The 2014 BMW i8 is the first plug-in electric hybrid vehicle to be produced by the BMW Group and as such has received plenty of marketing hype. Having been involved in the business of reviewing new vehicles for more than 23 years, I’ve seen and driven some pretty special vehicles, many of them even awesome. At every vehicle launch, the manufacturer of the vehicle being introduced invariably touts its merits and capabilities, sometimes warranted, sometimes not so much. In many cases, marketing hype overstates the vehicle’s potential and place in the scheme of things.
Not so in the case of the 2014 BMW i8. In fact, at the recent national launch, not one automotive journalist in attendance had a single negative comment to make about the vehicle. This is a rare occurrence indeed, one that I’ve never before experienced.
|STATS||Starting Retail Price||As Tested Price||HP / Lb-Ft|
|2014 BMW i8 Plug-in Electric Hybrid||$135,700||$136,625||Gas
|EPA Rating||As Tested MPG|
|Rating: BUY IT!||Up to 22 mile eRange
There aren’t many vehicles that register a “drop dead gorgeous” rating in terms of their design appeal, along with kudos for their sustainable operational efficiency (Efficient Dynamics in BMW-speak) and a resounding overall ‘phenomenal’ status for their performance and handling capability. The futuristic 2014 BMW i8 qualifies an all counts. It is everything the BMW team claims it to be and then some.
It heralds a new era of sustainable performance, and will be priced from $135,700 here in the U.S. It is in a 2+2 seating configuration with two “scissor” doors. An electric motor drives the front wheels, while a 1.5-liter, 3-cylinder motor provides power to the rear wheels. The electric motor is courtesy of BMW’s eDrive technology which is a hybrid AC synchronous motor with power electronics, integrated charging module and generator mode for energy recuperation. It operates on a high voltage Lithium-ion battery and produces 129 horsepower and 184 pound feet of torque. The 2014 BMW i8 can run exclusively on electric power at speeds up to 75 mph. Electric only range is limited to 22 miles.
The gas engine is a diminutive 1.5-liter DOHC, 12-valve BMW inline, VANOS, inline 3-cylinder with TwinPower Turbo technology – a turbocharger, High Precision Direct Gasoline Injection, VALVETRONIC fully variable valve control engine. It produces 228 horsepower (152 hp per liter) while developing 236 pound feet of torque. RPM levels were not given for either the electric motor or gas engine. Top speed for the gas engine is 155 mph. Total system output combined is 362 horsepower and 430 pound feet of torque. The fuel capacity is 11 gallons, which extends the range to 310 miles total and 0-60 mph is achieved in a mere 4.2 seconds.
There are essentially two transmissions with a six-speed automatic with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters for the gas engine, and an automatic two-stage unit for the electric motor.
There are five driving modes that allow drivers, at the touch of a button, to adjust efficiency and dynamic performance as desired, offering an unusual scope to adjust the drive and suspension settings of the vehicle. As well as the electronic gear selector for the automatic transmission, the driver may also use the Driving Experience Control switch, a familiar feature of the latest BMW models, or the BMW i8’s exclusive eDrive button. The modes consist of D for automated gear selection in COMFORT and ECO PRO modes, SPORT mode and eDrive for pure-electric driving – also with a choice of COMFORT and ECO PRO mode.
The powertrain controller coordinates the cooperation between the gasoline engine and the electric motor for minimal fuel consumption. On overrun, the intelligent energy management system automatically decides, in line with the driving situation and vehicle status, whether to recuperate braking energy or to coast with the powertrain disengaged. At the same time, ECO PRO mode also programs electrical convenience functions such as the air conditioning, seat heating and heated mirrors to operate at minimum power consumption without compromising safety. The everyday driving range of the BMW i8 on a full fuel tank and with a fully charged battery is over 310 miles in COMFORT mode.
The i8 was developed exclusively for BMW with specific Life Drive architecture that showcases an aerodynamically groundbreaking body design and a futuristic interior design that blend to deliver an intense and rewarding driving experience. It consists of a Life module passenger cell made from carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP); drive system technology, high-voltage battery, chassis, and crash and structural functions integrated into the aluminum Drive module. The curb weight is 3,285 lbs and the coefficient of drag is 0.26. The 2014 BMW i8 features a very low center of gravity (below 18 inches) along with a well-balanced weight distribution.
The i8’s lightweight construction is an intelligent blend of elements including a CFRP passenger cell, which is ultra-torsionally stiff, doors with a CFRP-aluminum structure, an instrument panel with magnesium support, an aluminum chassis, and a partition between the passenger compartment and boot made from thin glass, all incorporating a comprehensive safety concept. The hood and door skins are aluminum and the roof is made from recycled CFRP.
An extensive inventory of standard equipment includes the navigation system; a Professional package with proactive drive system for all-electric driving, a fully-digital instrument display, BMW iDrive with a freestanding Control Display and leather sports seats. There is a choice of four exterior paint finishes and four interior equipment variants.
Also included in the 2014 BMW i8 is a wide range of BMW ConnectedDrive features like Park Distance Control, a cruise control system with braking function, a rain sensor, and an Intelligent Emergency Call function, a driver assistance package with High Beam Assistant, a rear view camera, Surround View, speed limit info that includes a No Passing Info display, and collision warning with pedestrian recognition and braking function. Also available is a head-up display, BMW Online Entertainment, Concierge Services, and real time traffic information and mobility services developed specifically for BMW i, e.g. intermodal route guidance as standard.
The 2014 BMW i8 is the world’s first sports car to be developed from the ground up under the banner of sustainability, completing its journey from vision to reality. Both the exterior and interior display an emotionally charged and revolutionary execution that takes on the Ultimate Driving Machine mantra. The lines are clean, minimalist with homogeneous surfaces defined by a small number of precise edges and function-focused details that showcase the status of the 2014 BMW i8 as the most futuristic looking car in its segment.
The BMW i8 exhibits typical sports car proportions, with its dynamic character reflected in its long bonnet, clearly visible aerodynamic aids, stretched roofline, short overhangs, and long wheelbase. The pioneering combination of sporting ability and efficiency is translated into the design of the 2+2-seater with intoxicating proportions.
The i8’s overlapping and interlocking surface structure lends additional emphasis to the car’s color concept, which contributes to its unmistakable appearance. This layering principle allows aerodynamic forms to be enveloped in a progressively styled package, while powerfully formed wheel arches draw attention to the wide track. The compact construction distinguishing both the electric motor and combustion engine allows the front and rear sections of the car to be exceptionally low-slung, accentuating the car’s dramatically stretched flanks. The scissor-type doors that open forward and upward in wing-like fashion, add extra intrigue to the design.
A signature feature of the BMW i brand is the “black band”. On the 2014 BMW i8, it emerges in a “V” shape from the hood and extends back over the roof into the rear section of the car, where it frames the center section of the rear apron. At the front end, the black band is framed by the body-colored apron and fenders, while at the rear it is overlapped by the “floating” roof pillars, which extend over the rear lights, serving as a rear spoiler.
The front view exudes sporting ability in its purest form. Large front apron air intakes arranged over several levels generate a powerful feeling of depth. The extremely broad BMW kidney grille stretches over to the slim headlights, accentuating the width of the BMW i8 and its road-focused stance. The car’s full-LED headlights adopt the hallmark U-shape of BMW i models. The dipped and high-beam light is emitted by a lens positioned on the far outer edge of the light units. The three-dimensional design of the light sources lend their appearance a sporty character.
The rear end’s low-slung stance and its horizontal, width-emphasizing lines provide a clear showcase for the car’s dynamic potential. The rear is bordered by the sculpted rear wheel arches. The sloping rear window opens high, allowing easy access to the storage compartment located beneath. The rear lights, reflectors and rear diffuser form a strong, single visual effect. Like the headlights, the intricately designed rear light clusters also feature the characteristic BMW i U-shaped design. The directional indicators are integrated above the rear lights into the descending roofline. All exterior lights on the BMW i8 are LEDs.
The paintwork that adorns the side body panels and front and rear ends of the 2014 BMW i8 may be specified in a choice of four colors, three of which have been created exclusively for BMW i. All the paint finishes provide a striking contrast to the black band. And, depending on the color chosen, the accent surfaces on the side skirts, at the rear and on the BMW kidney grille surround come in BMW i Frozen Blue or Frozen Grey.
Once inside, the interior, the driver, front passenger and rear passengers sit low in traditional sports car style in lightweight seats. Standard leather trim extends beyond the seat surfaces to parts of the center console, instrument panel and interior door panels. Exposed CFRP sections of the passenger cell are visible around the entry apertures when the doors are opened.
The instrument panel consists of overlapping, three-dimensional segments, complemented by a contrast-rich color scheme. The layering approach also finds its way, through dynamically curving lines, into the design of the center console, which is home to the gearshift lever, the Controller for the iDrive operating system, the start/stop button, the eDrive button and the Driving Experience Control switch. The iDrive system’s Control Display comes in a freestanding 8.8-inch format. A sports steering wheel with multifunction buttons and the navigation system are standard in the BMW i8, as is the multifunction instrument display.
Available as alternatives to the standard Mega trim for the BMW i8 interior are the Giga and Tera Worlds. In standard specification, the contrast between black surfaces in the cockpit and light Carum Grey leather surfaces emphasizes the lightness and sustainability of this vehicle concept. The Giga equipment World is available in light or dark versions. The naturally treated leather surfaces feature perforated elements and subtle contrast stitching. Painted surface elements on the instrument panel, door trim and center console add to the ambiance. The Tera equipment World brings an added aura of luxury and sustainability, with top-quality leather surfaces combining with textile accents and contrast stitching in BMW i Blue. The accent ring for the leather steering wheel comes in BMW i Blue in the Tera equipment World and in Satin Silver in the Mega and Giga worlds. The Pure Impulse equipment world offers the most Premium combination of materials and equipment.
My test pre-production 2014 BMW i8 sported a Brilliant Silver exterior, highlighted by the BMW i Frozen Blue and Black accent panels. The interior was executed in Ivory and Charcoal tones. The base price was set at $135,700, which came to $136,625 after adding Destination and Handling charges. Add another $25.00 for D&H on July 1, 2014.
SUMMARY: The 2014 BMW i8 is not only a stellar sports car, but it also represents a look into BMW’s future vehicle development. I found the look of the car to be especially alluring, and I found the driving experience to be exhilarating, once finally positioned inside. That’s the only drawback of the BMW i8. There’s no such thing as graceful entry or exit. Women can forget modesty when wearing a short skirt or dress, due to the high side sill. Exiting the i8 is actually more difficult, especially if the vehicle is parked on an incline. All that aside, after setting in, the front seats are highly supportive as well as comfortable. The rear seats are not intended for full–size adults – only children need apply. Switchgear is placed for optimal user friendliness, and outward visibility is surprisingly good.
The BMW i8’s low center of gravity and ideal weight distribution give it an almost unheard of stability during spirited maneuvers on tight, twisting mountain roads. The all-wheel drive delivers a balanced and neutral behavior.
The i8 features the lowest CG of any BMW currently in production, along with a near perfect weight distribution – 49% Front / 51% Rear. There’s an eBoost function, and a Front Axle Motor plus Rear Engine Motor / Generator Overboost Function. There’s also a Kickdown Activated with Signature BMW Kickdown Feel, and the i8 is capable of moving from 100% Front Wheel Drive to 100% Rear Wheel Drive, with a torque split used to enhance performance at limits.
When the Sport Mode is activated, mapping for the Dynamic Damper Control / Shift Points / Shift Speed, Maximum Energy Recovery / Maximum eBoost are modified and the 1.5L engine runs continuously. The electric motor and combustion engine are activated, with a special instrument cluster design featuring engine speed displayed and the electric motor in 2nd gear.
Battery charging methods include plug-in charging (1.5 hours with 220v or 3.5 hours with 110v), brake energy regeneration through the front axle motor or rear axle motor/generator, and belt driven motor/generator with the engine running.
With the 2014 BMW i8, the future draws ever closer, exemplifying advanced sustainability and efficient dynamics – not to mention exquisite form and function. All as part of a package without range anxiety.
On the TFLcar scale of:
- Buy it!
- Lease it!
- Rent it!
- … or Forget it!
I give the 2014 BMW i8 Plug-In Electric Hybrid a Buy It! for an efficient and elegant sports car.
Check out our first drive review of the new 2015 BMW M3 and M4…
SPECIFICATIONS: 2014 BMW i8 2+2 Coupe Plug-in Electric Hybrid
Base Price: $135,700
Price as Tested: $136,625 Add $25 D&H on Jul 1,2014
Engine Type and Size: Gas Engine: 1.5-liter DOHC,12-valve BMW inline, VANOS, 3-cylinder TwinPower Turbo technology: turbocharger, High Precision Direct Gasoline Injection, VALVETRONIC fully variable valve control.
Horsepower (bhp): 228 (152 HP per liter) RPM not given
Torque (ft./ lbs.): 236 RPM not given
Engine Type and Size: ElectricMotor, BMW eDrive technology, hybrid AC synchronous motor with power electronics, integrated charging module and generator mode for recuperation, high voltage Lithium-ion battery
Horsepower (bhp): 129 RPM not given
Torque (ft./ lbs.): 184 RPM not given
Total system output:
Horsepower (bhp): 362 RPM not given
Torque (ft./ lbs.): 420 RPM not given
Transmission: Gas – 6-speed automatic / Automatic two-stage electric motor
Drive Train: Hybrid-specific all-wheel drive, combustion engine driving the rear wheels, electric motor driving the front
Suspension: Front – Double wishbone front axle with Dynamic Damper Control Rear – 5-link rear axle with Dynamic Damper Control
Brakes: Power-assisted four wheel vented and drilled discs with pushbutton DSC stability system includes: ABS, Cornering Brake Control Dynamic Brake Control (DBC), BA, Brake Standby, Start-Off Assistant, Fading Compensation Brake Drying function Traction Control and Regenerative Braking
Tires: Bridgestone Potenza 195/50 R20x7-inch front / 215/45 R20x7.5-inch rear mounted on 5-“Trident” spoke light-alloy wheels
Wheelbase: 110.2 inches
Length Overall: 184.6 inches
Width: 76.5 inches
Height: 51.0 inches
Curb Weight: 3,285 lbs.
Turning Circle: 40.4 ft.
Fuel Capacity: 11.0 gallons
EPA Mileage Estimates: Up to 22 mile eRange / 310 miles total
Drag Coefficient: 0.26
0 – 60 mph: 4.2 seconds
Top speed: 155 mph gas / 75 mp electric.
Review by Arv Voss, Auto Impressions
Arv Voss is a Northern California based freelance motoring Journalist and member and past officer of several noted Automotive Journalist organizations who contributes regularly to a number of national and international media outlets. He reviews not only cars, trucks and SUVs, but motorcycles as well.