Chris Harris reviews the BMW i8

BMW i | November 9th, 2014 by 9
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UK journalist Chris Harris takes the new BMW i8 for a spin and shares with us his opinion on BMW’s first hybrid sports car. BMW …

UK journalist Chris Harris takes the new BMW i8 for a spin and shares with us his opinion on BMW’s first hybrid sports car.

BMW i8 went on sale this year and it is powered by a plug-in hybrid system consisting of a turbocharged three-cylinder BMW TwinPower Turbo petrol engine and BMW eDrive technology in the form of an electric drive system. The 1.5-liter combustion engine develops 170 kW/231 hp and drives the rear wheels of the BMW i8, while the 96 kW/131 hp electric drive sends its power to the front wheels and allows an all-electric range of up to 35 kilometers (22 miles) and a top speed of 120 km/h (75 mph).

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In Germany, the BMW i8 starts at €126,000, while in the UK it costs £ 99,125. The U.S. market received the i8 this summer with a base price of $135,700.

Here is an excerpt from his review:

As is the modern-hybrid way, the i8 has more preprogrammed personalities than an international Bible salesman. There are three main driving modes: full electric, hybrid, and Sport. With fully charged batteries, the electric mode can silently propel the car up to a claimed 23 miles at speeds as high as 75 mph. The hybrid gasoline-electric mode offers a few different programs, depending on usage. When you select the hybrid strategy, the default mode is electric. The gas engine rouses to life if the driver demands extra thrust via the throttle pedal or if battery charge falls below 25 percent. When the latter occurs, the i8 switches to a Hold State of Charge mode that keeps the three-cylinder thrumming in the distance, to keep the batteries’ charge constant—even while stopped.

But Sport mode is the one you care about. Isn’t it always? Here, we enjoy the full benefit of the turbocharged three-cylinder and its 236 lb-ft of torque. It’s also boosted by the instant torque delivery of that electric motor (184 lb-ft), channeled to the front wheels, so the i8 has the ability to deploy torque in a way that not only affects velocity but also handling balance. More on that later.

In Sport, the battery is kept at a higher state of charge and is more aggressively replenished under braking. While BMW has carefully downplayed expectations with this car—the company line during development was always that the i8 would be “quick enough”—in reality, it’s a rocket: 0–60 mph in just 3.8 seconds. And while acceleration falls off significantly at very high speed, the car can still tickle its 155-mph limiter. EPA fuel-economy figures are not yet available, but based on my drive, 40 mpg should be no problem. Welcome to the brave new world of fast hybrids.