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In-depth reviews

BMW i8 Coupe - Engines, drive & performance (2014-2021)

The quick BMW i8 corners as a sports car should and is lots of fun to drive

Carbuyer Rating

3.3 out of 5

Owners Rating
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Engines, drive & performance Rating

4.0 out of 5

Despite the impressive fuel-economy figures and pure-electric driving range, the BMW i8 offers all the driving fun you’d expect from an expensive sports car. This is as far from the traditional view of an electric car as it’s possible to get.

BMW i8 drivers can choose from three different modes: Eco Pro, Comfort and Sport. The first aims to make the car as efficient as possible, giving the best fuel economy, while Comfort sets the i8 up for long-distance cruising.

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But if you want to drive the car a bit faster, then Sport is the one to go for. When you select it, the dashboard dials turn red and the petrol engine and electric motor are primed to deliver maximum acceleration. Use everything they've got and the BMW i8 can get from 0-62mph in 4.4 seconds, before going on to a top speed of 155mph.

Selecting Sport mode also stiffens the car's suspension, adds weight to the steering and means you get the full force of the clever brake-energy-regeneration system, which slows the car and recharges the batteries whenever you take your foot off the accelerator.

You’ll quickly notice that the 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine’s sound is a far cry from something like the V10 engine you’ll find in an Audi R8. But performance is equally as startling. Thanks to the electric motors, the BMW responds the instant you press the accelerator, regardless of speed. With Sport mode engaged, things are even more ferocious and the engine sound becomes more like that of a mini Porsche 911 – despite having half as many cylinders.

The automatic gearbox is a joy to use (BMW automatics almost always are), shifting gear so quickly that acceleration is virtually seamless.

In corners, the BMW i8 has plenty of grip thanks to four-wheel drive, while its lightweight body makes it feel extremely nimble. Body lean is kept to an absolute minimum and the car’s steering also inspires confidence in fast bends.

Yet, for all its unique appeal and vicious acceleration, the i8 doesn’t quite deliver the invigorating, wholesome sports-car experience that you’ll get from the Porsche 911. While the 911 feels like a pure sports car, the BMW i8 feels more like an impressive technical achievement than a performance thoroughbred. 

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Richard is a former editor of Carbuyer, as well as sister site DrivingElectric.com, and he's now Deputy Editor at Auto Express. Having spent a decade working in the automotive industry, he understands exactly what makes new car buyers tick.

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