BMW’s flagship i Division car is the i8, a car that looks like what people envision when they think about a future of flying cars. The BMW i8 is a car that’s almost impossible not to love. With those incredibly futuristic looks, a fascinating and impressive hybrid powertrain and performance that rivals some of the best sports cars in the world, the i8 is almost universally liked. But for many, its charm isn’t enough. Some owners need to find something to improve, no matter how minute. But how does one go about improving the look of such a stunning car?

Well one way is to wrap it. Wrapping cars has become exceedingly popular in the past couple of years. It’s a good way to completely change the look of your car that isn’t permanent and can be changed relatively quickly and cost effectively. It also allows for a lot of flexibility and creativity.

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When BMW North America Head of Accessory and Lifestyle, Eric Riehle, heard about the increasing amount of owners wrapping their BMW i8s, he decided to wrap his company i8 as an experiment to see how wrapping an i8 would result. According to Riehle, neither he nor BMW had much experience with vinyl wrapping prior to this. “We didn’t really have much experience with this topic before, as usually our extent with vinyl has been with M stripes and coverings for smaller body panels” said Riehle.

So this was a new experience for Riehle and BMW NA. “The toughest choice was selecting a color. There are so many great choices out there! I had been following a few different accounts on Instagram that had some really cool and different i8 wrap designs.” BMW i8s have a variety of color combinations, but we don’t offer anywhere close to the sort of extensive options you can get from wraps. “In the end we decided to go with a color called “Frozen Red Satin Conform Chrome” produced by Avery [Dennison]”.

After picking a color option, it came time for getting it installed. But there aren’t many automotive wrap installers that owners will trust to work on their six-figure BMW i8. So Riehle took it to someone he could trust. “The next challenge was finding a good installer. BMW of Manhattan has a lot of experience with wrapping their i8s so we reached out them for assistance.”

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“Wrapping an i8 normally takes about 20 hours when using standard vinyl, but in this case it took nearly 40 hours due the chrome. The chrome vinyl actually has a layer of metal in it, which limits the pliability of the material. Standard vinyl can be stretched up to 50% of its original dimension, but chrome vinyl has very little stretch at all.”

But Riehle didn’t want to lose the exciting and dynamic looks of the i8, so he couldn’t just wrap it in red chrome. “I wanted to create something even more exotic and unique looking from the other wrapped i8s I had seen in the past. Instead of entirely wrapping the car in red, we decided to change the some of the design language that’s commonly recognizable with the i8. For example, we sought out to change all of the blue accent pieces on the exterior and the entire upper-half of the car to gloss black”. He also had the wheels painted black, to finish off the black/red color scheme.

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What were Riehle’s impressions when he finally saw his creation? “When I first saw the car it was parked in-doors on the dealer’s service drive. I was blown away by how great everything turned out. The color was so striking and the black accents helped transform the entire look of the car! I’ve always been a fan of the i8’s futuristic design, but after wrapping it, I was really surprised on how much more I liked it and how different it looked from a “normal” i8. It now had a much more edgier and menacing demeanor. The changes even elevated the “super-car” appearance of the vehicle” It started to garner even more attention than i8s normally do.

While there are many BMW i8 owners out there that wrap their cars, it’s not often we get to hear first-hand about the experience and how it changes the look, feel and overall style of the car. Especially being able to live with it every day, Riehle will be able to give us a very good idea about what it’s like to own a wrapped i8. “The car is my daily driver, so it gets a lot of use. Which is the perfect situation for our feasibility test as we wanted to create a real-world scenario for long term durability of the wrap. I drive the car on sunny days, in the rain and even in the snow. I drop my 6 year old son off at school every weekday morning, attend Cars and Coffee meets on the weekends. I even had to bring home our Christmas tree this December by tying it to the roof of the car! So as you could imagine, the car gets exposure to just about everything.”

Riehle gives more details about the project

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The hue and depth of the red is very unique in that it’s chrome with a satin finish. Normally chrome wraps are gaudy, in my opinion. They can be too shinny and create a visual distraction. The satin or matte layer of the wrap dulls the chrome’s shine, but it’s not completely muted. This finish also changes the color tone of the red. In bright sunshine it can appear to be light red, with an almost orange tone, and under lower light conditions it looks like a candy apple red with black shadows, depending on the angle of the body panel. Believe it or not, some of the best photos I’ve seen of the car were taken late in the afternoon under a light rain. Mid-day photos tend to get washed out from the sun’s reflections on the chrome.

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Quality and maintenance

I’ve had the car wrapped for 3 months now and I’ve been happy with the quality of the material. It has a few light scratches, but nothing different than what you would expect from a painted car with a matte finish. The trick is to keep it clean and quickly remove any tree sap, bird droppings, grease, etc.

The biggest pain with the wrap is that it can only be hand-washed. You could technically bring it to a brush-less car wash, but I prefer not to. I usually hand wash the car myself, but during the cold winter months I have it professionally cleaned, which is getting expensive…

If you wash the car once a week and take good care of it, you should expect to get at least 3 years out of a properly installed wrap.

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The wrap is not perfect and you have to expect some compromises when wrapping your car. For example, the color I chose didn’t come in a 60” roll, so there’s a seam down the center of the hood. There’s also a seam at the top of the quarter panels. The quarter panel issue is unique to the angular design of the i8. The installer did a good job with it, but I’m sure that it would bother a few people.

Also, the key-less entry no longer works on the car because the metallic chrome layer of the wrap is blocking the antennae’s reception of the key.

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In summary

I have really enjoyed driving a wrapped i8 and would absolutely do it again if given the opportunity. The car is such a head-turner and so many people have commented on how much they love it. With that said, a wrapped car is not for everyone. The additional maintenance, the “short” life-span and the overall quality would turn many owners away. Wraps are a perfect solution for someone that wants to uniquely personalize the look of their car, but you have to be willing to put up with the compromises.

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