It's not hyperbole to say the i8 looks like nothing else on the road. Its exotic body carries a huge hood scoop, all-LED lighting, a high-tech interpretation of the classic BMW grille, and scissor-style doors that open out and upward. Inside are recycled materials, more LED lighting, naturally treated leather and individual rear seats, making it possible (though not practical) to carry four passengers in a pinch.
The i8 is powered by a 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine and an electric motor that together produce 357 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. Here's the really interesting part: the gasoline engine powers the rear wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission, while the electric motor delivers its goods to the front wheels through a two-speed automatic. So the i8 boasts two power plants, two transmissions and all-wheel drive. The results of this exotic setup seems too good to be true: zero to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds, a top speed of 155 mph, and efficiency equivalent to about 95 mpg.
Because it's a plug-in hybrid, the i8 can travel up to 22 miles and hit 75 mph on electric power alone. After the lithium-ion battery pack is depleted, the i8 runs on a combination of gas and electricity just like a conventional hybrid. A full recharge takes just three hours on a standard household outlet, or half that time on a 240-volt charging station. Under way, you can select from a variety of driving modes: eDrive, Eco Pro, Comfort and Sport.
The i8's performance and efficiency benefit from its lightweight construction, including aluminum subframes, a carbon fiber chassis and chemically hardened glass. Lightweight 20-inch alloy wheels are used on all models.
The i8 is packed with comfort and safety technology, including a color head-up display, a 10.2-inch touchscreen, surround-view cameras, parking sensors and a collision mitigation system with pedestrian detection. The navigation system features 3D mapping with real-time traffic and weather data. Audiophiles will appreciate the Harman Kardon surround-sound system with 20GB of music storage.
The i8 comes with four Worlds (i.e., trim levels) that differ in upholstery only:
- Mega: Gets grey leather seats with cloth inserts.
- Giga: Carries full perforated leather seating in ivory or black.
- Terra: Mixes brown perforated leather with matching cloth and contrasting blue seatbelts.
- Pure Impulse: Comes with full perforated leather seating in grey, the blue seatbelts and an anthracite (dark grey) headliner.
Opting for the special touches in the Giga and Terra adds $2,000 and $3,000 to the sticker respectively, not a lot for this price class. The Pure Impulse, however, carries a whopping $10,200 premium, which means it's for buyers who must stand out from the crowd at any price.
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