BMW i8 review 

When the BMW i8 rolled into my driveway recently, it was very definitely the case that the stars were all neatly lined up and life could not be better.

BMW i8 review 

It was thus because - and even if you’re not a petrol head - what BMW has produced in the i8 is such a fantastical thing of beauty, technological innovation and sheer damn chutzpah that it simply should not fail to lift your spirits and inspire your mind. This is a car whose mere presence will seize you by the throat and not let go.

And even when you’re finished drooling (it takes time, believe me) over its’ incredibly elegant modernity and splendour and even when you’ve explored its’ unique - and startling - abilities, you will most certainly be left with that feeling of inadequacy which can only be leavened by having come in contact with something which is almost beyond comprehension.

Somewhat modestly, some might consider, BMW itself has labelled the i8 as ‘the future of the supercar’ and the word ‘hypercar’ is also prevalent in media’s description of it. The facts of the matter are, however, that the Munich concern has truly out-done itself with this machine and has certainly laid down new parameters by which other manufacturers will be judged when it comes to ultra-modern technological and performance showcases such as this.

I certainly do not have the space here to get fully into the myriad technologies and manufacturing techniques which personify the i8, but I will try and give you some sort of picture of what BMW has aimed for here and most certainly achieved.

But before I get into that, let me just tell you that if you’ve got somewhere in the region of 140,000 lying idly by, then even as an investment prospect, this machine will eventually turn into a serious commodity.

Very serious automotive punters - more than half a dozen of them here in Ireland have already signed up for one - will have automatically seen the future potential of the i8 as an investment, but that is something for the future.

In the here and now, the i8 simply stands apart as a magnet combination of desirability and function.

In any event, let’s have a quick troll through the nuts and bolts of this thing. Almost uniquely in the ‘supercar’ segment, it has two engines, two gearboxes, all wheel drive and a multitude of integrated electronic systems to co-ordinate and combine the multiplicity of functions. The primary powerplant is a three cylinder turbocharged 1.5 litre unit which, perhaps a bit of a let-down this, is also available in the Mini Cooper.

It doesn’t sound like much, though, does it? Well, with a power output of 231 bhp and a torque figure of 320 Nm it is potent enough. But that, as they say, is only half the story. This engine is sited behind the 2+2 cockpit and mated to a six speed auto ‘box and drives the rear wheels.

Up front, under the beautifully sculpted bonnet is a 131 bhp hybrid synchronous electric motor which feeds power to the front wheels.

The combination of these two power sources means the i8 has a total output of 362 bhp and a combined peak torque of 570 Nm. Now the 362 bhp output doesn’t sound much like supercar performance - or hypercar, for that matter - but when you add that to a passenger cell and (dihedral, let it be said) doors made of resin-injected and carbonfibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) along with front and rear sub-frames and crash structures, you’ve got an ultra-lightweight body structure and the key to the shattering performance.

A staggering 4.4 second 0-100 kph and a top speed which is - typically Germanic - limited to 250 kph, makes the i8 the supercar it is claimed to be. And, with emissions of just 49 g/km and a 2.1 l/100 km (134.5 mpg!) over the combined cycle, it also lives up to the tree-hugging-car-of-the-future shtick too.

The electric end of the business here allows the car a range of 37 km and a top speed of 125 kph via that power source alone, but that is of nothing really in the overall scheme of all things i8.

Stomp on the loud pedal while in Sport mode and the roar produced by the convulsing technologies leaves you in no doubt that you’ve got a wild beast to tame here, but so convincing is the work done by BMW on the chassis and the deliberate power delivery, make it no more difficult to control than any family hatchback. Well, maybe not; turn up in this thing in any public place and suddenly you’re more popular than Ronald McDonald.

It is a very different sort of control difficulty you will have, but this sort of idolatry is very understandable; the dihedral (that’s scissor, to you and me) doors, the wild aerodynamics and design cues will draw a crowd like few other cars will. That is going to be a factor of the ownership experience, so you’d better get used to it unless you keep it under wraps permanently.

But for those who really want to get into the i8 experience, just drive it like it is supposed to be driven and soak in the true meaning of what this represents: a truly amazing car. I mean, when you slide into the cabin over the high sills and park your bum in the lightweight sports seats you find yourself in a place which is as amazing looking as the exterior is, but still very definitely a BMW design.

The swathes of leather and the funky lighting all add to the ‘other-world’ feel of the car and when you get on the road and begin to explore the various driving modes - there’s a choice of four - you begin to understand how to make the i8 evolve different characteristics to your personal tastes, you really begin to understand just how sophisticated this thing really is.

My limited talent cannot fully extrapolate just how BMW has synergised so many disparate technologies to make this car the stunning thing it is - from both an engineering point of view and as an outstanding design exercise.

But just let me assure you that what the company has done here is to meld a vast amount of technology together to produce a compelling driving experience wrapped up in something which is nothing short of glorious beauty. Get your stars aligned; get your life in a good place. Get an i8.

The verdict

*****

The Cost:

€143,822 as tested, including grant rebates

The Engines:

yes, there are two of them and they make for a mind-boggling experience

The Specification:

you can add a few things, but the standard package will do just fine

The Overall Verdict:

a stunning illustration of what can be achieved with existing technologies.

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