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10 September 2013

BMW ushers in production-ready i8

The second BMW 'i' offering, the first plug-in hybrid to roll out of Bavaria - ladies and gentlemen, this is the future of sportscars

Amaan Ahmed
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How long have we been waiting to see this? The BMW i3 broke cover quite a while back, but it was the i8 that we've really been looking forward to. There were camouflaged shots aplenty, but now, BMW has revealed the i8 in all its glory. And would you look at it!

BMW says this is the most forward-looking of all sportscars, and you'd have to be really unfair to disagree. It's got the typical low and slinky sportscar stance, along with those wing-like doors that open skywards. But then, you've got layered surfaces inside out, full LED headlights (with laser headlamps - a world first - available as an option), and if the front still conforms to BMW values, the rear end is absolutely bonkers. And we love it for that.

This is a ground-breaking project - only BMW's second 'i' model, the i8 brings in stuff like a super-stiff passenger cell moulded entirely out of carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP), a material stronger than most others, aluminium-CFRP doors, a full aluminium chassis, a slim piece of glass separating the seating area from the boot, and optional CFRP wheels, all made from a majority of recycled materials. The result of all this new-age trickery is that even though the i8 is a hybrid, it only weighs 1490kg, boasts of perfect 50:50 weight distribution, has a super-low centre of gravity at 460mm and a drag co-efficient of 0.26. Those are deeply impressive numbers for a 2+2 hybrid sportscar.

There's more new tech that has filtered through to the i8. BMW's new 1.5-litre, three-cylinder TwinPower Turbo petrol motor makes its debut, and it sends 228bhp and 320Nm of torque to the rear wheels through a six-speed auto 'box. But giving it further company is an eDrive synchronous electric motor that churns out 128bhp and 250Nm of twist, which drives the front wheels through a two-stage transmission. Teamed together, both these powerplants send drive to all four wheels, and bless the i8 with a total output of 356bhp and 570Nm of torque. BMW claims this will take the i8 from 0-100kph in 4.4 seconds, and on to a top speed of 250kph. No doubting its sportscar credentials, then.

Using the Driving Experience Control switch and eDrive button, the driver can choose from a total of five driving modes - electric only, in which case the i8 will do up to 35 kilometres on electric power alone with a top whack of 120kph, Comfort to balance efficiency and power with a range of well over 500 kilometres, Sport mode, where the electric motor provides instant boost, and Eco Pro mode to maximise efficiency. Speaking of which, BMW quotes a figure of 40kpl for the i8 in the EU driving cycle. Isn't that a little bit brilliant?

And it's not like its bare-basic on the inside - a satnav, fully-digital instrument display, BMW iDrive with freestanding Control Display, leather sports seats; Park Distance Control, cruise control with braking function, rain sensor and Intelligent Emergency Call function as are all available as standard. Optional features include a driver assistance package with High Beam Assistant, a rear view camera, Surround View, Speed Limit Info including No Passing Info display and Collision Warning with pedestrian recognition and braking function. A Head-Up display, BMW Online Entertainment, Concierge Services, Real Time Traffic Information and mobility services developed specifically for BMW i are available too. What's more, as part of the 360° Electric programme, BMW's introduced the i Wallbox to let owners charge their car at home and a ChargeNow card that gives customers a cash-free payment option at public charging stations.

The i8 will go on sale in the US of A in 2014 at a price of $135,925, which is close to Rs 90 lakh by today's exchange rates. Is the i8 the path to future sportscar nirvana? And more importantly, are you excited by BMW's vision for the future, dotcommers?

Tags: frankfurt 13, bmw i, i8 sportscar, i8, bmw

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