BMW launched the i3 and i8 models this year, forerunners of an intended sub-brand that will emphasize the use of clean, electric power. Where the i3 is intended as a pure electric city runabout, the i8 maintains the sport-driving legacy of BMW.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Josh Miller/CNET

BMW put a lot of work into developing carbon fiber production for the i8. The car uses a carbon fiber reinforced plastic body and aluminum suspension elements.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Josh Miller/CNET

The plug-in hybrid drivetrain consists of a 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine driving the rear wheels, and an electric motor turning the front wheels. That drive system is good for a total of 362 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque.

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BMW says the i8 will get to 62 mph in just 4.4 seconds and have a pure electric range of 22 miles. Fuel economy, likely based on the electric drive, is listed as 94 mpg in the EU test cycle.

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The i8 has an extremely low center of gravity, just 18 inches, made possible by its body construction and lithium ion battery pack incorporated into the chassis.

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BMW will make laser-based headlights available as an option, but only in markets where the regulations allow it.

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A 96-kilowatt electric motor drives the front wheels.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Josh Miller/CNET

Although the gasoline engine driving the rear wheels only has three cylinders, it produces 231 horsepower.

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The styling of the i8 is unique, and seems to take its influence from the carbon fiber pieces making up the body.

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The doors lift up and twist out, which should allow access in tight parking spaces.

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BMW will offer wheels made partially with carbon fiber as an option on the i8.

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Although the body looks unique, the cabin has a familiar BMW design.

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The seats have a narrow profile, reducing excess size and weight.

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The driver will have a choice of drive modes, including Eco Pro, Comfort, and Sport, similar to current BMW models. Electric drive will also be available.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Josh Miller/CNET

The shifter follows the design from current BMW models, as does the 8.3-inch LCD.

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The i8 uses the latest generation of BMW's iDrive infotainment system.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Josh Miller/CNET
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