We’ve always been under the impression that the production model will have massive issues with regards to styling. The concept was way out there, so much so that it featured as an advanced spy car in a Mission Impossible movie. It simply wasn’t possible for a production model to be as stunning as the concept model it was based on. As a general rule, production models are watered-down versions of the beautiful machinery first displayed in concept format.
Not so with the i8. Sure, it doesn’t look as far out as the concept, but it’s still a beautiful piece of design. It features all the BMW design cues we know and love in a modern interpretation of a wedge-shaped supercar. And let’s not forget those Lamborghini Diablo-like doors. We’re glad the accountants signed off on those.
The i8 is a 2+2 seater with a passenger cell made from carbon-fibre reinforced plastic. The result is a kerb weight of 1 490kg and a very low centre of gravity. The engineers also spent a lot of time making the i8 as slippery as possible, resulting in an extremely aerodynamic vehicle.
This is very good news for hypermilers. The i8 has a plug-in hybrid system, which is the latest development stage of BMW’s famed EfficientDynamics programme. An impressive combined consumption figure of 2.5 litres/100km is claimed with emissions figures well below the norm of a sports car.
But then it wouldn’t be a proper BMW if it didn’t perform like one. At the core of the powertrain is a 1.5-litre petrol engine with TwinPower turbo technology. It has an output of 170kW and 320Nm of torque, which is sent to the rear wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. It doesn’t sound like enough for a BMW sports car, but then it also has an electric motor with outputs of 96kW and 250Nm of torque. This power is sent to the front wheels via a two-stage automatic ’box.
The combined power output is 266kW and 570Nm of torque. Combine that with the slim bodywork and aerodynamics and you have a car that will accelerate from standstill to 100km/h in 4.4 seconds. Not bad for a hybrid.
The driver can choose between different driving modes. A comfort mode offers optimum balance between dynamics and efficiency, while a sport mode gives the driver an ultra-intense boost function provided by the electric motor. The car can also be switched between all-electric - with a range of 35km - to hybrid mode with a range of 500km.
On the inside there’s an extensive range of standard equipment, which includes navigation with a proactive drive system for all-electric driving, fully digital instrument display, BMW iDrive with free-standing control display and leather sports seats. The list further includes park distance control, cruise control with braking function, rain sensor and Intelligent Emergency Call. The i8 also comes standard with a BMW iWallbox for convenient battery charging at home.
The i8 is expected to reach South Africa late in 2014.