EV Review: 2018 BMW i8

 In Electric Cars

Introduction

In the auto market, there’s a very small percentage of car buyers for units priced over $70,000 and even fewer for cars over $100,000. At that price point, the customer is elite, and the vehicle becomes a status symbol more than a mode of transportation. It’s that automotive segment riddled with luxury models, SUVs built for excess, and precision-built sports cars. That’s the segment you’ll find the 2018 BMW i8 a member of.

BMW introduced the i8 model around four years ago, obviously for a very niche clientele. It’s part of BMW’s iPerformance group of vehicles alongside the BMW i3. While the i3 is an intentional fully-electric model, the i8 is decidedly different. It’s marketed as an electrified high-end sports car, and the BMW website itself states, “These innovative plug-in hybrid vehicles represent the future of electric mobility – while capturing the classic emotions of freedom and exhilaration you expect from a BMW.”

But there’s a chink in the German armor. The i8 is electrified, but just barely. Its all-electric range is just 15 miles. Although it is a truly a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, the all-electric benefits are marginal at best. But it’s still a very nice car that performs extremely well.

Exterior styling

If you told car designers to come up with a hybrid electric sports car in the BMW i8’s price range, this is the model you’d expect as the outcome. It looks exactly as you’d imagine a high-end sports car that bears the hybrid title to appear. It’s low-slung, sleek, ultra-modern, and has flashy colors contrasted by gloss black. The 2018 BMW i8 is available in both a coupe and roadster format, with the roadster definitely having more shape and attitude behind the cockpit than the coupe.

The dual kidney-shaped grille remains, and it’s possibly the only external reminder that it’s the Bavarian carmaker behind it. There are some very impressive exterior touches that make the BMW i8 a unique vehicle, however. It’s equipped with scissor-style doors that are a cross between Lambo doors and the Tesla falcon-wing doors. It rides on 20-inch alloy wheels with ultra-low-profile tires. Laserlight headlights are optional but add a new degree of brightness.

The 2018 BMW i8’s side profile is dynamic and attractive with an upturned swoop cut into the side. No doubt, it applies downforce to the rear wheels at high speeds. The roadster’s power soft top opens and closes in under 16 seconds and can be operated at speeds up to 31 mph.

Fit and finish interior

The 2018 BMW i8 has a price tag of $147,500, and there are certain comfort expectations at that point. All in all, this Bimmer satisfies those expectations.

The i8’s starting point is the Giga World trim. The interior includes white or black leather with 3-stage heated seats and carbon fiber trim. Al 11-speaker Harman Kardon Premium Sound System is standard, as is interior ambient lighting, Comfort Access keyless entry, push-button start, and 2-zone climate control. BMW’s iDrive system is integrated including a touchpad controller, BMW Navigation, ConnectedDrive Services, and of course, BMW’s full-color Head-Up Display system. The center screen is a modest 8.8 inches.

Upgrades include the Tera World package with ceramic controls, blue seatbelts, and special leather seating surfaces. The Tera World Copper package adds Tera Copper leather upholstery. While there aren’t many interior packages available, there doesn’t need to be. The BMW i8 is a unique experience from the driver’s seat.

There aren’t many cars like the BMW i8, so comparisons are difficult. That said, there’s no second-guessing the quality that the BMW i8 includes. The premium German engineering emanates from every interior detail, from the knobs, touchpads, buttons, and levers to the feel of the steering wheel in your hands.

Driving Experience

Where the BMW i8 excels is in the performance department. A rear-mounted 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine with a turbocharger powers the rear wheels. An electric motor up front powers the front wheels and makes the i8 an all-wheel-drive car. Combined, the BMW i8 has 369 horsepower and 420 lb.-ft. of torque.

When you lay into the throttle, the i8 leaps into action immediately, thanks to the electric torque up front. It accelerates to 60 miles per hour in 4.2 seconds, but it feels even faster from the driver’s seat. The rigid ‘Life Module’ cockpit mounted to the high-strength and lightweight ‘Drive Module’ chassis give it impeccable control and stability. This car handles winding roads as easily as long straightaways, and with extreme confidence.

BMW i8 WhiteBut where it falls flat is in the hybrid department’s very important area: electric range. When you’re cruising, the 2018 BMW i8 can go into electric-only mode but just for a short 15 miles. With regenerative braking, it can extend the combined range, but for a car billed as a plug-in hybrid, 15 miles feels like a cheat.

Features

MSRP $147,500 USD
Type PHEV
Electric Range 15 miles / 24 km
Total Range 330 miles / 530 km
Time to Charge 3.0 hours (Level 2)
Electric Motor 105 kW
Battery Capacity 11.6 kWh
Top Speed 155 mph / 250 km/h
Warranty 4 years/50,000 miles or 80,000 km

Conclusion

There are many things the BMW i8 does right. It looks fantastic, even though it’s toeing the line between futuristic cliché and ultramodern. The driving experience is truly magnificent, and it rides like it’s on rails. It has some of the efficiency of a hybrid system, but most notably, the torquey power of an electric motor in the hybrid all-wheel-drive system. It’s just a shame it doesn’t have a longer all-electric range.

There are very few people that would consider the BMW i8 for their own. It’s not a practical car in any sense. However, if you’re looking for a ridiculously fun car in the $150,000 price range, this is a good one to consider. It’s likely to find its way into the climate-controlled garage of a wealthy professional.

Top Competitors

  • 2018 Acura NSX
  • 2018 Audi R8
  • 2018 Lexus LC Hybrid

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