It's simply a fact, not an exaggeration, to say the exotic-bodied i8 looks like nothing else on the road. Constructed primarily from lightweight carbon fiber, the i8 carries a huge hood scoop, all-LED lighting, and a high-tech interpretation of the classic BMW grille. Perhaps most striking of all are its scissor-style doors, which 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, at least in a pinch.
The i8 is powered by a 1.5-liter 228-horsepower three-cylinder gasoline engine, working with an electric motor. Together, they produce 357 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. What makes the i8 most interesting is its configuration: the gas engine powers the rear wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission, while the electric motor delivers its energy to the front wheels through a two-speed automatic. Therefore, the i8 boasts two distinct powerplants, two transmissions, and all-wheel drive. The results of this exotic setup seem almost too good to be true: zero to 60 mph acceleration in 4.2 seconds, a top speed of 155 mph, and equivalent EPA-rated efficiency of 76 MPGe combined.
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 3.5 hours on a standard household outlet, or 1.5 hours at a 240-volt charging station. While underway, you can select from four driving modes: eDrive, Eco Pro, Comfort, and Sport.
Both performance and efficiency of the i8 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 versions.
Each i8 is packed with comfort and safety technology, including a color head-up display, 8.8-inch iDrive screen, surround-view cameras, parking sensors, LED headlights, and a collision mitigation system with pedestrian detection. The navigation system features 3-D mapping with real-time traffic and weather data. Audiophiles will appreciate the 11-speaker, 360-watt Harman Kardon surround-sound system, with 20GB of music storage.
The i8 comes in a choice of three Worlds (BMW’s term for trim levels) that differ only in upholstery materials and wheel design:
- Mega: Included at no extra charge, Mega World includes grey leather seats with cloth inserts. W-spoke alloy wheels hold 20-inch tires.
- Giga: Carries full perforated leather seating in ivory or black.
- Terra: Mixes brown perforated leather with matching cloth and contrasting blue seatbelts. Turbine-style alloy wheels hold 20-inch tires.
For a price like $141,695 (including destination charge), you expect the finest in plug-in hybrid technology and style, and you get it. Opting for the special touches in the Giga and Terra Worlds adds $2,000 and $4,500 to the sticker, respectively -- not particularly large sums for this price class, but all you get is different upholstery. Optional Laser Lights cost an additional $6,300, if you lean toward going all the way with your i8.
Get your price on a BMW i8 »