BMW i8 2016: Prices, specs and reviews – The Week UK

Posted: Monday, August 22, 2016

Introduced in 2014, the BMW i8 remains one of the most stunning cars currently on sale.

Thanks to its concept car-like styling, performance and efficiency, as well as its hybrid powertrain capable of propelling it to serious sports car-rivalling speeds, the i8 has fast become one of the most desirable cars you can buy.

Auto Express says it is a landmark car with a design that is “the stuff of a bedroom poster”. Indeed, the i8 has been such a ground-breaking machine that the magazine believes we might look back at it in years as “the supercar that saves the supercar”.

Now in its third year of production, little has changed for the 2016 edition, although a shakeup could well be around the corner.

Design

The i8’s design is one of its biggest selling points, considering it’s one of the most eye-catching cars money can buy.

It closely resembles many of the concept cars that foreshadowed the production version and Evo says it’s “perhaps one of the few cars ever to truly live up it its concept, there is nothing else on the road quite like it”.

The i8 is a wide car measuring 6.5ft, but the width coupled with the low, stooping nose means it has serious presence.

Nice little design tweaks include floating buttresses flying over the rear wheels and housing the brake lights, the massive downward wedge scoop in the bonnet, the black belt running over the roof and the length of the car and the line rising from the side skirts to meet the roofline above the rear wheel.

To top it all off, the i8 boasts scissor doors, adding to the drama.

Interior

Once you’ve swung the scissor door open, Autocar says, you’re greeted by a cabin that’s both extremely beautiful but somewhat familiar – “just as it should be, then: special yet also entirely usable”.

It’s a different setup to BMW’s other i car, the i3, as the i8 strives for a highly futuristic cockpit-style layout over the outlandish, more youthful shapes and materials used in the smaller car’s cabin, it adds. The materials are more conventional, but high quality, and are woven into a dashboard and centre console that wraps around the driver. Together with driver-focussed controls, which is a low driving position, and the high window line, the driver feels truly cocooned in the i8, says the magazine.

A pair of 8.8ins screens are the dashboard’s two headline acts. The one in the middle can be controlled through BMW’s iDrive system – the toggle being placed on the transmission tunnel – and displays the infotainment interface and sat nav. It also allows the driver to alter the car’s settings. The screen behind the steering wheel is an electronic instrument binnacle.

Surprisingly, the i8 isn’t a two-seater but a 2+2 – but those two rear seats aren’t well suited to adults.

Practicality

At first glance, the i8 does not seem built with practicality in mind, says Auto Express, but it is more spacious and comfortable than it appears.

The party piece doors can cause some problems in tight car parks, but the cabin is “surprisingly spacious” from the front, adds Auto Express. Sweeping and spacious, it feeds back into the i8’s character when cruising, making for a quiet and comfortable place to be and those sat up front will have no qualms for space

As for the boot, it’s a small one, concludes the magazine, and at 154 litres, roughly half the size you’ll find in a regular small family hatchback such as the Ford Fiesta so you won’t be able to take the i8 for a big family shop.

However, as part of the buying model, BMW will offer access to a points-based scheme that will allow you to borrow conventionally powered BMW cars that are ideal for big trips or times when you’ll need a lot of luggage capacity. The magazine says it makes the i8 a much more “reasonable ownership proposition”, although that doesn’t solve the day-to-day impracticalities.

Powertrain

The i8’s hybrid powertrain has a humble heart. Mounted behind the driver is a 1.5-litre, turbocharged three-cylinder engine that is essentially a reworking of the three-cylinder you can buy in a new Mini. It is heavily reworked, however, and produces 228bhp.

Allied to this, an electric motor with 129bhp is placed over the front axle, making the i8 a four-wheel drive, 357bhp sports car with 420lb-ft of torque and a six-speed automatic gearbox.

During slower driving, the electric motor assists the petrol engine to target efficiency, while flooring the i8 will see both petrol and electric motor combine for maximum power, the instantaneous torque of electric power ensuring it’s no slouch off the line. The i8 does 0-62mph in 4.4secs and goes on to a top speed of 155mph.

Run on electric power only, it has a 23-mile range.

Efficiency

The combined plug-in electric-petrol power gives an official combined fuel consumption rating of 134.5mpg. While you’ll likely never see figures like that in the real world – Auto Express notched up 40mpg during its time with the car – that still beats rivals such as the Porsche 911. Plus the 49g/km CO2 figure makes the i8 road-tax and congestion-charge exempt.

Powering up the battery can be done in eight hours from a standard household supply, although for £315, BMW will fit a fast-charging Wallbox to your home that can charge the batteries to 80 per cent in two hours.

Reviews

Evo says the i8’s claimed economy figures are “fanciful at best” and despite it being a more efficient day-to-day choice than virtually every car it competes against, it makes most sense if owned by someone who can regularly charge it.

“The drivetrain is certainly an impressive technological achievement and an object lesson in systems integration,” the site continues, but it lacks the sharp, soulful, freely revving nature of engines you can find in many cars the same price. Nevertheless, Evo concludes it’s still “genuinely fun to drive”, with superb body control and excellent balance.

“Is there a more interesting car on sale today?” asks Autocar. It its view, the i8 is one of the most compelling cars on the market for years thanks to its fascinating powertrain, appealing dynamics and “how exquisitely finished it feels as a product”. Regardless of the price, “this is a thoroughly desirable car”.

The Daily Telegraph gives BMW’s hybrid flagship eight out of ten. While best-sports-car-on-sale honours remain with the Porsche 911 and the quoted MPG figures are far from the real-world truth for the vast majority, says the paper, the i8 “looks amazing, is a great investment and represents a genuinely different and almost entirely successful way of building a fast, desirable car”.

Top Gear namedrops the BMW M1 – the 1970s BMW supercar icon and previously the only other car wearing a BMW badge to come with its main engine mounted in the middle – and adds that the i8 is “about as far away from the usual BMW template as you can get”.

Drivers tempted by a sports car but uneasy about the BMW’s third-way characteristics against the likes of the Porsche 911 should put any doubts they have to rest, they say. It is “radical and other worldly, but works like a charm as a sports car”. The violence and drama associated with some of the sports car world’s biggest names is slightly lacking, but the i8 represents something unique and is still “ruddy quick, and traction is fantastic”.

Gullwing doors aside – they’re thick, and you’ll have to keep an eye out for things you might open them into – TG considers the i8 a decently practical sports car, with plenty of room for front occupants and child-friendly seats in the back.

The mag concludes that all-things considered, the i8’s price tag represents a bargain, saying it’s more of a head turner than a Ferrari and more appealing to own than rivals like the Audi R8.

Price

Since the shakeup of the government-backed low-emission vehicle grant earlier this year, the BMW i8 no longer qualifies for a state discount as it costs more than £60,000.

In fact, it costs a lot more than that. The i8 starts from £104,540, while the Protonic Red Edition, featuring red paint and several optional extras, will set you back £112,535.

BMW i8 Roadster

BMW hinted heavily, both before and since the launch of the i8 coupe, that a convertible version is on the horizon. 

A first look at a droptop i8 arrived at the Beijing Auto Show in 2012 and a separate, technology laden one appeared at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. 

The hints have now been confirmed: during a presentation earlier this year to outline the future of the i sub-brand, a new i8 featured as one of the key upcoming models – the Roadster has been given the green light for production and should be released in 2018. 

The future

BMW has already revisited the other car in its i stable, the i3, giving it a fresh lick of blue paint and a substantial upgrade with a new battery pack, essentially doubling its range to a claimed 190 miles on a single charge.

This has left some wondering if BMW has something up its sleeve with the flagship i8 – and according to Autocar, big changes could be around the corner.

The magazine says an all-electric i8 is in development which will make use of three high-revving electric motors, each one potentially capable of delivering 268bhp, while keeping the curb weight more or less the same.

Before this, however, BMW is likely to give the current model a facelift, potentially fettling its drivetrain to deliver more power. The magazine has sourced spy shots of what it says is a test mule for the new version, which could arrive at some point in 2017.

The car will incorporate some of the technologies seen on the current i8-based Formula E safety car, with a modified air extractor unit and a tailgate made from carbon fibre-reinforced plastic over the glass one currently used.

Crucially, the magazine hints that the density of the battery is set to increase, which could lead to a rise in power of around ten per cent – equating to about 390bhp in total. It will be complemented by a faster inductive charging system.

While these are only rumours for now, they come from a reliable source. 

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