BMW i8 coupe
Price £104,540 - £112,535
- Stunning design
- Amazing performance
- Limited luggage space
- Hefty price tag
- Not tested by Euro NCAP
At a glance
"The groundbreaking BMW i8 runs with the fuel economy of a family car, but drives like a supercar."
When the BMW i8 was first introduced, it was met with intrigue and acclaim. This was the first time a major manufacturer had released an upmarket, sporty coupe with a hybrid power system, and its wild looks separated it from anything that had come before.
It's a difficult car to categorise, but most people see it as a sports car, a term which its scorching acceleration figure of 0-62mph in 4.4 seconds tends to support. This is made possible by a 228bhp 1.5-litre petrol engine working in combination with a 129 bhp electric motor, as well as careful design ensuring the i8 cuts as cleanly through the air as possible.
If you can discipline yourself enough to avoid using the i8's Bentley Continental-humbling performance, Eco Pro mode unlocks a potential 134.5mpg fuel consumption matched to CO2 emissions of 49g/km, but our experience has seen a rather less remarkable 45mpg in everyday driving. As it's a plug-in hybrid, the i8's batteries need to be plugged into a charging point or domestic socket and will be fully charged after around three hours. The driving range on electricity alone is 23 miles.
The i8 is guaranteed to turn heads every time you get in and out, thanks to its show-stopping gullwing doors. These can be a little awkward to use in supermarket car parks or other areas with space constraints. Once inside you’ll find that the interior design comes close to matching the flamboyance of the exterior. There's plenty of equipment and the occupants are surrounded by some lovely materials and textures.
When in motion, effort is shared between the electric motor, which turns the front wheels, and the petrol engine, which powers the rears. The two are linked by a battery pack located right at the centre of the car's structural ‘spine’. The battery is partly topped up on the move using regenerative braking. The distribution of the car's 1.5-tonne weight is such that it always feels planted on the road.
We wonder if BMW could have saved a little of that weight by not bothering fitting rear seats. They’re really only a token gesture and more comfortable for luggage than people. We rather wish this space could have been used to make the boot bigger.
This rather rules the i8 out for use as an environmentally-friendly family car – if this was your plan, you’d be better served by the Porsche Panamera S e-hybrid, a car that's also markedly less expensive to buy than the £100,000+ BMW, although both are exempt from the London Congestion Charge.
The batteries and self-diagnostic systems of the BMW i8 are covered by a long warranty, helping to provide peace of mind to buyers who’ve never owned a car like this. It also provides reassurance as to the reliability of the many new technologies found on board.
It's also hard to rate the i8 for crash safety; due to its specialist nature, expense and relative rarity it hasn’t been through Euro NCAP's independent tests, nor is it likely to, although it isn’t short on safety features.
In summary, the i8 represents an expensive way of being environmentally friendly, and its impracticality limits its usefulness as your only car. But there's no denying its futuristic appeal and the driving experience genuinely is electrifying.
Sports cars don't come much more economical than the BMW i8
The quick BMW i8 corners as a sports car should and is lots of fun to drive
The BMW i8 has a comfortable and stylish interior that’s just as striking as the exterior
Rear seats are tight and the boot is small – but the BMW i8 has tailored luggage to make the most of the space
New technology hasn't been tried and tested, but the BMW i8 feels well put together