ROAD TEST: 2017 BMW i8

BMW i8
By Shari Prymak

The BMW i8 has been something of a halo super car for the Bavarian brand for the last number of years. It’s a showcase of modern hybrid technology and proof that an electrified future doesn’t necessarily have to be a boring, dreary place for car enthusiasts. I had an opportunity to review the i8 (Tested Here) when it was relatively new to scene (Video Here). At the time, I found its blend of futuristic styling, technology, and performance to be an impressive mix. Technology, however, is constantly on the move. Will the i8 still have the same impact now as it did then?

In terms of design, the i8 still has the ability to turn heads and draw a crowd as if it were some sort of alien spaceship. It’s a complex design, but a very striking and attractive one nonetheless. On the inside, things are a little more reserved. There are a few unique touches and materials to add a bit of uniqueness, but for the most part it’s all BMW. The intuitive controls will be instantly familiar to any BMW owner. The standard features list is quite extensive. Surprisingly though, features such as a heated or power-adjustable steering wheel, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, or even seats with adjustable thigh, bolster, or lumbar support are not available. You can find most of those on a lease-special 330i.

BMW i8

One of the most surprising things about driving the i8 is how much it feels like a regular BMW. It’s quiet and comfortable, with a very civilized ride perfectly suited to leisurely commutes. An all-electric mode called eDrive is available, but with only around 24 kilometres of range, it isn’t the most useful. Comfort mode works very well as a conventional hybrid mode, conserving the gas engine for only when it’s necessary. Kept mostly in this mode, I was able to average around 6.0L/100km, which is remarkable for a high-performance supercar.

Unlike just about every other competitor, the i8 uses an exotic carbon-fibre chassis, combined with various bits of composite and aluminum for the body and suspension. The result is an impressively low curb weight of only 1567kg which gives the i8 a nimble, athletic feel. The steering is precise and responsive to inputs, and the suspension is well damped for solid body control through the corners. Flick the gear selector to the side into Sport mode, and the drivetrain does its best impression of a high-performance powerhouse. The noises are synthetic and the acceleration is more brisk than face-melting, but it is still properly exciting.

BMW i8

Pricing for the i8 starts at $149,900, which is an excellent value (relatively speaking) for an exotic looking supercar complete with hybrid technology, carbon-fibre construction, and even a pair of show-stopping butterfly doors for that extra bit of theatre. Options on my test car included the $8,000 laser headlights, which add a real laser high-beam feature to the LED headlights, helping to enhance illumination on the darkest of roads. The i8 was the first production car to adopt this feature, and it’s a neat piece of technology.

The passage of time has been very good to the i8. There are cars which are more exciting to drive and more capable from a performance standpoint, but all things considered, the i8 is still tough to beat. A comprehensive update and refresh, including the addition of a droptop spyder model, is quickly approaching. Other than adding a few missing features and adding the power which the chassis could easily handle, the i8 doesn’t really need a whole lot more to impress. In one way or another, every new electrified vehicle could take a lesson from the i8, and if they did, the future of driving would look a whole lot more interesting.

For more details, please visit the BMW Canada website.