First drive: the BMW i8
BMW's future-proof hybrid sports car is finally here, and we've driven it. But what's it actually like?
Posted: 26 Apr 2014
How new? Remind me.
About as far from the usual BMW template as you can get. The i8 has a 1.5-litre turbo three-cylinder engine mounted transversely ahead of the rear wheels. Tiny but mighty, this little triple makes 231bhp and drives only the rear wheels. The front wheels have a 131bhp electric motor. Down the spine is a plug-in battery big enough to power the front wheels for about 15 all-electric miles in gentle town driving. It'll do that on two hours' charge. The battery and motor are technology borrowed from the i3 electric hatchback, although different outputs. After the battery is flat, or when you need more power, the petrol engine starts, giving you a 4WD hybrid.
The main tub is carbon-fibre - again the same sort of newly developed stuff they've used on the i3. The subframes aluminium, the exterior panels (and my how revolutionary they look) are thermoplastic, except the roof which is moulded out of recycled carbonfibre offcuts. Even the glass in the doors and rear is half the weight of the normal stuff. It's the hardened, thin 'gorilla glass' used on phone screens.