BMW has always been a pioneer in performance cars. With the i8, the Bavarian carmaker takes performance to another level. The i8 is a sports car with an all-wheel-drive plug-in hybrid powertrain. A 1.5L, dual-overhead-cam 3-cylinder turbocharged engine in the rear axle is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. It is rated at 228 horsepower. This system is paired with a 129-horsepower BMW eDrive electric motor placed near the front axle, which has its own integrated two-stage automatic transmission. Together, the engine and motor produce an impressive 357 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. This is enough to propel the i8 from 0-60 mph in just 4.2 seconds.
BMW states that the i8 can drive solely on electric power for 15 miles (at up to 75 mph), and the EPA rates it at 76 MPGe, which is a miles-per-gallon equivalent that measures how far the i8 can travel on the amount of energy in one gallon of gas. The car features four driving modes: Comfort, Sport, Eco Pro and eDrive Mode. Comfort blends the best attributes of performance, fuel efficiency and chassis compliance. Sport includes an eBoost function, which improves responsiveness from the chassis and steering. Eco Pro optimizes fuel efficiency in either all-electric or hybrid mode. Finally, eDrive Mode is for all-electric driving. BMW claims the i8 will fully charge in 1.5 hours on a 240-volt hookup or 3.5 hours on 120 volts.
The aerodynamic i8 features sweeping lines and sculpted looks, with side skirts that direct airflow into the engine. Scissor doors cap off the i8's exotic look. Exotic materials make up the i8 as well. The passenger compartment is made from Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic (CFRP), an extremely strong material that is 50 percent lighter than steel and 30 percent lighter than aluminum. Among its many high-tech bits is brake energy recuperation, which gathers energy created under braking and utilizes it to help keep the 7.1kW lithium-ion battery pack charged.
Front suspension is double wishbone, while the rear is sprung through a five-link setup. All four wheels feature cross-drilled, ventilated 13-inch disc brakes with anti-lock brakes, dynamic brake control and cornering brake control. The i8 rides on 20-inch alloy wheels and tires, and LEDs are employed for the headlights, daytime running lights, and accent lights. Rain-sensing windshield wipers and automatic headlight control are also standard.
Inside, the 3-stage heated leather front seats feature 6-way power adjustment, with driver's side memory. A 3-spoke leather steering wheel includes paddled shifters for total driver control. Bluetooth hands-free connectivity and navigation are standard, as is voice feedback and voice command recognition, plus 20 gigabytes of storage for audio files. As with all BMWs, the i8 includes iDrive, with commands displayed on an 8.8-inch full-color flat screen. Automatic dual-zone climate control, dynamic cruise control, power accessories, and a 360-watt harman/kardon surround sound audio system featuring 11 speakers are all standard.
Four packages -- Giga World, Tera World, Pure Impulse World, and Mega World -- and pleasantries and performance options to the i8, including a variety of 20-inch wheels, perforated leather upholstery and LED headlights with cornering lights.
This is not a car for introverts.
More so than anything I can remember driving in recent years, the burnt-orange BMW i8 Roadster draws questions, compliments and photos wherever you go. There's something about this car's sci-fi movie design that stops people in their tracks even before I open the upwards-swinging doors. They're even more intrigued when I tell them that, yes, this wild-looking machine is a hybrid.
Just like the coupe that has now been on sale for half a decade, theis a fascinating vehicle. A plug-in hybrid that also delivers almost-supercar performance and Instagrammable style? The i8 is really something different.
The Good Outlandish styling with an efficient yet powerful plug-in powertrain.
The Bad Wind buffeting when top-down, awkward ingress, and a subscription fee for Apple CarPlay.
The Bottom Line Fascinating, thrilling and more than a little bit nerdy, the i8 is a one-of-a-kind convertible.
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