BMW's i8 is a flagship performance car of an entirely different sort. Its futuristic styling wraps an equally futuristic plug-in hybrid powertrain which gives it serious performance chops and surprising green credentials.
The i8 has one of the most complicated powertrains featured on a modern car. The gas component is the most conventional portion; it's a 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged engine that produces an otherworldly 228 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. The Mini Cooper, which uses the same basic engine, manages just 134 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque. The gas engine pairs to a six-speed automatic transmission.
Things get more complicated once you factor the electric powertrain into the mix. At the front of the vehicle is a 129-hp, 184 lb-ft of torque electric engine. While most electric cars use a direct drive transmission, the i8's front electric motor has a two-speed unit.
This complex arrangement allows the i8 to be front-wheel drive when operating as an EV, rear-wheel drive when cruising, and all-wheel drive when maximum thrust is needed. The total power of the setup is 357 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. Because the i8's battery pack is a smallish 7.1 kWh lithium-ion pack (compare that to the 30 kWh of the upgraded Nissan Leaf) it can only travel 24 km before needing to be charged again. A charge from empty takes as little as two hours, and the car will deliver an incredible fuel economy rating of just 2.6 L/100 km city and 4.2 L/100 km highway.
Though the i8 is a very quick vehicle, it's not BMW's most rapid accelerating car. Its 0-100 km/h time of 4.4 seconds makes it only about as quick as the M4. The M5 and M6 do the 0-100 dash in less time. Top speed is 250 km/h when running with both powertrains, and 120 km/h on electricity.
While the i8 isn't due for a facelift yet, there are a couple of key updates for model year 2017. Canadian market cars will finally be available with BMW's highly advanced Laserlight headlights. Perhaps the most advanced headlights on the planet, they illuminate at a distance of up to 600 metres, twice the range of normal, full-beam LED headlamps. Another neat trick is that the headlamps are self-leveling, regardless of the vehicle's angle. They're not cheap, though - at $8,000, they're the i8's priciest standalone option.
The other new addition to the i8 range is the Protonic Red edition. More than just an exterior paint colour, this limited-edition package adds unique 20-inch wheels, special Amido leather upholstery with red highlights, an anthracite roof liner, and a leather-upholstered engine cover. The package also includes BMW's very swish Display Key, which is also offered on the 7 Series; its embedded full-colour screen allows the owner to swipe through different menus that display the car's vital stats including charge state and overall range. In total, opting for the Protonic Red Edition adds $13,700 to the bill.
The 2017 i8 is one of the few BMWs to have had its price cut. The base MSRP drops from $152,000 to $149,800.
This vehicle has not yet been reviewed