The BMW i8 is a clever plug-in hybrid, mid-engine supercar that was ahead of its time at launch. It wasn’t ever the fastest or most capable car in its price range but it offers a unique and interesting take on the supercar, while also packing stunning good looks and a bit of all-electric range. First launched as a series production car back in 2014, the first-ever plug-in hybrid sports car from BMW has quickly become the most successful performance vehicle in the world. The BMW i8 Coupe and i8 Roadster are the ultimate technological milestones of the BMW Group, blending in a spectacular and futuristic design with state-of-the-art engineering. The reason why the i8 is so important to BMW is the fact that it laid the foundation for future electrification of the entire range of models.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
One of the things that makes the BMW i8 so unique is its powertrain. The i8 essentially has two separate powertrains; a 1.5 liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine, paired with an electric motor, that powers the rear wheels, and a single electric motor that powers the front wheels. Total system power is 369 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque, which helps the i8 get from 0-60 mph in about 4.4 seconds. Interestingly, the BMW i8 was also the first hybrid/EV to use a two-speed transmission for its electric motor at the front.
Fuel Economy and MPG
The whole point of making the BMW i8 a hybrid was to offer impressive fuel economy on top of supercar performance/styling. While the i8 isn’t as economical as BMW had hoped, it’s still more economical than most supercars, capable of returning 35 MPGe. Because of that front electric motor, the latest iteration of the BMW i8 can drive up to 22 miles on pure electric power alone.
Interior and Cargo Space
While most mid-engine supercars have both a rear and front trunk, the BMW i8 does not, as the front electric motor and transmission take up the space where a “frunk” would go. Also, the rear trunk isn’t capable of holding much of anything. An average-sized briefcase will take up the most of the rear trunk space. There’s also very little in the way of interior cargo space.
The interior was also always the i8’s biggest criticism. While the exterior design is breathtaking, the interior design is both a bit too vanilla and a bit too low-rent for its price tag. It’s a sustainable interior with a lot of unique materials built with a minimalistic approach.
Being an older BMW, the i8 uses BMW’s iDrive 6 system, which is a bit behind the times. However, it’s still very functional, easy to use, and easy to understand. While owners of more modern BMWs might be disappointed by the i8’s infotainment system, it’s perfectly functional and usable, with all the necessary modern features.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
This is another area where the BMW i8 shows its age. Having debuted in 2014, with only a mild LCI facelift a few years later, the i8 lacks many of the driver-assistance features of more modern cars. It has things like automated emergency braking, forward collision warnings, and front and rear parking sensors but it lacks lane-keep assist, any of BMW’s Level 2 autonomy, and even blind-spot monitors. The last bit is especially frustrating when you consider the bad blind spots it has, inherent of mid-engine supercars.
When it was new, the BMW i8 started at $148,495. However, it’s no longer on sale and used examples can be had for well under $100,000. Considering the fact that it’s a mid-engine supercar with a hybrid powertrain, a carbon fiber monocoque chassis, and sports car performance, it’s actually a good deal on the used market. The 2020 i8 Roadster with its MSRP of $164,295 was at some point the most expensive BMW on sale, but some units at around 100,000 miles can be purchased for around $100,000.