The BMW i8 could be the perfect supercar for the petrolhead with one eye on the environment, but its high-tech hybrid-drive system makes it expensive
The BMW i8 is a futuristic supercar that proves environmentally friendly hybrids needn’t be boring. A powerful turbocharged petrol engine and high-tech electric motor work together to deliver serious performance while some look-at-me styling makes sure you’ll get noticed everywhere from Kensington High Street to a Green Party conference.
The i8 first went on sale in 2014, but received a more powerful electric motor and a boosted electric range in 2018. The BMW’s bonkers styling remains unchanged, but it still looks more dramatic than the likes of the Honda NSX and Audi R8 – especially with the upwards-hinging doors spread wide open.
Things are a little less theatrical inside, but you still get a smart minimalist interior with loads of plush materials and a digital driver’s display instead of conventional dials as standard.
Unlike most supercars, the BMW i8 comes with four seats which help make it surprisingly easy to live with. Sure, there isn’t space in the 154-litre boot for a set of golf clubs, but it’s bigger than the loadbay you get in the Audi and there’s plenty of space in the BMW’s front seats for you to get comfy if you’re more than six-foot tall.
The i8 is one of the quietest and most environmentally friendly supercars around, but it’s certainly not a car for shrinking violets – just check out those ludicrous doors!
The i8 is more relaxing to drive than most conventional supercars, too – thanks, in part, to its eerily quiet electric motor and fairly comfortable suspension. Visibility is reasonably good, too, so it isn’t particularly difficult to drive around town and you don’t hear much annoying wind or tyre noise at motorway speeds.
Stick it in sport mode, however, and things get a little rowdier. The three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine whirrs into life and the i8’s speakers pipe synthesised engine sounds into the cabin. It’s not quite as exhilarating as hearing a 5.2-litre V10 screaming away behind you like in an R8, but the instant shove from its electric motor means the BMW i8 will sprint from 0-62mph in a still-pretty-blooming-exciting 4.4 seconds. That’s faster than a Porsche 911 Carrera 4.
Extensive use of lightweight carbon fibre helps make the i8 as agile as possible on a twisty country road, too, as well as maximising its electric-only range. A three-hour charge from a dedicated wall charger lets you cruise around almost silently for around 30 miles and at up to 75mph. Once you’ve run out of electrical juice, the petrol engine chimes in automatically to push you along and recharge the batteries at the same time.
This means that – unlike in many electric cars – you’ll never have to worry about range-anxiety in the BMW i8. Also helping put your mind at rest are the numerous safety features you get as standard, including automatic emergency braking that’ll hit the brakes if the car senses an obstacle in the road ahead.
It’s not the most exciting supercar to drive, but the i8 is an extremely accomplished sports hybrid and a worthy alternative to the likes of the more conventional Porsche 911 and the more expensive Honda NSX.