The i8’s sleek scissor doors and ultra-futuristic styling make it look like a spaceship yanked from a science fiction epic.
The plug-in hybrid/extended range EV accelerates from 0 to 60 in under 4.5 seconds and has a top speed of 155mph. It won the coveted Green Car of the Year Award in 2014 and the Luxury Green Car of the Year Award in 2015. It has won two Engine of the Year Awards, the latest in 2016.
In city driving, its all-electric EPA range is 15 miles. With gas and electric it has a 330 mile range. The EPA also rated the BMW i8 at 76 mpge (miles per gallon equivalent), factoring in both gas and electric operation. Its carbon fiber passenger cell offers a 2+2 seating layout. The hybrid is classified as a 2-door coupé sports car (one of just a few “supercars” that can be driven without eco-guilt). BMW considers this expensive ($136.500 base price), high-performance vehicle and its far less pricey counterpart – the i3 – examples of where the company’s future is headed.
The i8 offers only one powertrain choice – a 357-hp (combined) turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder hybrid, and three trim choices: the standard is Mega World, the mid-level option ($2000) is Giga World, and Tera World ($4500) is the top of the line.
Standard features include 20-inch alloy wheels, driver-adjustable suspension, LED exterior lighting (headlights, foglights, running lights and taillights), automatic headlights and wipers, front and rear parking sensors, a surround-view camera system, auto-dimming mirrors, keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, six-way power front seats, driver-seat memory settings and a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The technology/entertainment suite includes a head-up instrument display, a navigation system, BMW’s iDrive electronics interface (with an 8.8-inch central display screen), Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, BMW Assist and Online, and an 11-speaker Harman Kardon audio system with a USB port, satellite radio and HD radio. Also included are BMW Apps (smartphone-app integration) and BMW Remote Services (which allows Apple and Android users to lock the car remotely and turn on the climate control, among various other tasks).
Edwards reviewers say about the interior: “As with several other exotic sports cars on the market, getting into the BMW i8 requires some practice. Swing the scissor lift door up and out of the way (a cool experience in itself), and you’ll find a wide door sill you’ll have to step over. With that being the case, the generally accepted method involves sitting on the sill and swinging one leg in, then letting your hind quarters slip into the seat followed by the other leg, all while ducking under the bottom edge of the door. Sounds complicated, but once you get the hang of it, the procedure turns out to be no big deal. After you’re in, you’ll find plenty of headroom complemented by power-operated seats that offer good comfort even during a long day behind the wheel. The stylish design combined with high-quality naturally tanned leather and recycled materials gives the passenger cabin the upscale look you’d expect from an exotic sports car. Since this is a BMW, the instrument display and various center-console controls are meant for an actively engaged driver. The rear seats are really seats in name only; they’re much too cramped for human habitation. Much as in a Porsche 911, it’s better to think of them as an adjunct to the notably small trunk, which itself offers just 5.4 cubic feet of space.”
i8 comes in two trims: Giga World includes turbine-style wheels, upgraded LED headlights and more extensive leather upholstery; Tera World adds special interior trim, including unique cloth and leather upholstery. Note that the base/default package is called Mega World; it’s included in the base price. BMW’s Laserlight headlamps are available with all three World packages. There’s also a new Protonic Red Edition which offers special paint and trim, unique wheels, distinctive seats and interior details and door sills engraved with “Protonic Red Edition.”
Car And Driver calls i8 a “Calm Star Cruiser,” and says: “Driven without aggression, the i8 can feel appliancelike, which we mean with no disrespect—few cars that perform this well are so amenable to gentle cruising. The i8 is capable of meandering through traffic like an ordinary family sedan, at least to the extent that those gaping at it allow. There’s great visibility outward, considering how low the car is, so maneuvering around the gawkers is easy. The narrow Bridgestone Potenza S001 tires, 215/45R-20 in front and 245/40R-20 in back, don’t hum on the freeway the way the wide meats do on, say, a Chevy Corvette. The i8 generates 72 decibels of noise at 70 mph—not luxury-sedan quiet but 4 decibels quieter than what we measured in the Corvette Grand Sport. Four decibels might seem like a small difference, but sound measurements reside on an exponential scale, and the BMW’s cruising sound is not only much quieter but of a more pleasant character.”