BMW has long been a marque associated with innovation and the use of modern technology, and its current range features a number of hugely impressive machines that are among the most popular in the US market. the 5-series is the staple for executives – and rightly so for it includes some sensationally good cars – and the luxurious models above it make for superb driving experiences, while the compact 1-series is a cleverly produced and designed idea that offers affordable BMW ownership. However, when it comes to sports cars, BMW also makes an impact. The M1 was arguably the first effort, a stunning supercar with exceptional performance in its day and the one that spawned the ‘M’ division, while the Z1 and latter Z8 represent landmark models in the company’s history, but now BMW has done something remarkable: it has put the i8 concept into production, and that really is a landmark.
The BMW i8 has been hailed by many as a technological marvel, and we can’t fault that description, but it is much more than simply a showcase: this is a genuine sports car, one with real credentials, and one that looks like nothing else available today. The stunning, sleek bodywork takes things to a new level in terms of aerodynamic treatment and wowed onlookers when it was displayed in concept form; notably, it is little changed from that concept, and is a daring prospect indeed. The first thing you notice is that is a very fluid design – it runs perfectly from front to back with seemingly no interruption – yet despite its futuristic pretensions it is somehow recognisable as a BMW. Perhaps it’s the hints of the old 6-series in its styling, or maybe it’s simply that the i8 concept made such an impact in the first place.
As is often the case with new cars these days the BMW i8 features an innovative drivetrain; fitted up front is an electric motor, and in the back is an interesting three-cylinder turbocharged gas powered unit. Together, these two pump out 350bhp, which should be more than adequate given the cars slippery shape and light weight. A top speed of 160bhp, electronically controlled, is achievable using both motors, while in all-electric mode the car can reach 75mph. A range of 23miles is promised, but at 75mph that would be severely reduced! Fuel consumption figures are impressive, as should be expected, with the company claiming as much as 135mpg under controlled conditions. Technically, then, this is an impressive machine, but it doesn’t stop there.
BMW has made much of the new construction platform that the i8 premiers, known as ‘LifeDrive’; this is a clever combination of a carbon-fiber passenger section – strong, light and safe – with an aluminium chassis structure into which the motors, suspension, drivetrain and other units are introduced. It is believe BMW is looking to this method as its choice for other models from now on, so innovative has it been. It gives the i8 something of a unique feel and, reports have said, enables the car to provide excellent handling in all different modes of performance. Technologically, as we have said, the BMW i8 is something special, and it is interesting that the company refers to a new ‘layered design’ concept, which implies that future models will resemble this quite unique and spectacular machine.
Who Will Buy It?
The problem with technically advanced and very new, futuristic cars is that they cost a lot of money; the BMW i8 is expected to hit the market with a price of more than $120,000. This is by no means cheap, but nor is it prohibitively expensive for an innovative, high-performance supercar that premiers some of the most interesting new technology in the automotive world. BMW is, of course, a tried and tested marque and the car can be expected to meet expectations, but will it meet the market with the potential teething problems of such a complex new ideal ironed out? BMW’s reputation says it will, and we expect it to. Competition, however, is fierce, and comes in the shape of the Tesla Model S and Fisker Karma, two excellent low-volume models that are innovative electric-hybrid models. Also in the same sector are the Audi R8 e-tron and sundry Mercedes Benz models, all of which are worthy contenders. However, it’s the sheer innovation of the BMW i8 that makes it stand out from the market, and given that this may be the future of the supercar in technical terms, it will be interesting to see what impact it makes on the market.