collision warning and braking systems. As for extra safety features, you can opt for head-up display and surround view.
Despite its aggressive looks, the i8 can be as comfortable as a proper Grand Tourer. It has adaptive dampers, so as long as you won’t switch to Sport Mode (or the gearbox to Manual) it’ll absorb surprisingly well the irregularities of a B-road.
As for the driving position, the electrically adjusted front seats and the steering wheel settings will adapt for you in such manner that you’ll find the perfect spot. Although the front seats don’t look as they could support you in the fight with the lateral G’s 1.00 mark, they do their job.
Some might say that the i8’s cabin might have been more futuristic (from the used materials point of view), and they wouldn’t be wrong. But that doesn’t make i8 interior anything far from premium. There are nicely-stitched leather, aluminum and plastic layered throughout the cockpit, and everything feels neat and upmarket.
Design aside, you’ll find the i8 interior very familiar, not only because of the command buttons (shared with the rest of the family’s models), but also for the BMW-specific driver-biased positioning of controls.
Well, this may not be the i8’s forté, but everyone who wishes for a supercar should accept the lack of storage spaces, right? In the cabin, you have an armrest storage space, as well as the glove compartment. At the back, behind the engine there’s a 154-liter boot, enough for a travel bag but not much more from there.
BMW i8 is a 2+2 mid-engined car — quite a rare sight these days — but you shouldn’t make plans for four unless you’re taller than 5’7” (that would be 1.7 in metric). So the left backseat is unlikely to be occupied by an adult. Otherwise, it does a proper job as a three-seater.
On the center dash of the i8’s you’ll find an 8.8-inch display for the very intuitive iDrive infotainment system. As in the case of i3 or X5 40e, i8’s iDrive has hybrid-specific extra features, such as the energy flow monitor that shows you what engine is working at a given time.
iDrive comes in standard with most of its features — Professional Multimedia Navigation, Real Time Traffic Information, and ConnectedDrive Services are on the list. As for connectivity, you get Bluetooth and USB as standard as well.
Referring to supersports cars, “efficiency” is a rather relative term, but the i8 makes a contrasting exception. With 94 mpg (2.5 l/100 km) fuel consumption rating — and emissions as low as 59 g/km CO2 — BMW futuristic sports car declares itself a proper fuel-efficient hybrid.
And although it’s highly unlikely to reach that number in real-world traffic conditions, i8 is still a rewarding car when it comes to fuel efficiency — its range in fully-electric extents to as much as 22 miles and it can be recharged (from a household outlet) in almost three hours, so you could manage to travel your daily home-job-home routine without even starting the combustion engine.
The standard equipment package is comprehensive — Neso Interior World comes with leather/fabric electrically adjusted front seats, leather multifunction steering wheel with shift paddles, iDrive with most of its features, LED headlights, adaptive cruise control, rear and front parking sensors, 20” wheels etc. although these vary from market to market (for example, the head-up-display is offered as standard in the UK).
As for the extras, there’s little left to choose: if you want to beef up your stereo system you can opt for a Harman/Kardon system; and there’s a Driver Assistant package available (that comes with surround-vies camera and high-beam assistant). If you want it more futuristic, you can pay extra for the laserbeam lights also.
Otherwise, there are interior styling packages that add more posh in your car — such as the Halo Interior World with leather that has been tanned with Olive leaf extract. But in the i8’s case, all the extras are nothing more than extras — the “entry-level” version is enough of a car for anyone regarding the equipment.
It’s not cheap, that is for sure. Starting prices are in the range of +100k (£105,000 / €130,000 / $140,000) which is quite a lot if you relate to power-to-money criterion. But regarding the hybrid-supercars fascinating world, i8 adopts the pattern of the modern hyper-machines such as Ferrari LaFerrari or Porsche 918 Spyder. Only the i8 costs a fifth of the aforementioned price tag.