2015 BMW i8 represents one of those rare moments when a concept turns to reality without getting tarnished by a committee or focus groups. The i8 is a head turner and attention grabber, much like the now legendary BMW M1 did decades ago. We saw it in final concept version at the 2012 LA Auto Show. That car was a roadster, but the shape and exterior panels from that car basically came to live in the 2015 i8 that we are testing this week.
This is a plug-in hybrid sports car with some interesting hardware. Up front, there are an electric motor and a 2-speed transmission. In the back, there are a 1.5L turbocharged three-cylinder engine that propels the rear wheels via a 6-speed transmission and can also charge the batteries. Total system output is 354 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque.
The i8 can operate in silent and smooth all-electric mode or in a performance mode when both motors are working together. The gasoline powered unit belts out some good and surprising deep noise outside. Exhaust and turbo sounds are also piped into the passenger cabin for a more engaging sports car experience.
All this complicated and efficient (76 MPGe rating) technology works seamlessly from the driver’s perspective. The braking power can be smoothly modulated. The gear shifts are quick and assertive in performance mode. If you didn’t know that this is a plug-in hybrid, you would think it’s a fast and fun BMW sports car.
This particular i8 will retail at $136,000, but there is a very long waiting list and some are willing to pay an additional $25,000 or more to skip ahead and gets theirs sooner.
Andre Smirnov is a life-long automotive enthusiast, writer, reporter, and software engineer. He has been a contributor at TFL since 2011.