BMW i8 (2014-2020) review
It’s hardly cheap to buy, but the plug-in hybrid BMW i8 offers performance and efficiency
The BMW i8 is unlike any other car in its class, offering a blend of style, performance and economy that’s hard to find anywhere else. It’s not as much fun to drive as the cheaper, class-leading Porsche 911, but for many the more dramatic styling and eco-conscious image will prove tempting.
Performance isn’t lacking by any stretch and while it can’t quite match the i8’s supercar-like looks, there’s more than enough power to have fun with. Keen drivers may find the driving experience a little distant, however – and if you need a practical everyday sports car, there are more spacious rivals available.
The BMW i8 is a unique proposition in the luxury sports car market. A rival to the ubiquitous Porsche 911, the i8 brings a dose of eco-consciousness to the segment thanks to its petrol-electric plug-in hybrid powertrain. Its exotic styling, meanwhile, belies both its price and reasonable running costs.
The BMW i8 partners the i3 hatchback as part of BMW’s ‘i’ eco range, and features advanced carbon-fibre construction for light weight and strength, while power is fed to all four wheels by a combination of a 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine and an electric motor. It’s still a relatively rare sight too, especially when you consider BMW has offered the i8 for sale since 2014. Low production volumes mean the model is nowhere as common as its Porsche 911 rival.
The powertrain concept doesn’t sound that exciting at first, especially if you like your supercars with high-capacity multi-cylinder engines. The i8’s three-cylinder unit produces 228bhp – which doesn’t sound much by sportscar standards – but there’s an additional 141bhp electric from an electric motor driving the front wheels to help generate the necessary muscle.
In total, the powertrain adds up to a meaty but not excessive 369bhp, supplemented by 570Nm of torque. Thanks to the instant delivery of the electric motor, it’s enough to give the BMW i8 acceleration that matches the car’s style – 0-62mph takes just 4.4 seconds in the Coupe.
This impressive level of performance is all achieved alongside very reasonable fuel economy. Official figures suggest 128.4mpg and CO2 emissions of 42 to 46g/km; you’ll have to drive carefully to get close to the former figure, but the i8 is still miles ahead of the competition in this regard thanks to its plug-in hybrid tech and all-electric drive capability.
Is it perfect? No. The reality is that you can’t have that much technology working away in a sports car and make the driving experience feel truly ‘natural’ (a fake engine noise is piped into the cabin through the speakers, for example) but it does a very good job of trying. It’s also not as economical in real life as it is on paper, not by any means.
But still, no other sports car of this type and price can come close to its efficiency, or its sense of futuristic occasion, and that makes the i8 truly special.
For an alternative view on the BMW i8 visit our sister site DrivingElectric...
In this review
- 1Verdict - currently readingIt’s hardly cheap to buy, but the plug-in hybrid BMW i8 offers performance and efficiency
- 2Engines, performance and driveThe hybrid setup isn’t necessarily original, but this is the most exciting one there’s ever been – the i8 drives like a supercar
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsYou’ll never match the i8’s claimed mpg figure in the real world, but you’ll still enjoy small car running costs – mostly
- 4Interior, design and technologyFantastically futuristic and beautifully designed, the BMW nonetheless uses familiar parts and technology
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceClearly not a car designed for practicality, the i8 has a tiny boot and rear seats, but front occupants will be impressed
- 6Reliability and SafetyNot tested by Euro NCAP but the technology and construction make this a very safe car, while BMW parts offer reliability