BMW i8 coupe
BMW i8 coupe
- Sleek styling
- Superb peformance
- Cheap to run
- Near-useless rear seats
- Very small boot
- Expensive to buy
At a glance
"The BMW i8 represents the first in a new wave of sports cars that are not only quick and fun to drive, but also astonishingly cheap to run."
The BMW i8 looks like it's arrived from another planet and its performance and economy figures read like the stuff of science fiction, too. It is arguably the first in a new age of sports cars that combine super-quick performance, fuel with economy that brings a new meaning to the word ‘frugal’.
That the i8 looks high-tech is no surprise, because its out-of-worldly styling hides an ultra-modern construction that uses materials such as aluminium and carbon fibre to make the BMW i8 lighter than an Audi R8 supercar.
Underneath its eye-catching skin is a relatively small 1.5-litre engine, which is boosted by two electric motors to produce a total of 357bhp. That's enough to get the BMW from 0-60mph in just 4.4 seconds and on to a top speed of 155mph.
The cost of the BMW's eye-catching styling is that there is only enough space for two full-sized adults and a couple of small kids in the back.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Sports cars don't come much more economical than the BMW i8
Running costs should be a strong point of the BMW i8. There's only one model to choose from, but it gets quoted fuel economy of 135mpg and CO2 emissions of just 49g/km, which means it easily qualifies for free road tax. That means the BMW i8 is also exempt from paying London’s daily Congestion Charge, and can travel up to 22 miles on battery power alone at speeds of up to 75mph.
That said, unless you do mainly short journeys, you'll struggle to match that mpg figure in the real world. A more realistic number would be around 40mpg – still impressive for a supercar that rivals the Porsche 911.
Remarkably, the BMW i8 is also available with an inclusive maintainence pack for £1,000 – taking care of all major and minor services for the first five years.
Interior & comfort
Comfortable and stylish interior is just as striking as the exterior
The BMW i8 can be driven in three different modes: Eco Pro, Comfort or Sport. Both Eco Pro and Comfort soften the i8's suspension to make the car extremely comfortable even for town cruising. Sport stiffens the setup to make it more fun in the corners – with less body lean than in the standard modes.
Climbing inside the i8’s cabin isn’t as easy as it would be in a more conventional car, thanks to its low roofline and large sill, which you have to lift your foot over before sliding into the seat. The tricky manoeuvring is worth it, though, because the BMW i8s interior is just as striking as the outside.
However, once you're in, that low roofline and slippery shape means there is very little wind noise – making the i8 a decent motorway cruiser.
Practicality & boot space
Rear seats are tight and the boot is small - but tailored luggage makes the most of the space
Given those striking looks, the BMW i8 was never going to be the most practical car on the planet, and it doesn’t compare well to more usable sports cars such as the Porsche 911.
Its boot can offer just 154 litres of capacity – that’s less than you get in a Volkswagen up!, although BMW does offer a tailor-made luggage set that means you should be able to get the best out of the space that is available.
The BMW i8 is a strict 2+2 sports car rather than a full-on four seater, so the rear seats are for very small children only – and even they might feel a bit hemmed in. Unfortunately there won’t be space even for them if you decide to spec the BMW i8’s tailored Louis Vuitton luggage mentioned above, as some of that is designed to sit across the back seat.
Reliability & safety
New technology hasn't been tried and tested, but everything feels well put together
The BMW i8 comes loaded with new equipment, which makes predicting reliability a little trickier than normal. Nonetheless, the car’s batteries come with a three-year/60,000 mile warranty, and the BMW can also be specced with BMW TeleServices, which tells you when the car needs serviced and when the garage has an available slot in its diary.
The BMW i8 should also be safe, although it is yet to be crash tested by Euro NCAP. All BMW i8s come fitted with bright LED headlights – but if they’re not hi-tech enough, BMW will fit laser headlights at extra cost. They are ten times more powerful than conventional lights and their pure-white beam is effective at distances of up to 600 meters. They come fitted with BMW’s high-beam assist, which means you can keep your headlights on full beam all the time, without dazzling other drivers.
The car can also be fitted with a Driver Assistant package, which includes equipment such as autonomous braking. It can slow the car if it senses an imminent impact, while object detection can sense a vehicle in your blind spot.
Engines, drive & performance
The quick i8 corners as a sports car should, and is plenty of fun to drive
BMW i8 drivers can take their pick from three settings: Eco Pro, Comfort and Sport. The former aims to give the best economy possible, while Comfort makes the i8 ideal for cruising.
But, if you want to drive the car a bit faster, then Sport is the mode to go for. Select it and the BMW’s dials turn red and the car’s petrol engine and two electric motors are primed for acceleration. Use everything they’ve got and the BMW i8 can get from 0-62mph in 4.4 seconds and on to a top speed of 155 mph.
Selecting Sport mode also stiffens the car’s suspension, adds weight to the steering, and means you get the full force of the car’s brake energy regeneration system, which slows the car and recharges its batteries when you take your foot of the accelerator.
In the corners, the BMW i8 doesn’t feel like one of BMW’s conventional performance cars. It has plenty of grip thanks to four-wheel drive, while its lightweight body makes it feel extremely nimble. Body roll is kept to an absolute minimum, and the car’s steering also inspires confidence in the bends.
Price, value for money & options
The BMW i8 gets lots of equipment, but is expensive to buy
The BMW i8 is such a unique car that gauging its value is extremely difficult, but compared to hugely expensive hypercars that use the same kind of technology – including the Porsche 918 and McLaren P1 – the BMW looks like excellent value. That said, even with the £5,000 Government grant for plug-in cars, you're still looking at the thick end of £95,000 if you want to buy one outright.
However, it does come with a generous standard-fit kit list that includes LED headlights, Dynamic Damper Control (which allows the driver to control the suspension setup), cruise control, sat-nav, and a Bluetooth phone connection. The car also gets a leather interior, a sports steering wheel and climate control.
Opting for the Pure Impulse package, meanwhile, adds equipment such as huge 20-inch alloy wheels, a premium Harmon Kardon stereo and BMW’s HUD (Head Up Display) that projects information such as speed and sat-nav directions onto the windscreen.
What the others say
"The i8 is more of a precision tool than a tyre-smoking M model, and while a 911 may be sharper in bends, there's no better definition of a sports car for the modern world."
"On the Pacific Coast Highway the warbling, growling three-pot starts and gives relaxed cruising and a decent turn of speed, although standing starts tail off after an initial heady electric-motor rush and the i8 never feels quite as fast as the 4.4sec 0-62mph claim"