Perhaps the revolution will be seen on TV.
The i8 was featured in the 2011 movie "Mission Impossible -- Ghost Protocol," and now it's finding its way into commercials. Soon it will be seen in its aluminum-clad skin on American roads. From its carbon-fiber tub and aluminum subframe to a unique powertrain that delivers more than 300 hp through a combination of electric motors and a tiny 3-cylinder, 1.5L gas engine, the i8 radically resculpts the present to cast a better, much-different future.
After testing the i8, the news gets better. This car performs better than it feels, which was pretty good for starters. The i8 goes from 0 to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds and all the way to 100 mph in 9.7 seconds. It finishes the quarter mile in 12.4 seconds at 121.1 mph. Not bad for a 1.5L, 3-cylinder turbocharged engine. Those numbers all bested the Tesla Model S, the car to which the i8 is often compared, though that comparison feels more like an intellectual exercise than a head-to-head shakedown.
For a better perspective, the i8 matched the likes of the Camaro ZL1, the supercharged Jaguar XJR, and the Mercedes Benz C63 AMG Edition 507 in the 0-60-mph run. It was faster than the Mercedes CLA 45 AMG, the previous-generation M5, and the Cadillac CTS-V coupe in the quarter mile.
Creating all of this speed is a unique drivetrain that includes a 129-hp electric motor in the front, the 3-cylinder turbocharged gas engine in the rear, and another small electric motor in the back. The entire package can create a combined 357 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. But that's only off a full 7.1 KW-hr lithium-ion battery pack. If the i8 is in electric-only mode, just the front motor spins, making the car a front-wheel-drive car with 129 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque connected to a two-speed automatic transmission. The rear engine, mounted in front of the rear axle, pushes 228 hp and 184 lb-ft to the rear axle and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. There's also a small electric motor in the back that creates 8 more horsepower. The rear engine combo also sends a small amount of electricity to the batteries to help recharge the pack.
BMW has done a remarkable job of getting all of these systems to play together nicely. With the push of a button the car can run on electric only, or the driver can choose to save the battery power for later.
The ride overall is stiff, which is good for the enthusiast but not so good for the commuter. But the i8 remains true to the person looking for an exotic sports car.
Just look at it. The exterior is crazy beautiful. It's only 50.8 inches tall. The winged doors create just the type of drama onlookers expect as they watch the car pull up to a curb and wait for Rick Deckard to emerge from the vehicle. Any Blade Runner will need excellent agility to exit this low-lying vehicle. The huge sill and extremely low seats make ingress and egress more difficult than walking on ice in stilettos.
Being cool comes with a price. But once you're in the car, the seats are supportive, the gauges modern and pleasing, and the interior tries to be just as exotic as the exterior. Perhaps this is a flaw in the car's overall design. While the exterior has sexy curves and a design straight from "Aeon Flux," the interior tries too hard to emulate that same feeling. Instead, it feels and smells like hard plastic, and the center stack display screen feels dated. It's good, mind you, just not as good as the exterior.
But how much does that matter when the car's performance provides near-supercar numbers? It stops its 3378-pound body from 60 mph to 0 in 103 feet with the help of 13.4-inch ventilated, drilled front disc brakes and 13-inch ventilated, drilled rear disc brakes. However, the brakes, which include regenerative braking to add to the battery pack during stopping, have a softer feel before you push through the regeneration part. They're better than any other regen braking offered by anyone, but they're still different than regular brakes on other sports cars. Braking is less direct.
The i8 averaged .94 g in lateral acceleration and completed Motor Trend's figure eight in 24.6 seconds with at an average of .80 g while wearing the 20-inch Bridgestone Potenza S001 performance summer tires. Its figure-eight time matched that of the Ford GT 500 and Porsche Boxster S, putting it once again in good company.
For me, though, the BMW i8 defies the numbers. It's a luxury piece selected as much for the amount of emotion it evokes as its true talents on the road. It comes with certain sacrifices that some people will not tolerate at such a high price. Its interior blemishes and quick battery drain mean this car will often have a low charge and will spend time (and forward power) attempting to keep the batteries full.
But for other drivers, those tics are merely some of the fun idiosyncrasies that come with the car. Unless there becomes a shortage of people saying, "Look at me," the i8 should be just fine. These people should love a car whose name starts with I. Furthermore, so much of this car demonstrates what the real automotive future will bring. Carbon-fiber construction is just on the horizon. Multiple powertrains will serve as a bridge to the all-electric vehicles of the future. Cutting-edge design will always stop people in their tracks.
Once you get inside this car, you won't want to get out. Whether it's too much fun on a twisty road on a Sunday afternoon or the last time you drove in to work, the BMW i8 is a carbon-fiber car that is just too beautiful to hate.
The i8 has been launched in India, read about it here