The i8’s fast and fun, but this high-tech hybrid isn’t quite as exhilarating as some more old-school petrol-powered alternatives
All BMW i8s come with the same hybrid drive system which comprises a powerful electric motor that drives the front wheels, and a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine driving the rear wheels. Together, they produce 374hp and help the i8 sprint from 0-62mph in just 4.4 seconds and on to a top speed of 155mph.
This clever hybrid system means the i8 Coupe isn’t just great at storming down empty country roads – it’s quite happy to cruise along using just the electric motor, too. On a full charge (which takes three hours using a dedicated wall charger) you can slink along almost silently in electric-only mode for up to 30 miles – perfect for driving around town.
From buzzing electric motors to growling three-cylinder engines and whizzing turbochargers, the i8 serves up a comprehensive A to Z of interesting automotive noises
If you put your foot down, or if the battery is almost empty – the petrol engine automatically starts to drive the rear wheels and simultaneously recharge the batteries. BMW claims the i8 will return more than 140mpg, but even if you resist the urge to put your foot down, you’ll be very lucky to see a figure close to triple digits.
Despite its challenging looks, the i8 is not challenging to drive. There aren’t any gears to worry about when you’re travelling in electric-only mode and you get a reasonably good view out (for a supercar, at least). Parking sensors and a surround-view camera system come as standard, too, so it’s pretty easy to manoeuvre around town and the standard adaptive suspension softens the thud from large bumps and potholes reasonably well.
Put it in sport mode (or put your foot down) and the BMW switches seamlessly from electric to hybrid power. There’s no lurching sensation or unpleasant mechanical thud as the 1.5-litre petrol engine fires up; only a slight burbling noise coming from over your left shoulder.
With both the electric motor and the petrol engine engaged, the BMW i8 feels seriously sporty. The instant shove delivered to the front wheels by the electric motor pulls you through corners with a sometimes disconcerting enthusiasm while the firm but supple suspension does a good job of stopping the BMW’s body leaning in tight bends.
Sadly, the petrol engine’s characterful pops and turbocharged whistles aren’t quite as apparent in the Coupe as in the drop-top Roadster model, but it’s still loud enough to turn a few heads.
Once you’ve finished having fun on an empty back road, the i8 does a decent job of eating up motorway miles. You won’t hear much wind or tyre noise at speed and, with the batteries brimmed, it can cruise along at up to 75mph using just the electric motor. If you need to use the petrol engine, the standard six-speed automatic gearbox changes gear quickly and smoothly and doesn’t jerk at slow speeds.
All i8s come with cruise control as standard to give your right leg a rest on long journeys and automatic emergency braking to help prevent low-speed collisions. Euro NCAP hasn’t crash-tested the i8 yet, but these features should help make it one of the safest supercars on sale.