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Cooley On Cars
On the road: 2014 BMW i8With its sculptured skin, gullwing doors and plugin-in hybrid drivetrain, BMW looks to the future with its new i8.
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. Corner and get on it. The turning is just fun. The i8 looks, drives, and moves itself like almost nothing else on the road. The i8 is BMW's first plug-in 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's important here in the aim of performance. Inside it's 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 some amazing, futuristic interface. 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. A 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 is a button that's interesting way of enabling or disabling kind of the perimeter curtain of driver safety tech, collision 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 plugin thru USB and AUX. You've also got a snap in 4G adapter available here. We don't have that on our car. But notice a couple 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 disk slots. 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 through 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 a. Sport Gate to the left. The Stop button below that is E drive. To force it in to 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. Pulling the shifters in Sport mode, 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 1.5 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 gear box. 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 of 362. 420 pound feet of torque are on tap, 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, were it not for this car's performance. Now some people who have driven this car come away a little disappointed, I understand, in it's prowess. I didn't come to it as a super car. I thought it was gonna be a new age TK. And in that respect it's fantastic. The car handles as wide, low and flat as it feels inside. [NOISE]. 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. Drive quality is great. That always matters to me. If you're gonna buy a car you gotta live with it. And this shifts super quick. The only odd note I've found in this car is the ro. Around town when you're not really into it. It'll sometimes fall on its face as it tries to decide between what blended mode of power it wants to be in, or if it should be in electric only. And sometimes you'll get this kinda weird indecision. I'm not a big fan of cars on steroids. Right, so bear that in mind. If you are, this may not be enough for you. But I find it's athletic without being brutal. That's my kind of car. And it's still fun, not sterile. [MUSIC] 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 market. Instead it balances both and lets you own a piece of a very impressive automaker's future vision and big best.. More cars driven CNet style, standing by now at Cnetoncars.com. Click on the road. [MUSIC]