BMW i8 Review
When thinking about Hybrids, one tends to think of the Toyota Prius, Honda Insight or perhaps even the Outlander PHEV. Or if you are into your cars you will also think of the McLaren P1, LaFerrari, or Porsche 918. The sublime to the ridiculous that you either do not want (lets face it the Prius et al are ugly and not exactly sporty) or cannot get
(the Hybrid hypercars are rarified and attract a hefty price-tag).
So¦ you want a Hybrid, dont want a Prius and a P1 is lets face it not an option¦ What is there then? Enter stage left the BMW i8.
First impressions of the i8 are that it is a good looking car. Futuristic looking but not silly. Unmistakably a BMW with some design flourishes that BMW has been sorely missing for a decade or two. As a 2-door 4 seat coupe, the i8 is versatile. It looks the part with some design cues from the supercars the i8 strains to emulate.
Looks wise it really does tick the box, then you open the door. Ahh, but you are not presented with a conventional door, no¦. the BMW i8 has a trick up its sleeve in the form of scissor opening doors that just ooze cool (but also require a knack to get into and out of so you dont look like some idiot trying to escape the clutches of some B-Movie beast). With this design touch, BMW has not only ticked the box but also ticked the poster car box.
Moving inside the i8, you are are clearly inside a BMW. However, again they have sharpened everything up, replaced the dull lines of the the 5-series, and the improved lines of the 6-series with something altogether more elegant and
futuristic. The cockpit, which is the best way to describe the inside of the i8, is a place you will want to be. Looking silly clambering into the i8 is made worth it by the view you get from the inside. The sculpted leather seats feel lightweight and special but are still comfortable and entirely functional. It is snug but not cramped. Everything focussed on the driver again giving you that cockpit feel.
Specification wise, the i8 is is accommodating with your usual creature comforts such as Pro-Nav, Bluetooth, Front & Rear Park, Climate Control etc as standard (I should hope so too)!
Clearly then, the i8 has the aesthetics well and truly sorted, the exterior lines culminating in that unique and innovative rear end are sleek, futuristic and elegant and the inside is completely driver focussed with no compromise whilst looking as good as the outside.
There is however one all important question. Do the looks write cheques the engine and handling can cash, or is it all talk and no trousers?
Well on paper some might be concerned. With a meagre 1.5l 3-cylinder turbo-charged engine (stolen from a Mini Cooper) producing a mere 231hp that concern would be justified. Ah¦ but this is a hybrid. There is an electric motor topping this up to around 360hp. Whilst horsepower is important, the torque figures are far
more impressive with a combined torque of 420ft/lbs, it trumps the Ferrari California and Aston Martin V8 Vantage by quite some way, and is roughly equal to the Audi R8 V10 Plus. What this means is that the i8 with a bucketful of low-end torque courtesy of the electric motor, can accelerate from 0-62 in a mere 4.4s (quicker than the California and V8 Vantage), but nowhere near the R8 V10 Plus I hasten to add.
So¦ on paper it looks like the Hybrid i8 is a proper sportscar capable of keeping up with marques usually seen as being superior in performance over just about any BMW, whilst claiming to return 134mpg producing a mere 49g/km CO2.
Before we go any further however, so you are under no illusion. The i8 will never in the real world return 134mpg. Not even if you drive it like a monk! 40mpg with enthusiastic driving is far more realistic which for a performance car is more pretty reasonable however it somewhat defeats the object of spending nearly £105,000 on what is essentially a suped up rep-mobile with a Mini Cooper Engine. Although the looks alone do go some way to making this rather bitter pill easier to swallow.
So, on paper it looks good, but will this union between a Mini Cooper and the Duracell Bunny in a very pretty frock translate into real world performance, handling and that certain x-factor, worthy of the hype and price tag?
Well¦ the short answer is¦ No.
To drive the i8 presents a unique experience (a little like the Tesla Model S) but it is marred by the harsh sounding 3-pot straining under the load being force-fed fair to make it go faster when all it wants to do is pootle around town. The whole drivetrain feels somewhat out of balance. A decent 2l 4-cylinder engine would have made far more sense from a performance point of view and whilst in a lab it wouldnt return a Mickey-Mouse figure of 134mpg, I think in the real world it would actually fair better not only in performance (obviously) but also in economy with the engine not being worked as hard to achieve the same end.
Yes the i8 will get you to 62 quicker than the Aston Martin Vantage, but it wont feel as nice nor sound it either. For a considerable price drop, the V8 Vantage would certainly be most peoples preference. Want the extra two (rather cramped) rear seats? Try a Porsche 911 Targa 4S which will give you some change out of £100,000, get you to 62 just as fast as the i8 and sound far better doing so. Handling wise, the i8 is capable enough weighing in at around 1.5 tonnes (around the same as the aforementioned 4S Targa I might add) but it is not a patch on the
Porsche. It is hard to quantify exactly what it not necessarily wrong with the handling of the i8 (or what is not right) but it feels a little woolly or vague when pushed hard and no matter how much piped sound there is to simulate a sporty engine (courtesy of an £85 option), there is no getting away from the fact it is a tuned Mini engine being thrashed.
So what is the i8? A hybrid sportscar success? On paper yes, there is no getting away from that. But, in the real world, there have been too many compromises to push the hybrid side, to produce fanciful mpg figures, and to tick lab test boxes. For £105,000 (and thats only the start, adding a few options will easily push you to £110,000, there is so much more you can get and if you are wanting a sportscar that is green then you should really be looking at the Tesla Model S which will leave the i8 standing in even as the P90D and save you around £10k, or for similar performance you could save about £30k and go for the 90D.
On a closing note however, one cannot get away from the stunning looks of the BMW i8 which make it one of the most attractive cars on the road, and easily one of the best looking BMWs ever built.
If you would like to find out more about the BMW i8, or any other car, please contact JCS on 01223 911 761 or use our enquiry form below.