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BMW i8 – Sports car, or not?

BMW i8 – Sports car, or not?

BMW i8 – Sports car, or not?
August 18
10:31 2014

Every BMW from the 8 Series has been a sports car, so the i8 should be one as well, especially having in mind that the CAR Magazine included it into their list of most wanted cars of 2014. The fact that it is a hybrid does put a dent in the supercar reputation, but huge advancements in this field have turned hybrids and even all-electric cars into respectable track machines.

The exterior

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The design leaves no doubt. Looking at the i8, it is a sleek beast with aggressive front with LED headlights and enlarged BMW grille cover which has been a part of their lineup for decades now – the two ‘wings’ between the headlights have really stood the test of time. The center of the grille and the lower part of the front are dark, even if the car is of brighter color, but the color patterns are just beautiful either way. For the customers who prefer their cars less colorful, a black option cut only by ice-blue grille accents and LED headlights will be the right choice.
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Side view reveals an aerodynamic line which is very smooth and wavy. Wing doors increase the level of extravagance and somewhat high door sill may seem a bit strange, but it also makes the driver feel cocooned inside the car, which is a very comforting feature in a sports car. Another wonderful touch is the ascending line which starts at the bottom right behind the front wheel and continues upwards along the bottom of the door and above the rear wheel arches. It makes the entire side of the i8 flow seamlessly. The final touch is the tiny rear side window, reminiscent of numerous other sport cars. It is amazing how much a regular tiny window can add to the design.

The rear, however, stirred some controversy. The taillights are placed pretty high up and the body around them continues along the side and curves towards the middle of the bottom of the car. The thing that the described part surrounds is the subject of the controversy. It looks like the i8 hides the rear of a Porsche 911. Since the first time I saw this I could not unsee it and for me the i8 will always look like it ate the 911. Having said this, the i8’s rear does not look bad at all and the similarity only helped the marketing efforts.

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The interior

On the inside, everything is plush, absolutely beautiful and practical. The wavy dashboard, aluminum details, wonderful steering wheel and color patterns work in unison to create a clean and serene environment. And, when I say clean, I really mean it. Having in mind that BMW emphasizes the hybrid nature of the car and their environmental awareness, ice blue accents on the steering wheel and blue backlight on the instrument cluster and multimedia screen really add a lot to the ‘clean and environmental’ look of the i8, as do the same colored accents of the exterior.

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The numbers

But, the looks aren’t everything. Looking under the hood will make many a sports car fan cringe. The engine has the displacement of just 1,500ccm. Yes, just a 1.5l engine. Even more surprisingly, there are only three cylinders. The turbo saves the day somewhat, helping the engine produce 228 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. Ok, really not bad for a 1.5l three-cylinder engine, but still far from a respectable sports car. According to BMW, the electric motor helps a lot. It propels the front wheels and ups the capabilities to the total of 362 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. A lot better, but still not exactly immense power. The extraordinary achievements in the field of weight reduction decreased the total weight to just 3,285 lbs, which allows the i8 to reach 62 mph in just 4.2 seconds and have the top speed of 156 mph.

Ok, respectable, but still pretty far away from the likes of other supercars. Still, peaceful driving is said to be able to improve the consumption to 94 mpg and reduce the emissions to just 59g/km.

With the price of about $135,000, the i8 costs less than most other supercars and such fuel consumption has never been seen in combination with such performance and 4 seats. The idea was that the i8 should represent a cost efficient everyday ride and that it could still give loads of exclusivity and fun. And don’t complain about the performance figures, because reaching 62 in 4.2 seconds is not something most people are used to anyway.

An everyday ride?

So, has it done the trick? Well, more or less. Figures on the paper are one thing, but real everyday ride capabilities highlight some other problems. A test performed by AutoBild revealed some of them.

First of all, such a beautiful car should not be subjected to parking lot scratches and dents, so parking sensors are a great idea. But having the sound signal scream from the rear speakers can only scare the driver. Even when you get familiar with the loud signal, it is most definitely not pleasant.

Storage space is also a pretty useful thing for an everyday car and 154l if it at the back seem hardly enough. Also, the space on the front seats could be better.

20” tires definitely do not scream practicality. Apart from being far more expensive, they make the light car very stiff and you will feel every bump in the i8.

Narrow windows are rather common with supercars, so it is no wonder that the i8 has them too, but the fact that they can’t be scrolled down completely spoils the impression.

Another thing which is common for sports cars is the wide turning angle, but driving a car in the city when it requires about 40 feet to turn 360 degrees is a real bore. You will not like it.

Some of the things we complained about can be forgotten and explained with technical requirements of such a car, but the fact that the electronic switch which opens the door is placed on the inside of the arm rest, which means that you can open it by accident is pretty unbelievable and it is difficult to comprehend that the designers couldn’t have found a better place for the switch.

Ok, but the performance must put a smile on your face? Yes, for a short while. The 4.2 seconds to 62 mph and generally astonishing acceleration are only available with full batteries. After every run you need to rest the batteries for a couple of minutes in order to enjoy the lightning speed again. Actually, as the batteries die down, the top speed as well seems unreachable and the car struggles with any attempt to accelerate from 100 mph. Also accelerating from 112 mph to the top speed of 156 with full batteries takes only 17.1 seconds, but as the batteries become drained, it can take far more than 40 seconds.

Generally speaking, we would have to agree that the i8 is extremely fun, but generally best at nothing. The design is stunning, the price is fine, the consumption is great on the paper, but at about 150 mph it is only 7.84 mpg, and the performance figures are – deceiving, so to speak. There are other cars that can offer similar capabilities for far less money. If you view the i8 as a sports car, you can find far better ones, and if you put the eco capabilities in the spotlight, it is only competitive when you drive it peacefully.

So, why is the i8 on the list of the CAR Magazine?

Well, the i8 is a step in a new direction. Every new technology has improved as the time went by and, judging by the current capabilities of the i8, the improvements which are bound to come will make it far more desirable in terms of practicality and speed, while the design is pretty good as it is already. It was supposed to move technological boundaries and it has certainly done that. This is why we still love the i8.

However, if you have the thirst for more speed – and far more money – going for the beastly, almost 900 hp Porsche 918 Spyder Hybrid is a far better option.

About Author

Branislav Sjeran

Branislav Sjeran

My main interests include cars, music and social and political commentary, but I have written for several magazines, blogs and websites about a variety of topics that include probate law, cars, health, exercise, food and drinks, travel, sports, fulfillment services, gadgets, architecture and interior and product design.

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