BMW i8 review

Category: Coupé

Section: Introduction

BMW i8 front
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  • BMW i8 front
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  • BMW i8 back seats
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Introduction

What Car? says...

With its butterfly doors and bold, sculpted body, there’s no doubt that the BMW i8 turns heads on the high street. There’s more to it than merely eye-catching looks, though – the i8 may just be the most ambitious car that BMW has ever produced.

Although it falls into the same sports car bracket as the Porsche 911 and Audi R8, the i8 does things rather differently by using plug-in hybrid technology. Its three-cylinder petrol engine – related to that used in the Mini hatchback – is far smaller than those of its rivals, but it combines with electric power to provide impressive performance. This is a car that’s designed to be as exciting to drive as it is kind to the environment.

Read on over the next few pages for our detailed impressions of the i8 and, if this high-tech sports car captures your imagination enough to take the plunge, visit our New Car Buying site to see how much you could save.

Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

Press the start button and you’ll be greeted by silence. Drive is initially provided by a 129bhp electric motor that draws power from a battery pack mounted centrally in the car. It powers the front wheels and, when fully charged, BMW says it will allow you to cover up to 34 miles with silent ease. In real-world conditions, though, you’ll struggle to cover that distance using the battery alone, especially if you find yourself at 60mph or above.

The i8 isn’t all about straight-line performance, however. It’s light for a car of its class and has decent front-end grip, so when you turn in you’ll find it changes direction quickly and in a controlled fashion; the i8 is not a car that enjoys playing the hooligan. The steering is precise and very light, making the i8 easy to manoeuvre, but it lacks the feedback and weight of the steering in a Porsche, which is still the more satisfying – and capable – car to drive hard.

The ride in the i8 is a little firm at low speeds, even with the standard adaptive dampers in Comfort mode, but it’s still impressively comfortable considering it’s a sports car, while the high-speed ride on the motorway is nicely planted and stable. Sport mode does make the ride stiffer, but not to the point that it’ll pogo you off the road. This is a car that will happily munch through the miles without breaking into a sweat. There is, however, quite a bit of road noise at higher speeds, but at low speeds when running on electric power only it is eerily but pleasantly quiet.