The BMW i8, India’s first hybrid supercar, is an absolute stunner in looks, performance and the way it drives. Aims to make it an eco-friendly car, and positioned as BMW’s futuristic product, the company uses an all-new LifeDrive platform, organic carbon fibre and organic leather dyes, along with hydro-electric power sourcing. The carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) and aluminum subframes help the car to maintain a superlight kerb weight and improve efficiency with less fuel consumption.
The i8 is pure German from inside too. Its premium interior design with top-notch materials and blue eco-color represent futuristic fashion. The front seats have enough legroom, though, the rear seats are little congested for tall passengers. The car brims with various entertainment and comfort-enhancing features such as BMW’s latest-generation iDrive system, DAB radio, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, a 8.8-inch media system display and more.
EXTERIOR AND DESIGN ;
It has a breathtaking external appearance unlike any other in the automobile segment. It has a precisely crafted aerodynamic body structure with ‘scissor’ doors, which makes it look stunning. This ultra-modern sports car gets all the futuristic cosmetics all over its body, which emphasizes its next-generation appeal. On its front facade, there is a signature kidney bean shaped grille with metallic accents and is outlined in blue. Its also has a sporty dual-tone bonnet featuring scoops and the company’s logo. The headlight cluster looks extremely sleeker with black accents, which gives an intimidating look to the frontage. It is further equipped with ‘U’ shaped LED headlights along with daytime running lights. Like its bonnet, its front bumper also has a dual tone color scheme and it is housed with a pair of air intake sections. The glossy black accents on this bumper gives it a distinctive look to this facet. The side profile is very sleek, but the wheel arches are extremely large that gives it a sporty look. These fenders bear a stylish set of 20 inch lightweight alloy wheels, which are embedded with company’s badge. Coming to its side facet, it has ‘Scissor’ doors featuring wing mirrors, which are garnished with high gloss black accents. These delightful scissor doors are further embodied with handles, which are concealed to give it an unusual stance. The rear section is even sportier than its front or side facets owing to the dynamic wraps all over. Unlike any other conventional sports car, this car comes with a futuristic design with LED taillights, dynamically designed bumper and several other such aspects. The rear windscreen is quite large and it is accompanied by a shark-fin antenna along with LED third brake lights. The rear bumper also has has blue accents and comes with reflectors along with courtesy lamps. The overall look of this sports car is emphasized by the stylish company’s logo, which is embedded below the windscreen.
INTERIOR AND CABIN ;
As with several other exotic sports cars on the market, getting into the BMW i8 requires some practice. Swing the scissor lift door up and out of the way (a cool experience in itself), and you’ll find a wide door sill you’ll have to step over. With that being the case, the generally accepted method involves sitting on the sill and swinging one leg in, then letting your hind quarters slip into the seat followed by the other leg, all while ducking under the bottom edge of the door. Sounds complicated, but once you get the hang of it, the procedure turns out to be no big deal.
After you’re in, you’ll find plenty of headroom complemented by power-operated seats that offer good comfort even during a long day behind the wheel. The stylish design combined with high-quality naturally tanned leather and recycled materials gives the passenger cabin the upscale look you’d expect from an exotic sports car. Since this is a BMW, the instrument display and various center-console controls are meant for an actively engaged driver.The rear seats are really seats in name only; they’re much too cramped for human habitation. Much as in a Porsche 911, it’s better to think of them as an adjunct to the notably small trunk, which itself offers just 5.4 cubic feet of space.
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION ;
The BMW i8 is a hybrid car which is a known fact. The batteries sit below the rather large centre tunnel. There are a bunch of modes to choose from – Comfort, Eco, Sport and e-Drive. If you want to drive the car in pure electric mode, e-Drive is the one to pick. On a full charge, BMW claims that the car can go for 36 kms but if you’re driving aggressively, expect that figure to drop by almost half. The car can attain a top speed of 120 km/hr in pure electric mode. Comfort mode is best suited for regular driving. Provided there is enough charge in the battery, the car runs on electric mode up to 60 km/hr post which the petrol motor kicks in. In Eco mode, the engine responds to accelerator inputs in a toned down manner.
The petrol engine is a 1.5-litre, 3-cylinder unit which produces 228 HP of power and 320 Nm of torque. Mated to the electric motor, the total power output is 357 HP along with 569 Nm of twisting force. Coupled to a 6-speed automatic transmission, the BMW i8 races from 0-100 km/hr in 4.4 seconds which is quick. The i8 gets a 4WD system, however, you don’t get that feeling of going fast that you would generally get in a conventional sports car. The exhaust sound is artificial coming through the rear speakers, but even while you’re standing outside, you notice that the petrol engine does sound good. In 6th gear, 100 km/hr comes up around the 2400 RPM mark.
The BMW i8 has good punch and it responds to throttle inputs instantaneously. It gains pace swiftly and the gearbox also does a good and smooth job. Move the gear lever to the left and you enable Sports mode. The instrument cluster screen now turns into red showing you speedo and tacho meters. In Comfort and Eco modes, the screens shows quite a lot of info related to the batteries and the electric motor. The i8 has a standard 30-litre petrol tank while you do get the option of a larger 42-litre tank. After a lot of spirited driving, the i8 gave a fuel efficiency of 5.7-6.2 km/l on petrol with 27.02 kWh of electric consumption.
RIDE AND HANDLING ;
The i8’s ride is firm, but no firmer than you’d expect from any sportscar; it firms up some more when set to Sport, as well. With just 117mm of clearance, it is also very low. But the bigger issue is the long 2,800mm wheelbase (as long as a Renault Lodgy’s), which is what really makes crossing tall speed breakers a challenge.With one motor each at the front and the mid-rear, BMW has managed to, as always, nail its perfect 50:50 weight distribution with this car, and it really shines through when you drive it. You truly feel at the centre of it all as you go through corners, and though we didn’t get a chance to do a serious handling test on the long highways outside Jodhpur, we got a good feel for how tight and well balanced this chassis feels. The steering (electrically assisted, of course) is a highlight, feeling not too light, nor too heavy, very quick, and superbly direct. The car corners supremely flat and there’s a huge amount of grip thanks to the effective four-wheel drive. What limits it slightly are the skinny front tyres (215-section on our car, but 195-section on some wheel options), which when you really push hard, will lose their composure and lead to a bit of understeer. However, this is only at the very limit, and most will be able to enjoy the grip and chassis balance without issue. What definitely needs a mention are the brakes, which feel nice and progressive — not what you usually get from regenerative brakes.
BRAKING AND SAFETY ;
This BMW i8 is capable of cruising along at tremendous speeds. Naturally, you need to handle the vehicle properly. This monstrous vehicle requires a tough braking system. In fact, the BMW i8 Braking and Safety is of the highest order. You have absolute control of the vehicle while attempting to stop at short notice as well. This vehicle comes with the most stable braking system in the world with its corner braking stability. The 8 airbags ensure to protect the occupants of the car in the case of any eventuality. This is one of the few cars that provide acoustic protection to pedestrians as well. The anti-theft alarms and the electric parking brakes are some of the additional BMW i8 features.
The BMW i8 is a modern marvel of automotive engineering and design. Its sleek lines and leather-lined interior are its main course, while the gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain is the cherry on top. It’s an excellent first foray into the newly created segment for BMW. Still, the i8 is confused about what it wants to be. Its performance figures technically disqualify it from the supercar category and its 15-mile range and 28 mpg combined rating only make it an average hybrid. Add to that the everyday livability issues of a cramped trunk, tight rear seats, and the wide door sills that require a contortionist’s skills to slide over.
Yet despite its flaws, the BMW i8 is an impressive machine that’s completely worthy of the attention it receives from onlookers. BMW has done a fantastic job making a high-performance hybrid with a serious lust factor that remains fresh after two years on the market. The i8 will definitely go down in history as a high point in the automotive world, not only for its sultry aesthetics, but also for its cutting-edge powertrain and use of space-age materials