New BMW i8 2014 review

13 Jul, 2014 6:15pm James Disdale

BMW i8 supercar has arrived here at last. We test its mettle on some of Scotland’s most exciting roads

Verdict

5
It’s hard not to be blown away by the BMW i8. It looks sensational and delivers a knock-out punch, yet is backed by the sort of running costs that will shame a city car. Sure, it’s not quite the ultimate driving machine we’ve come to expect from BMW, but as a first attempt to redefine the supercar for the 21st century it’s a truly remarkable achievement. Take the plunge and you won’t be disappointed.

The quiet, twisting, pock-marked roads of the Scottish highlands are a world away from the smooth highways and glitz of Los Angeles, where we last drove the BMW i8. Now it’s got nowhere to hide, is this carbon fibre, petrol-electric supercar just as good as we first thought?

There’s something about the contrast of desolate hills and deserted roads with the i8’s cutting-edge design that makes the car stand out more than we ever imagined. The drivers and pedestrians we did pass gawped and pointed with amazement – it must be like seeing a Stealth Bomber land at your local airstrip.

And if it wasn’t for the  BMW i8’s attention-grabbing looks, stealth is something it could do very well. Set off in the default Comfort setting and it’ll run purely on the near-silent electric motor that powers the front wheels.

• Best hybrid cars to buy now

Avoid flooring the throttle and stay below 75mph, and the 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo that powers the rears won’t fire into life at all – at least, until the batteries are depleted after about 15 miles of normal driving.

BMW i8 UK rear

It feels relaxed, smooth and as quick as a Ford Fiesta ST. Pushing the throttle near the floor or selecting Sport mode starts up the engine. Where you had just 129bhp before, there’s now a total of 357bhp and four-wheel drive at your disposal. Performance feels surprisingly smooth given the complicated process going on underneath the skin, and is helped by the slick six-speed auto.

The electric motor fills in for the engine at low revs where it won’t be producing much torque, then takes more of a back seat as the turbo helps rocket you through the gears and on to a limited 155mph.

To give you an idea of the performance on offer, the i8 will go from 0-62mph in 4.4 seconds, placing it firmly in Porsche 911 Carrera 4S territory. But it’s the BMW’s instant surge of acceleration that really impresses – there’s no need to wait for the revs to build, it just flies.

Some clever engineering and a bit of digital audio wizardry help ensure the tiny engine sounds good from inside the cabin, too. It’s a little muted, but the deep, rough growl is similar to Porsche’s flat-six.

However, noise and acceleration are only half the story; what about the handling? With 4WD, adaptive dampers and weighing 70kg less than the lightest Audi R8, things look promising.

BMW i8 UK interior

The steering is light at all speeds, but never feels vague. As a result, you end up guiding the i8 with your fingertips, using the car’s quick responses and strong grip to place the nose with pinpoint accuracy. Skinny front tyres mean the car will eventually wash wide sooner than a 911, but the hybrid four-wheel-drive system means the BMW boasts plenty of traction when exiting corners. There’s also very little body roll, although the ride is remarkably smooth, with only a little firmness at low speeds.

Ultimately there are cars in this class that are a bit sharper and a bit more involving, but there’s nothing else that can match the i8’s eco credentials. Officially it can return 134.5mpg and emits a mere 49g/km of CO2, but over the course of a normal 50-mile drive you can probably expect around 50mpg. That’s some way off what BMW claims, but still mightily impressive for a car this fast.

At £94,845 (after the £5,000 Government grant) it’s a bit pricier than the £88,400 911 4S. However, once you add the i8’s adaptive dampers, heated leather seats, LED headlights, dual-clutch gearbox and parking sensors, the Porsche actually works out more expensive.

Disqus - noscript

With this car, Europe levels score with the US-made phenomenon otherwise known as Tesla Model S. Full marks to the BMW for making us proud.
The i8 is spectacularly futuristic in design, styling and the tech used to keep weight down and performance up to equal conventional sport cars.

Don't know if I like the design of the i8? I think I would have to see it in the flesh but to me it looks a bit unbalance. Still 4.4 to 60 with tiny emissions is pretty impressive and bodes well for future Beemers. Wonder if an M version has a great whacking turbo and go faster electric motors?

Yes but a Tesla is limited as it's pure electric power, with the i8 you can just fill the fuel tank up and carry on driving.

And if you were super rich you could buy a P1 or Le Ferrari or 918 hybrid.

There is rich and there is super rich. I was discussing the former.

Tesla will do 200 miles easily and up to 300, so for all but long journeys it's not so limited.

Barely. The cheaper more practical Tesla with full four seats will do 200-300 miles on a charge and Tesla cannot make enough to meet the demand. Seems to me to be a very different beast than the i8.

Still limited though. Electric cars are not viable for modern day living. They will need to offer exact same range and performance of petrol cars to do that.

Couldn't disagree more! I have an i8 on order because I don't mind
spending the money the money upfront to get the car I want. Just because
I can afford it, doesn't mean that I'm happy to waste money
unnecessarily on fuel and road tax. And let's be honest, this is a BMW -
not a Tesla. They look completely different. It's like comparing a
Prius to a 911.

Incredibly, what an ugly car. Why such a wierd styling, the car does not look like a supercar at all, except for the extreme price. A BMW to forget.

But that's exactly my point. They are different. That's why the overlap is small.

None of your points are relevant to what I was saying.

Duh!

Oh, and "yeah right".

It's beautiful and different, ground-breaking to my eyes. Much more eyecatching in real life. I didn't like the photos of the i3 but when I saw one at the BMW dealers I was very impressed.

I would like to know what the real emissions are, because there is no way in the world a 1.5 litre 3 cylinder turbo petrol engine with 227 bhp is only pumping out 49g/km CO2 when the same engine with less bhp is producing over 100g/km in the new Mini. In another review from a different magazine, they reckon the electric mileage is only about 15, and the reason it sounds like a V6 is down to a gruff, synthesized soundtrack broadcast to you over the audio speakers, and can you please tell us how big the fuel tank is..

Well I agree, they are very different. They therefore approach 2 completely different market demographics which is why i was confused as to why someone would choose a Tesla if they specifically wanted a car like the i8. The Tesla has no appeal to me...

You need to see it in the flesh. It looks much bigger and more imposing. I viewed it at the same time as over a hundred others and i didn't hear any negative feedback regarding the appearance! Wait 'til you see it on the road :)

Pity its only available in blue, silver, white or grey, way to go BMW, a seriously exciting palette of colours to choose from

You know what they say about a fool and his money..

You mean another magazine that does not let BMW write its own reviews for its products?

"Officially it can return 134.5mpg and emits a mere 49g/km of CO2, but over the course of a normal 50-mile drive you can probably expect around 50mpg"

Wow that's some difference, Huge Porkies from BM!

Key specs

  • Price: £94,845 (after Govt. grant)
  • Engine: 1.5-litre 3cyl turbo plus electric motor
  • Power: 357bhp
  • Transmission: Two-speed for motor, six-speed auto for engine, 4WD
  • 0-62mph: 4.4 secs
  • Top speed: 155mph
  • Economy/CO2: 134.5mpg/49g/km
  • On sale: Now
AEX 1334
For more breaking car news and reviews, subscribe to Auto Express - available as a weekly magazine and on your iPad. We'll give you 6 issues for £1 and a free gift!

Sponsored Links