I can’t help but feel a hint of sadness for the kids of today. When I was growing up; my Corgi diecast cars and the posters that adorned my bedroom walls were nearly all gas guzzling V8 American or European supercars. They made grunty noises and as I pushed the toys around the floor I roared and ‘vroomed’ ‘til my heart’s content trying to emulate the noises I’d heard on TV. Move forward a few decades (alright four) and the fossil fuel powered engines have changed and continue to do so, progress apparently. Unfortunately the days of deafening V8’s are numbered; being replaced with smaller, more efficient turbo engines and even Battery power! Surely engines on exotic sports cars need to be big, loud and obnoxious don’t they?
Admittedly, it took me a certain amount of persuasion (alright borderline pleading) to get my hands on the keys to the BMW i8 but my friends at Auckland City BMW finally relented. They agreed to loan me their pride and joy for a whole mouth watering 24hours and I crossed everything in the hope it would be a good weather day. Neither the car nor the weather disappointed.
With clear blue skies behind me I entered the Newmarket showroom and was immediately greeted by a lovely concierge who offered me a coffee and a seat while they summoned up one of their geniuses – I accepted the coffee but not the seat – my derriere was destined for sports car seat glory.
The BMW Genius pulled up outside in the dark sophisto gray i8 and flipped up the door, quite the entrance. I took a moment to take in the view. From every angle the i8 exudes character, from a distance it looks low and wide and with the scissor doors up; it’s every bit the poster child sports car. From the front to the rear, the car has a very dynamic, three-dimensional appearance. Surfaces and lines overlap and interlock, BMW call this ‘layering’ but it has a near ‘Dali’ look about it. Viewed from the side, the exaggerated wedge shape and the flat silhouette fulfills all the expectations you have of a sports car.
Its look is dramatically unusual and therefore ticks nearly all the boxes that make a car a supercar, head turning, unique and with the doors open; deliciously borderline ridiculous. It gives me the impression that the designers must have holidayed near a supercar factory in Italy and brought back some of the craziness. The U shaped running lights on the front have a narrow; menacing appearance while the tail lights with the BMW iBlue accents give off a futuristic ‘mask’ effect. If; for some weird reason you’d missed all the press and publicity on the i8 you could be forgiven for thinking it’s a one off kit car or limited production from some obscure car company in the middle of nowhere until you spot the flat but prominent double kidney grill and this makes this vehicle’s origins perfectly clear and in turn everything else falls into place.
As you look closer you start to realize that although the design looks a little mental; almost every panel has a function and has been arranged to be both optimally aerodynamic and wherever possible sustainable. Lightweight and renewable materials such as CFRP (Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic) have been used throughout the i8 and carbon fibre has been utilized for strength and added appeal almost where you don’t expect it – I particularly liked the exposed look around the inside door frame. It’s all makes some form of sense.
The genius ushered me inside and began to show me around, almost immediately I tuned him out, the interior is so familiar, (it even has the amazingly connected and smart BMW infotainment system) it is soo reassuringly very BMW – you’d be excused if; like me you forgot what car in the BMW range you were actually driving. It’s only when you see people staring at you as you drive by that you remember you are in an i8.
Once rid of the Genius it was time to hit the road, power on and after an electronic strum – silence, nothing. You get used to the ‘sensation’ quite quickly but the initial feeling is very alien, you expect a gruff sounding V8 or above but what you receive is silence.
Pulling out into the traffic I expected more pomp and circumstance but again the car’s BMWness comes into play and it seamlessly adapts itself into everyday driving life, literally zero drama. However; as you drive this car on public roads something rather unusual happens – this may sound strange or even a little self absorbed but driving a desirable car like this really does make you feel more desirable. Of course notice people checking out the car and then looking to see who is behind the wheel but your own personal demeanor changes too. You smile more and other drivers seem to smile back, it seems that you receive more than just a hint of acknowledgement or admiration from the world outside your window when you drive an i8, you truly do.
At low speeds it sticks to battery power (even stays there when reversing) and with its battery range being around 37k’s (around 440k’s with a full tank and full charge) you can silently sneak around the town unnoticed (yeah right) but stamping on the accelerator is like stamping on the tail of a tiger it introduces the outstanding roar of the engine into the mix and all its combined power. A 1.5Litre 3 cylinder engine doesn’t sound like much but when BMW strap on a turbo it produces 231hp and an amazing growl from behind the rear seats, add this power to the 131hp on the electric motor and you have 362hp at your disposal. It’s fast, very fast but not ridiculously so; 0-100 is in 4.4 seconds and has a top speed of 250kph (120kph in Electric only) but it’s also the way it delivers it – immediately.
Handling like I said; is a breeze. It’s light and maneuverable, with virtually no body roll. Yes you can get the rubber to squeal around corners but I always felt in control. It’s low too but again, not too low to make around town driving with kerbs and sleeping policemen a concern.
Near the end of the 24hours the subject of refueling came up, and aside from the battery and plug in charge, apparently the i8 will even take 91. Consider it a supermodel with brains and personality that will eat everything from a lettuce leaf to a rare and bloody steak.
Getting in and out of the i8 is not exactly elegant – but who cares right? And again, with the doors you do have to give a little consideration to where you park – you’d need a slightly wider garage to house it in for example, but the i8 is worth moving house for!
With all its style, good looks, scissor doors, advanced technology and driving simplicity, it is a car fit to be seen on the walls of any teenagers bedroom wall but unlike some of the classic of years gone by the i8 is just as good in the flesh (and carbon fibre) as it is in print. But I will still be teaching my son to do loud rasping engine sounds as he pushes his model i8 around rather than battery powered silence.
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Thanks for the pic BMW