Model strengths: Design; technological innovation; excellent fuel economy for a performance hybrid; exclusivity. Model changes: The BMW i8 is essentially unchanged for 2017, aside from a new color in Protonic Red.
Model value: The i8 is the perfect blend of BMW’s never-ending quest to build the “Ultimate Driving Machine” and its full embrace of the technologies of tomorrow. A gas-electric hybrid with few peers, the i8 offers world-beating performance and top-level luxury in an exotic package that sips fuel and promises to stand out from the crowd for a long time.
Model overview: 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 2-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 equivalent 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 aluminium.
Among its many high-tech equipment is brake energy recuperation, which gathers energy created under braking and utilizes it to help keep the 7.1kW lithium-ion battery pack charged.