It’s hard to find a good deal on used cars in this current automotive market. That’s especially true for sports cars, as we’ve seen even modest sports cars sell for comically high prices on the used market, more so on auctions sites such as Bring-A-Trailer. However, there are still a few nuggets on the market, sports cars that haven’t skyrocketed in value just yet and could be worth buying right now. One of which is the BMW i8, a car that was underappreciated while it was on sale but could be seeing a bit of a resurgence.
First BMW With A Carbon Fiber Chassis
When the BMW i8 was first launched, it wowed the industry. Its combination of stunning looks, a carbon fiber chassis, and plug-in hybrid powertrain made it one of the most unique cars to ever be sold at the time. It predated cars like the Porsche 918 Spyder, McLaren P1, and Ferrari LaFerrari, all of which used variations of a setup BMW already put to market with the i8, and sold for literally ten times the i8’s price. The i8 even used a two-speed gearbox on its front electric motor, something that wasn’t being done at the time but now Porsche and Audi boast about using in their Taycan and e-tron GT, respectively. The i8 was ahead of its time.
Sales figures would prove otherwise, though. While the BMW i8 sold in enough numbers to justify continuing its existence for its entire life-cycle, it didn’t sell anywhere close to well enough to compete with other premium sports cars, and even supercars, of the same price. Performance likely had a lot to do with that, as the BMW i8 was quick but it still lagged behind cars like the Porsche 911 and Audi R8, which were roughly the same price. And while it’s looks were stellar, and its engine was mounted in the middle like a proper exotic, customers had a hard to plunking down six figures on a “sports car” with only three cylinders.
During the final years of the i8’s production, it wore an MSRP sticker price of $148,495 for Coupe and $164,295 for Roadster, which was almost 911 GT3 or Audi R8 V10 money. So you can see why customers saw superior value elsewhere. Though, the BMW i8 was so much more than the sum of its parts.
Underneath its stunning polymer body was a carbon fiber monocoque chassis, like you’d find on a McLaren costing twice as much. And while its mid-mounted engine was only a 1.5 liter turbocharged three-cylinder pulled from a MINI, it was boosted to nearly its breaking point and combined with an electric motor to drive the rear wheels, through a six-speed automatic. Then, an additional electric motor drove the front wheels, though the aforementioned two-speed ‘box.
Not a single mechanical component connected the two axles and yet the i8 was all-wheel drive, thanks to brilliant software calibration between the two entirely different powertrains that drove the two separate axles. While a few cars do that now, it was magic nearly ten years ago.
Which makes the fact that you can get a nice BMW i8 for under $75,000 astonishing. Think about that for a moment; for around $70,000, you can either have the brand-new BMW M4 or a carbon-tubbed, mid-engine, plug-in hybrid supercar that looks like a spaceship. Is the M4 a better driver’s car? Yes. Will it be as cool in ten years? Almost certainly not.
Will Likely Appreciate In Value
Automotive appreciation is a helluva thing. It seems that the only factor in whether a car appreciates is its intrigue. Quirky cars seem to appreciate far better than normal cars, even sporty ones. Which means cars like the BMW i8 might become very desirable in the coming years, especially as customers’ desire to not hurt the planet as they enjoy their sports cars grows.
The BMW i8 might still use a combustion engine but it’s a small one and it can be driven on pure electricity alone. Additionally, its carbon chassis was developed at a plant in Washington state that’s entirely carbon neutral, getting its power from hydro-electricity. Which means the i8 will become very interesting for the environmentally conscious enthusiasts for years to come.
Prices are decent now but even just a quick look at classifieds proves that prices are rising. Which means it might be the perfect time to buy a BMW i8. Is it a great sports car? Probably not. It’s fun in its own way but it will never provide the driving thrills of a Porsche 911 on a twisty road. However, it’s a far more interesting vehicle, one that came up with clever solutions to fast, fun mobility in a time of great environmental concern. The i8 was more ahead of its time than any car currently on sale and customers are going to appreciate that as time goes on. So get ’em now while they’re cheap.