Review: 2015 BMW i8: Compromise or Just a Tease?

Off the bat, I’d like to thank Bentley Gold Coast for giving me the opportunity to check out some wonderful cars this past break. Check them out over here!


 

The i8 is BMWs take on electric vehicles, and much more. It showcase BMWs ability to create a high caliber EV, as well as show the world that EVs don’t have to be a Tesla to be cool…even though this is technically not an EV.

Ionic Silver i8. All pictures (but 1) are courtesy of Bentley Gold Coast.

Ionic Silver i8. All pictures (but 1) are courtesy of Bentley Gold Coast.

The i8 is a hybrid. Not like a Prius, but more like a McLaren P1. The electric motor and gas engine can be used independently or in tandem to provide efficient propulsion. This tech, in my opinion at least, is better than current fully electric power plants as the issues of recharging are non-existent. One could simply stop at a gas station for a few minutes and be on their way. No need to wait 45 minutes (or more) to recharge the battery, the gasoline motor will act like a generator for the battery as well as provide power to the wheels. Yes, the cost to run the i8 is more than a fully electric car, however it’s still cheaper than a gas only. Range is similar to a gasoline counterpart too, something which fully electric cars cannot say. And most importantly, performance is still strong.

The first thing I noticed about the i8 is the amount of attention it attracts. When I arrived at the dealership, more people were flocked around this Bimmer than the Huracan and Aventador that were parked in front and behind it. Seriously, this car could probably outshine Kim Kardashian in an exceptionally small 2-piece. It is absolutely stunning to look at, especially in Ionic Silver. The moods of the design change as you shift angles. A straight portrait view from the front makes the i8 look almost minimalistic. But shift to a 3/4s view and the swooping lines and arches (and let's be honest the doors) will leave you mesmerized and wanting more. And even though the i8 is super modern, the historic BMW features are also present, like the twin-kidney grill and Hofmeister-Kink.

The door mechanism remind me of the one on the McLaren F1.

The door mechanism remind me of the one on the McLaren F1.

The interior, while not flat, isn’t really that exciting. Yes, the instrument cluster changes with the driving mode, and the bucket seats are sporty and nice…but besides that it’s eerily similar to all BMWs. Not saying that’s a bad thing, but considering that the i3 has a really unique interior design, I was expecting more pizzazz from the i8.

This Carum Spice Grey interior is truly stunning

This Carum Spice Grey interior is truly stunning

So how does it drive? Well in pure electric mode, like an electric car. While not ferocious like a Tesla, the i8 is far from a Nissan Leaf. The electric motor provides more than enough grunt for urban driving. The torque from the electric motor really shines when getting off the line, however I have a feeling that as speeds increase the motor will struggle. But then again, you wouldn’t be in Eco mode if you were trying to drive fast…unless you’re “that guy”.

If you want to truly experience the i8’s glory, then Sport+ mode is all you need. Once engaged, the 3-cylinder Turbo in the rear sputters into life. By itself, it makes an insane (for a 3-pot) 230hp and 236lb/ft of torque. But in conjunction with the electric motor upfront, the i8 has 357hp and 420lb/ft of torque to play with.

In ECO/Comfort the instrument cluster is blue and well efficiency focused. But in Sport+, it changes to a red theme with an emphasis on performance.

In ECO/Comfort the instrument cluster is blue and well efficiency focused. But in Sport+, it changes to a red theme with an emphasis on performance.

The experience of driving this car in Sport+ is different, in a good way. Even though the engine is a 3-cylinder, the addition of the electric motor makes the power delivery smooth and seemingly endless. This car just pulls through every gear, like how I pull numbers from girls, effortlessly. And speaking of gears, the i8 shifts nicely too, like all BMWs, with quick, crisp gear changes. And contrary to what people who haven’t driven the i8 say, the synthesized exhaust note is totally fitting (though the ethics behind it I’m not to sure of).

Look, the i8 has proved to me that electronic assist technology works well. But, I can’t say I would take an i8 over a 911 (or a Tesla if I was looking at EVs). The i8 was marketed as a sports car, but I really can’t say it is. Yes it looks like one, and sounds like one, but performance is still lacking. Think of it like a 335i and an M3. Both are based off the 3-series platform and both are plenty powerful cars. But the M3 is a true sports saloon, while the 335i is just the top tier model. That’s how I feel about the i8, it’s the top tier model of BMW i.

I’m not trying to say the i8 is bad, it’s not. But I feel that BMW is holding back a bit. I mean, the 3-cylinder is great but it seems a little out of place in BMW’s halo car. I feel that a BMW inline-6 would be the perfect engine for this car, in tandem with the electric motor. The extra power would give the 911 and Model S one more thing to fear about the i8, other than the fact that it’s looks are stealing all of their attention.

Nonetheless, I applaud BMWs effort to make a cool EV that isn’t a Tesla. They have succeeded in that part. And from this experience, I can only look forward to what they have planned next.

-Aatish

 

Update- This review was conducted on day where the roads were clean (not snow covered as in the pictures). These pictures are from the dealer, so they were not taken from the time of the review. 

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