The BMW i8 is a unique car from the future designed to work perfectly in the present. It might not have the all-electric range of a Tesla, but it drives like a sports car, looks like a supercar and offers the same comfort as a regular BMW. What do you need to know before you buy a BMW i8? Don’t worry, we’ll tell you everything right here in the Ultimate Buyer’s Guide.
BMW’s plug-in sports car has been in production for two years now, yet if BMW were to announce it at next year’s Geneva Motor Show, the crowd would undoubtedly go crazy all over again. It’s that special.
The most remarkable thing about the i8 is that, once you’re inside the cockpit, the supercar doesn’t feel like an alien car-of-the-future. It drives like a normal car, albeit a very fast one. With its leather seats and familiar infotainment system, it does’t feel like a compromise.
In fact, since it’s the brand’s halo car, BMW made sure you climb out satisfied after each journey. Its shapes and materials might not be as quirky as the i3’s, but it’s a proper spaceship from the outside and that’s what separates it from the crowd. Add in the great fuel economy and fast acceleration, and you’ve got one of the flat-out coolest cars in production.
Maybe the coolest right now, in fact.
The i8 fast in a straight line, and rides well too. And while we wouldn’t take ours to a track day, as it’s more ofa grand tourer, it’s a well rounded machine that doesn’t feel underpowered for a second. At low speeds, crawling in the traffic silently using zero gas is a very satisfying experience, and once that heavily turbocharged gas engine barks back to life, you get all sorts of angry noises, some fake, some real, all entertaining.
The i8 was built for road trips. It’s comfortable, economical enough, great looking and will take care of enough luggage for two. It will also drift on a snowy road. We know, we tested it.
BMW showed the world its first plug-in hybrid production vehicle at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show. That car, the BMW i8 coupe, looked a lot like BMW’s Vision Efficient Dynamics diesel plug-in concept they showed at the Frankfurt Motor Show all the way back in 2009.
When we first saw live photos of the Vision Concept, our jaws dropped. The futuristic styling, the wing-like doors, the huge expanse of glass on the sides: it was anything but flaccid.
Then we saw the concept show up a year and a half later during filming for Mission Impossible 4, and once again, our salivary glands couldn’t contain themselves.
After showing the i8 as a concept, to our delight, BMW launched the production version for the 2014 model year. The production spec ditched the turbodiesel for a turbocharged inline-3 gas motor based on a Mini engine, and while its styling was different than the original concept’s, it still kept a lot of design elements that made the concept such a knockout.
Not much has changed since the production model debuted, with the exception of laser headlights, which are optional for 2016.
The BMW i8 gets an AC Synchronous 129 horsepower, 184 lb-ft electric motor mated to a 7.1 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. That motor sits at the front of the car, while a 228 horsepower 1.5-liter turbo I3 sits out over the rear axle.
Together, the powerplants combine to make 357 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. Those power numbers are enough to get the 3,445 pound hybrid coupe to 60 MPH in only 4.2-seconds.
The gas engine sends its juice through a six-speed automatic transmission and then to the rear wheels, while the electric motors drives the front wheels through a two-speed transmission.
2016 BMW I8 ENGINE OPTIONS
Engine Max Horsepower (hp) Max Torque (lb-ft) Turbo I3 Hybrid 357 (combined) 420 (combined)
The little 7.1 kW lithium-ion battery will only power the i8 for about 15 miles before the gas motor has to kick in to charge the battery. Note that over those 15 miles, the gas engine does have to sip a little bit of fuel, hence why the EPA technically gives the i8 a zero mile all-electric range. Also, top speed is limited to about 75 MPH in all-electric mode.
In hybrid mode, the car manages a combined fuel economy rating of 76 MPGe. The gas engine alone is EPA rated at 28 MPG combined. The 11.1 gallon gas tank helps the car get a full 330 miles before running out of fuel.
The i8 gets five drive modes: COMFORT, ECO and SPORT, the former two of which can be chose in eDrive mode for pure-electric driving.
Each mode adjusts the interaction between the motor and gas engine, with Sport as the most exciting option, with the electric motor and internal combustion engine going at full power, and regenerative brakes aggressively trying to keep those cells filled.
Charging time is about 2.5 hours from a Level 2 charging station installed at home.
2016 BMW I8 FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS (COMBINED)
_ 1.5-liter turbo I3 plug-in hybrid Automatic Transmission 76 MPGe, 28 MPG on gas only
Trim Level Breakdown
The BMW i8 comes in a single trim level. Steering is electric, front suspension is a double-wishbone type, and the rear suspension is a five-link independent setup. All-wheel drive is standard, and brakes are 13.4-inch vented discs under the nose and 13-inchers under the butt.
There’s only one trim and only a few notable options, so there’s not much we can say other than: this is an awesome car and you should buy it.
MSRP: $140,700 Top Speed: 155 MPH
Acceleration: 4.2s to 60
Fuel Economy: 76 MPGe, 28 MPG gas-only
Electric+gas range: 15 miles
Total Range: 330 miles
Engines: 1.5-liter turbo plug-in hybrid
Torque: 420 lb-ft
Curb Weight: 3,445 IIHS Safety Rating: Not Tested
Transmissions: Six-speed auto (rear), two-speed electric (front)
Drivetrain Layout: Mid ICE Engine, Front Electric Motor, AWD
Photo credit: BMW