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CNET On Cars: 2014 BMW i8 (CNET On Cars, Episode 56)
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CNET On Cars: 2014 BMW i8 (CNET On Cars, Episode 56)

19:02 /

BMW's i8 is definitely a taste of the future -- but whose? We'll shed some light on MPGe, the benchmark for tomorrow's cars. And we run down the Top 5 car tech innovations to watch for in 2015.

BMW [MUSIC] i8, looks like the future but, who? MPGe explained. And our top five car tech trends to watch in 2015. Time to check the tap. [MUSIC] We see cars differently. Nice. We love them on the road, and under the hood. But also check the tech and are known. Known for telling it like it is. Ugly is included at no extra cost. The good, the bad, the bottom line. This is CNET On Cars. [MUSIC] Welcome to CNET On Cars, the show all about high tech cars and modern driving. I'm Brian Cooley. I can tell you right now, no car we've had in this year has generated so many slack jaws. And a request to take a picture of it as the BMW I8. An amazing sculpted body, gull wing doors, and underneath all that, carbon fiber and a power plant they've never played with before. This is a car we have to drive. Let's get out there and check this out. When BMW said they were gonna start with a clean sheet for their I-series of cars, they weren't kidding about this one. When you attack a corner and get on it the turn in is just fun. The I8 looks, drives and moves itself like almost nothing else on the road. The i8 is BMW's first plugin hybrid. But as you can see, they didn't exactly go after the Prius. This car has concept car looks. Now what's also impressive is the construction technologies used here. Aluminum and plastic panels are what you see. What you don't see is a carbon fiber reinforced. Plastic passenger cell, or what they call in racing, a tub. Makes the car incredibly strong, but also exceptionally light, and that's critical, when you've only got a three cylinder gas engine, and a smallish electric motor. Efficiency is important here in the. Of performance. Inside, it's a two plus two. Nominally, the plus two part's a little optimistic, as you can see. [MUSIC] Now, the first thing that grabs you about the cabin of the I8 is not its amazing futuristic interface. [MUSIC] Notice, most of this switch gear is physical standard BMW stuff. You do have an instrument panel that's all LCD and of course you've got your iDrive screen right here. But, what does grab you is the very spacious futurism of this, it's low slung, you sit low, the dash is low. It feels very wide, it's a distinctive experience. Lot of cameras on this car. You've got a rear camera of course, there's also a front camera, and it can be stitched together with mirrors to give you an overview camera. Over here's the button that's an interesting way of enabling or disabling, kind of, the perimeter curtain of driver safety tech, coalition avoidance, and you can set exactly what systems are turned on and to what sensitivity. Media sources on this car are pretty much what you see in other BMW's with the ability to have a hard drive storage space. External devices plug in through USB and AUX. You've also got a snap-in 4G adapter available we don't have that on our car. But notice a couple of things in this. Vehicle. AM stands for morning, and CD stands for what you had to liquidate to buy this car, because it does not get AM radio, and it has no optical disc slot. Now, that's futurism, whether you like it or not. Now when you're in navigation mode, this is a little different than other BMWs. It talks to the power train to best put it in the right mode of electric, gas, or combination thereof to get the best efficiency out of your drive, not just the best time and shortest distance. Okay, drive controls. We know this sort of spatula shaped shifter on BMWs before with the sport gate to the left. Start stop button. Below that is eDRIVE, to force it into electric if it has sufficient battery. No sport or sport plus, you really have comfort as your standard, eco as your reduced or retarded performance. But when the shifter's in sport, the whole car goes into sport mode. And that's reflected in the gauges, as you can see. Up under its carbon, fiber, and aluminum knickers is a one and a half liter Turbo three cylinder gas engine in the back. That drives the rear wheels only through a six-speed automatic. Out front is an electric motor, and that does the front wheels only through a two-speed gearbox. The two ends are only connected via software. Add it all up and it spells all-wheel drive, but in a very unusual way. Total horsepower, 362, 420 pound feet of torque are on top, and that gets you to 60 in 4.2 seconds. Under the right conditions, you have 22 miles of pure electric driving per charge. And that charge takes about two hours on a 240 outlet. All said your MPG is 28 and your MPGe in electric mode is 76 in the green car world those would be tepid numbers if it were not for this cars performance. Now some people who have driven this car come away a little disappointed I understand in its [INAUDIBLE]. [NOISE] I didn't come to it as a super car. I thought it was going to be a new-age GG. And in that respect, it's fantastic. The car handles as wide, low, and flat as it feels inside. Do you hear what they've done with the exhaust? It's not at all wimpy like you'd expect from a highly electrified vehicle. They've tuned it to even counter act that impression. Ride qualities great, that always matters to me cause of you're gonna buy a car, you gotta live with it. And the shifts, super quick. The only odd note I've found in this car is around town when you're not really into it, it'll sometimes fall on it's face as it tries to decide between. In what blended mode of power it wants to be in or if it should be electric only and sometimes you'll get this kind of weird indecision. I'm not a big fan of cars on steroids. So bear that in mind. If you are, this may not be enough for you. But I find it's athletic without being brutal and that's my kind of car. And it's still fun, not sterile. Okay, the I8 is $137,000 worth of tomorrow. MPG is good, for a car this fast, but people who buy these cars aren't pinching pennies. Now, while that performance is exceptional, as I pointed out, it doesn't come across as brutal or extreme, so it's missing that mark. Instead, it balances both. And lets you own a piece of a very impressive auto maker's future vision and big bet. [MUSIC] Check out our full review with all the interesting details on the I8. Over at And while you're there, you may as well check out our coverage on an interesting, but different little brother, the battery electric i3. Conventional wisdom holds that elderly drivers are dangerous because they can't see well, hear well, or react real well. But what if that's not the entire story? In a moment, the new old driver trend lines, and how technology's making a difference. [MUSIC] [MUSIC] The rate of involvement in fatal accidents by elderly drivers has been plummeting since the late 90s. So there remains a pretty big difference between a driver in their 70s, the green trend line, and one in their 80s, the grey trend line. But since 1997 overall it's been the older drivers who've had the biggest drops in fatal crashes per driver and per mile driven. A new study by the AAA finds that about 34% of elderly drivers have ever talked on their phone while driving. Compare that to 82% of people 25 to 39. Older drivers tend to wear seat belts, drive sober, drive less, and less at night. Now, to be sure, older drivers are involved in a lot more fatal accidents, with a pronounced spike beginning at about 70 years old, but they're not blind to that. More than three-quarters of elderly drives believe they should be subject to driver health screening. And be required to renew their licenses in person. And technology will help more in the future. Boomers in their mid-50s and mid-60s now, are buying the most new cars per capita, replacing 35 to 44 year olds according to a recent study by the University of Michigan. That means new technology that focus on blind spot. Lane departure and collision warning are likely to be snapped up by the drivers that can benefit from them the most. Nice when it works out that way. It pays to double check if you or a senior driver you know has a car with these collision avoidance technologies. [MUSIC] Welcome back to CNET On Cars. Coming to you from our home at the Mount Tam Motor Club, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Now you recall that BMW I8 we just saw had both an MPG and an MPGe rating. That's a new rating that showed up in 2010. First applied to the Nissan Leaf. All electric and to the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid and now since then a lot of other cars have hit the market that have an MPGe rating and yet a number of folks who drive them don't really know what it means. Sounds like we need a Car Tech 101. [MUSIC] Now of course we all recognized the MPG in MPGe that's the easy part. But that little lower case e at the end? That's actually surprisingly powerful. Let's breakdown the acronym first of all. MPGe stands for Miles Per Gallon of Gasoline Equivalent. Now the equivalent part is what we're talking about energy in a gallon of gas, as opposed to the volume of a gallon of gas, which is what MPG basically refers to. Here's how they worked that out numerically, the EPA says that a gallon of gas has 115,000 BTUs or British thermal units of energy in it. And that they say is equivalent to 33.7 kilowatt hours of stored electricity. Kilowatt hours is typically how you measure the capacity of a battery. Now the math isn't simple as you could imagine and this is part of how they actually pull that equation together, but let's take a look at how the cars that use MPG are sorted out. A battery electric car can have MPGE like a Nissan Leaf or a Tesla Model S. All you do is plug them in. That's their only source of power. Then you've got plug-in hybrids. Those are vehicles that have a gas engine and a bigger battery, and can still run in a blended or separate modes. You've also got hydrogen fuel cell cars, which is also electric, but using a different source to generate the volts. What you won't find an MPG rating on is a conventional hybrid. Because the EPA has just deemed those to be too conventional. Now if you look at the stickers its an interesting story. Here's a battery electric car, all it has is an MPGe number cause it doesn't run in any other mode. There's no gas involved. Go to a plug in hybrid and it gets very busy. Here's your MPGe on the left. Which shows the pure electric running. On the right here's the blended system number that shows the fact that it also can run on gas. That's your MPG number. What I also want you to notice is what's in the fine print on these new stickers. look underneath either the MPG or the MPGe and you now find the European style gallons per hundred miles. Or over here, kiloWatt hours in hundred miles. This is not just semantics. If you do this, you can avoid what's called the MPG illusion. Which basically says that if you measure a car that improves from 10 to let's say 15 MPG. That is not the same as the car that improves from let's say 50 to 55. You might think those are equivalent gains, in fact the lower number improvement is vastly more significant than the higher number improvement of the car that started at 50. But if you measure in energy per 100 miles, it's linear. The distortion is taken out mathematically. And of course the gas engine car doesn't get mpg at all. You'll see your traditional number there on the sticker still because all it does is run on gas. [MUSIC] In a moment, the top five car technologies I'm watching in 2015 when CNET on CARS returns. [MUSIC] Since 1999, the Audi TT has been a main stay on roads all over the planet. Now, Audi's onto the third generation, after a difficult but ultimately very successful second album. They are going to get this one right. Or else people will go elsewhere for their sports car kicks. [MUSIC] Find more from the XCAR team of CNET UK. [MUSIC] Welcome back to CNet on Cars. I'm Brian Cooley. Time for that part of the show where we answer one of your email, and this time it comes from Paul T. Who has a question about fuel additive. He says, I was curious if it's a good idea to use fuel additives. They say it can increase mileage and at the same time cleans the intake valves and cylinders. I'd really appreciate it if you guys would bring up this short topic on your show. It's actually not such a short topic Paul. If you wanted to really get into it with car buffs, this can go on for days and come to blows but here's my thinking on it. First of all, I find it very hard to believe that the world's refineries and automakers with their armies of engineers somehow are leaving some MPGs on the table that additive's makers. Are the only ones who have the secret code to just doesn't really wash with me. Now, here's another way to look at it. The EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, here in the U.S., does not test fuel additives. They register them. And if you find one of these that somehow proclaims it's got sort of an EPA endorsement, not the case. They simply register them but make no indication whether they work or not. Now, there are also devices you can add to your car that go on the fuel line, in the air intake, some of them go in the ignition, that supposedly say they're gonna. Improve your efficiency, some of them dramatically. They did a test on those a few years ago. And the EPA found that most of them did nothing. A few of them made your MPG worse. And a very few improved it very slightly depending on your drive style. So just think about the technology and sophistication in your modern car. The way that it's built, the way that it's monitored, the way that it's computer controlled and decide if you think it's likely that a $5 or $10 bottle of some fuel additive you dump in the tank is gonna uncover mpg that your car maker couldn't get to. And this of course is our last episode of 2014 so around this time of year we're thinking a lot about. [MUSIC] What we should be covering next year. A lot of that of course comes from your emails but, also our scanning of the landscape of automotive technology. So, here is an early sample of what I think is gonna dominate the car tech headlines in the year ahead. My top five car tech technologies to watch in the next year. [MUSIC] This is one of those videos I know I'll regret the minute I do it. Because there are so many important technologies breaking out in cars in the year ahead, that choosing just five is kinda a fool's errand. So I volunteered. Here are the five technologies to watch take off in 2015. Number five, fuel cell cars, now these are not gonna be big volume by any stretch. But they will be big headlines. Toyota just put their Rely fuel cell car into limited production. And Honda's going to be hyping up the intro of its new one in 2016. Consumers are no longer blown away by the ideal of a battery electric car. Interesting only one seems to have hit a natural and rather low plateau. At least until we get a battery breakthrough that replaces the hours with minutes. In the meantime, hydrogen fuel cell offers a tantalizing look at the future. Number 4, integrated connectivity, I mean 3G or 4G built into the car, it's going to be a big story in 2015. Some car makers will do it kind of the lame way, and use it primarily to create a hot spot in the vehicle. As GM largely does and it is gonna do in big volume but others will tie it more directly into the car's dashboard services and apps, the way Audi and Hyundai are doing it. It makes the car more like your phone. Who's not gonna be into that? Number three dash cams. Now I could be wrong on this and this may remain famously a Russian thing, but the interest I've heard from you in the past year in dash cams, along with the fact that we finally have some big names entering the game. Along with the fact that our roads only seem to be more and more of a lawless hell every year add up to more than a hunch. Number two, driver assist. Things like blind spot, lane departure, and forward collision tech are nothing new but next year we'll see two big trends around them to help save you from your own lousy driving. One, affordable cars will get these technologies much more commonly. Because keeping safety tech on just the high end cars is kind of a bad message from car makers and we'll see them swing to being mostly active technologies, not so much passive warnings that's part of the march towards autonomous cars. Before I get you to number one safer airbags may be a big innovation next year this Takata airbag recall is a fiasco that is still blossoming as we end 2014. But Autoliv of Sweden recently won awards for a new kind of airbag inflator that uses hydrogen, instead of what is basically a little rocket motor like other airbags do. You see, problems with humidity and that kind of inflator are what caused many of these Tacata airbags to blow so wildly. And create a recall they can't even make enough parts to repair. Our number one tech to watch next year has to be apps. Still fairly rare in 2014, but look at Volvo, which is going to start installing a suite of them in every car, starting with their mid 2015s onward. By the end of next year, it'll seem like an auto mission to find a new vehicle that doesn't have some built-in services, like Pandora,. Yelp or Live Search for destination. Also, 2015 is the year that many car makers now say they will actually put Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in to production. Making up for all those blown promises of doing it in 2014. Luckily, Pioneer and Alpine beat them to it in the after market. [MUSIC] Thanks for watching, hope you enjoyed this episode. Thanks for being with us. In fact, thanks for being with us all 2014. This is our final episode of the year. We're back with you top of 2015 with big stories from CES and the Detroit Auto Show. In the meantime, don't forget to find us on whatever streaming platform you like, from YouTube to Roku to just about any other. Check out our CNET apps to find CNET on cars, and don't forget the email address. Keep your comments and questions coming, I read every one, answer as many as I can. I'll see you next time and check the deck. [MUSIC]
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Brian Cooley joined CNET in 1995 and always comes at technology from the real consumer's point of view. He brings his high energy, often skeptical style to all avenues of CNET coverage, with an emphasis on car tech. You'll also find him frequently on television, radio and the TV screens at Costco!

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