BMW made an excellent decision when it came to the styling of its sensational new i8 supercar. “If it’s going to be radical under the skin,” has been the reasoning, “Let’s make it equally radical in the body.”

Hybrid power is more than just about saving fuel and lowering emissions, it can be the source of brilliant performance. All Grand Prix cars are now hybrids, as are the winning machines in top division of the famed Le Mans 24-hour race. There’s no doubt that the white-hot pace of design in top level car racing has engineers develop solutions in days that can take years in the mass production car industry.

The extreme-performance Ferrari LaFerrari (weird name) and Porsche 918 (great number) are both hybrid supercars. BMW would just love to lift itself into the upper echelons of supercars with the i8. At a mere $299,000 plus on-roads the Bimmer is a bargain…

Back to the styling, the i8 is low slung, sleek and simply sensational. The doors look great and are a major talking point, but without coming down with too much of a thud, they don’t work particularly well, making entry and exit awkward. We just loved the electric blue paint on our i8.


Once you’re settled into the sporting driver’s seat you hit the start button – and nothing happens. There’s a light to let you know i8 is ready to go, but like all electric cars it’s total silent when stationary, push the pedal on the right and nothing seems to change, except that the i8 starts to move off silently, with just a whisper of tyre noise as you moderately increase speed. The electric motor between the front wheels makes this a serene cruiser.

All that comes to sudden end when you arrive at a stretch of road where you can get the BMW up and running. Floor the accelerator and there’s a howling roar from the V6 – or is it a V8? – mounted just behind your left ear. The car leaps forward with the huge torque that electric motors provide from zero revs upwards. From a standstill the i8, now with petrol power to the rear wheels as well as the electrifying electric torque to the fronts, gets to 100 km/h in an exhilarating 4.4 seconds.

The brain is still trying to sort out whether the petrol engine is a V6 or a V8, when the memory kicks in and you remember the engine is a 1.5-litre three-cylinder unit borrowed from the Mini.


That’s right, not a large V engine, but a small straight-three – albeit with serious modifications from the original design. It comes as no surprise the sound is largely synthetic. A computer takes the aural output from the tiny three-cylinder and turns it into something far more interesting.

The petrol unit develops 170 kW of power and 320 Nm of torque, the electric engine has up to 96 kW and 250 Nm. As the two powerplants produce their maxima at different times the best combined figure is a stunning 266 kW of power and 570 Nm of torque.

BMW i8 can be driven for about 37 kilometres if you’re willing to engage Eco modes and tiptoe along. More realistically you will use the electric motor only when in carparks and in heavy traffic, thus cutting exhaust emissions.

While exhaust emissions are non existent, the electricity has to come from somewhere. Victorian dirty brown coal is bad, Tassie hydro electricity is very good.

Is the BMW i8 the way of the future in supercars? Our feeling is a definite yes, though we do wish someone would hurry up and invent the ‘better battery’ that’s seemingly been just around the corner for decades.

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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