This year, the BMW i8 was removed from the Assembly line, so I just have to say goodbye to this extraordinary car. It would seem that while the coupe was still being produced, everything (or almost everything) should have been told about the i8. However, I found out the opposite: many have only heard about this model, and some do not know what they are talking about when you start talking about this coupe.
BMW i8 front view
Today I will try to answer all the remaining questions. We will also find out whether a car with a three-cylinder engine can be called a supercar, whether it can show good dynamics and consume 2 liters of gasoline per 100 km. And let’s try to figure out whether this car is worthy of the price tag of 200 thousand dollars, and what it has in common with the Toyota Land Cruiser SUV.
Some people are impressed by the appearance of the BMW i8, others consider it unsuccessful. I am one of the first, and I consider this design a masterpiece that back in 2009… no, not “ahead” of time, but stopped it. Even today, the i8 looks no less futuristic than its first concept (almost 10 years ago) in the movie “Mission impossible: Phantom Protocol”. At the same time, the appearance of the coupe does not have the sweetness that is characteristic of such experiments when returning to them after a while. For 11 years, this car did not have time to become familiar and mix with the gray mass. It still remains exclusive and makes passers-by turn around.
BMW i8 side view
In my opinion, this is the most beautiful BMW in the history of the brand. Although you can make a more global statement: the Bavarians sometimes manage to create such unusual cars that they leave their mark on the entire automotive history. These models include the 1979 BMW M1 and the 8-series from the 1990s. I am also sure that the i8 can be safely put on a par with these cars.
Most perceive the image of the i8 as a challenge, a challenge primarily to the fastest cars of the late noughties. As a result, delight is usually followed by disappointment. After all, according to the characteristics and emotions of driving this BMW, even during the official launch in 2014, already lost to all those who motorists considered its competitors. Even the restyling in 2018 did not affect the situation in any way. But here it is important to understand that i8 is not an ode to emotions, but a song of the mind.
In the early 2010s, BMW started working on this project not to overshadow the glory of the Lamborghini Gallardo, Ferrari 458 Italia, Porsche 911 Turbo and Mercedes SLS AMG. Introducing the concept of “Efficient Dynamics”, the Bavarians sought to show their vision of the car of the future – first of all, eco-friendly, economical and efficient. But to prove that such principles do not contradict dynamics and controllability, for engineers has become a kind of challenge. It is thanks to this goal that the i8 design appeared.
BMW i8 front bumper and headlights
But the main thing is the fact that no matter how aggressive this design may seem to us, its main task was not to defeat rivals, but to defeat the air. The sophisticated shape of the car is not a sick fantasy of designers, but the result of the work of engineers on aerodynamics, thanks to which it was possible to achieve a drag coefficient of 0.26 Cx. For that time (and now, too), this result was very good. The engineers decided that the car should not just cut through the air flows, but pass them through the body, reducing drag and at the same time increasing downforce. This, in turn, compensated for the relatively light weight of the car, which is just over one and a half tons.
Many consider the i8 to be the slowest supercar. But, on the other hand, we can say with confidence that we are dealing with the fastest “eco-hybrid”. Acceleration to the first 100 km / h takes only 4.4 s. for example, the BMW M5 in the F10 body (introduced in September 2011) accelerated with the same indicator.
BMW i8 acceleration to 100
Our measurements showed acceleration to 100 km / h in 4.7 s. we can assume that the passport figures were confirmed, and the lag is within the margin of error. But when you learn more about which engine is under the hood, you will be very surprised by this result.
So, the i8 is a rechargable electric-gasoline hybrid (really complex in terms of structure). The engineers had a very difficult task-to build a car with a phenomenally low consumption at that time, a sufficient power reserve, while providing it with the dynamics of a sports car. In addition, it was necessary to keep the cost of the i8 within certain limits. As you may remember, in the late 2000s, electric cars (including Tesla) were not taken seriously by anyone, especially in Germany. Therefore, the hybrid was an alternative option.
In order to combine efficiency and dynamics, it was necessary to do a good job in reducing the weight of the car. But removing the excess, it was necessary not to forget about the comfort and functionality, which should have remained at the usual level for the luxury class. Therefore, it is not at all strange that the BMW i8 is perfectly equipped, even by today’s standards. It has everything you need (and even more): climate control, multiple displays, projection on the windshield, premium Harman Kardon acoustics. The seats are upholstered in leather, there are a variety of active safety systems, and the sound insulation – by the standards of the class-is simply excellent. And the i8 is the first BMW model to receive laser headlights that can cover up to 600 meters of road six years ago.
BMW i8 in a u-turn
It is not difficult to guess that all these options together weigh hundreds of kilograms, and in addition, there is also a heavy battery and electric motors. So what did the engineers save weight on? How did they fit in a ton and a half?
The answer lies in the design of the body and the use of advanced materials. The passenger module of the BMW i8 is literally woven from carbon fiber. The fenders and roof are made of polycarbonate, the hood and doors are made of aluminum, and the car is based on an all-aluminum load-bearing frame with high torsion resistance. So you can call the i8 “ramnik”, and this, by the way, is not all that makes the BMW hybrid close to the Toyota Land Cruiser.
The BMW i8 is equipped with two transmissions. One of them is produced by Aisin, the third part of which, in turn, belongs to Toyota. This box is located on the rear axle, as well as the internal combustion engine. German engineers have tried to hide the petrol engine from prying eyes as much as possible, so if you are not a mechanic (servicing this hybrid), it is unlikely that you will ever see it.
BMW i8 engine
The 1.5-liter three-cylinder b38k15t0 engine is actually installed here. Some believe that this power unit is from Mini, but this is not quite true. This engine was first installed in the i8, and only then appeared in the Mini and other models of the concern, including the BMW X1. By the way, it is still being installed. But there is one very important difference. The fact is that the maximum power of this engine in all more “simple” cars is only 135 HP, while in the i8 its boost reaches 230 HP. And this power is comparable to the output of the 2.0-liter engine of the seventh generation Golf GTI.
This indicator was achieved thanks to only one, but very large turbine, producing 1.7 bar, as well as an additional electric motor. And I’m not talking about the electric motor that drives the front wheels. Here, next to the internal combustion engine, another 20-horsepower starter-alternator (operating under a voltage of 280 volts) is installed. It has several functions-it starts the engine as a starter, and also helps to turn the crankshaft during turbocharging or when maximum acceleration is required. And it also works “in the opposite direction” – it also performs the function of a generator and charges the hybrid battery from the internal combustion engine. This design is now called a “soft” hybrid (mild hybrid). This whole system rotates only the rear wheels by means of a compact six-speed “automatic” from Aisin, which I already mentioned above.
BMW i8 charging port
The front wheels are driven by a separate 130-horsepower synchronous electric motor, which is powered by a 7 kWh battery located in the Central tunnel. On pure electric traction in front-wheel drive mode, the I8 coupe can travel up to 35 km according to the passport. In real conditions, it turns out about 25.
After the restyling in 2018, the battery was increased, so that the power reserve increased to the passport 55 km. At the same time, the maximum speed when driving on electricity is 120 km/h.
For the front electric motor, this car has its own two-speed transmission. By the way, this is not even the case with Tesla, and only recently the electric Porsche Taycan was able to boast a similar design. This box is necessary in order to effectively use a relatively low-power electric motor not only for economical driving and acceleration from a standstill, but also to achieve maximum speeds. That is, in fact, the i8 has two full-fledged power plants that can work both together and separately at almost any speed. For this reason, when calculating the car’s power, BMW simply summed up the performance of two engines: 230 HP from the internal combustion engine was added to 130 electric forces, resulting in a passport 360 “horses”.
Of course, by the standards of sports cars, even this figure seems modest. On the other hand, the total torque is 570 Nm. And the dynamics of acceleration from a standstill to 200 km / h is comparable to the base R8 and Porsche Carrera S of those years (about 15 seconds). But the feeling of acceleration is quite different here, and the dips when changing gears are not as sharp as on cars equipped with “robots” – they are smoothed out by the two electric motors already mentioned.
BMW i8 wheels
Thanks to the narrower tires, the car does not feel the ruts and stands quite confidently on a straight line. Our i8 has 215-width tires in the front, but this is also an option, while standard tires generally have 195 dimensions. The higher the speed, the better the suspension behaves. Annoying bounces after 100 km / h becomes much less. Even at a speed of 250 km/h, you can still maneuver relatively calmly. However, the steering wheel would like to feel sharper. Perfect aerodynamics and good sound insulation ensure relative silence even at high speeds.
As a result, the feeling of speed and adrenaline i8 gives much less than the same Porsche 911. But BMW tries to compensate for this lack by synthesizing the sound of the V6 engine through Harman Kardon speakers (and this sound is elegantly complemented by the low-frequency whistle of the electric motor in boost mode). In addition, to make the menacing roar of the “serious” engine audible to others, there is also a hybrid exhaust system. An electric speaker is installed under the bottom (similar to what we saw in the Audi SQ7, for example). Thanks to this simulation, the sound becomes more thoroughbred, similar to the exhaust of traditional sports cars with larger internal combustion engines.
The declared fuel consumption is 2.1 liters per 100 km. But this is only on paper. In everyday conditions, even in Comfort mode, the gasoline engine is turned on quite often, so you will not be able to ride for a long time almost for free. However, to see the cherished indicator of 3 liters per 100 kilometers is quite a feasible task. For example, when you move around the city in traffic jams and toffees. In this mode, the average speed is not too high, and frequent braking charges the battery.
Although who cares about fuel consumption in a car that costs that much money? Usually, these cars are driven no more than a few thousand kilometers a year. Buying this car in 2015, its owner paid about 200 thousand dollars. By the way, there are rumors that the cost of production of the i8 model was even higher than its final cost, and BMW sold the i8 to its detriment in order to improve the brand image.
In five years, this hybrid loses about 50 % of its original cost. But the price should not fall further, because the i8 can actually be considered a collector car.
The main feature of the behavior of the i8 on the road is that this coupe does not know how (and does not try) to behave like a rear-wheel drive car. At first glance, it seems that 570 Nm of torque should be enough to easily throw a relatively light car into a skid. But, alas, this does not work. After all, only on the rear axle there is no more than 320 Nm available, which are also achieved in a narrow and high speed range. And the front axle is almost always involved. As a result, the behavior in the turn of this BMW is rather neutral, and sometimes you can even feel understeer, despite the perfect weight distribution on the axles. As a result, the BMW i8 has enough power on the straight, but there is not enough torque on the rear axle to tear off your roof.
BMW i8 in the city
Of course, a larger engine, 2.0 – or even 3.0-liter, could easily be put here. There would be enough space, and an additional 100-200 horsepower on the rear wheels would radically change the situation with both dynamics and adrenaline. But a bigger engine would require a bigger box, and a different suspension would be needed. All these improvements would add more weight, and therefore fuel consumption would increase. So from a concept car of the future, the BMW i8 would turn into an ordinary crazy sports car (like the Gallardo or 911 Turbo). But the ideologues stubbornly stood his ground.
Due to the relatively narrow tires, no serious grip is out of the question, and the front part of the car is demolished before it has time to bring the stern. By the way, it was the front tires that did not allow us to show the declared acceleration from a standstill to 100 km / h. In Launch Control mode, the front wheels slip a little at the start, which is why those cherished fractions of a second are lost.
BMW i8 road behavior
I used to have long-term experience driving around the city in a Porsche 911, Lamborghini Gallardo, and Audi R8. I can call them uncompromising sports cars, and you pay for it every day. A lot of effort on the pedals, awkward landing, jerky box… And the engine noise in these cars will not be able to muffle when you get tired of it. From this point of view, the BMW i8 is the complete opposite: excellent visibility, comfortable seats, light steering wheel, good sound insulation. You can relax in this compartment. To sum up, I can say this: in terms of handling, the i8 is one of the most boring supercars I’ve ever driven, but at the same time, one of the most comfortable.
But it was not without a fly in the ointment. The only problem for easy and comfortable movement, I would call the suspension. It is quite rigid, as I mentioned earlier: the car repeats all the roughness of the roadway, and on more serious jumps. On the other hand, it’s not as bad as I imagined when I first got behind the wheel of this car. The overall impression of the suspension settings do not spoil. Therefore, I can say for sure that there are more” cars for every day ” here than in most supercars combined.
BMW i8 driving in the country
Although the low position of the seats and wide thresholds still create some difficulties when landing. In addition, we can assume that there is practically no Luggage compartment. The volume is quite small, and also impractical: beer friends here you will not be lucky, because by the end of the route it will be hot because of the proximity to the trunk of the engine. To prevent the heat from the engine from entering the cabin, there is a special multi-layer partition made of plastic and two thin layers of Gorilla Glass (as on smartphone screens).
From the salon, I had a twofold feeling. On the one hand, by the standards of sports cars, the front row can be called very spacious and comfortable. Here is a stylish design, high-quality finishing materials, normal buttons, and not some sensors. But, on the other hand, there is not enough space for some small things inside, and there is simply no place to put a large phone. The rear seats are a mere formality: they are best used for carrying small Luggage. Apparently, according to BMW, the person of the future should have a minimum of personal belongings.
BMW i8 trunk
Unlike most rear-engined cars, there is no additional trunk in the front, although it would clearly not hurt. Most i8 owners generally think that the hood here either does not open at all, or it can only be opened on the service. In fact, you can cope with this task without the participation of professionals: you only need an assistant and two thin objects (we used nails). First, you need to pull special cables (located in special niches of doorways), and then open the hood with an assistant and fix it in the open position (by means of, for example, nails, because there are no regular retainers). You need to do this procedure slowly and carefully, because the hood is quite fragile, and you can easily bend it if you are careless. Not the easiest opening procedure means that all liquids (except for the washer) are filled in at the service STATION. Also under the hood is a battery and a radiator for water cooling the battery.
Can the BMW i8 be considered a supercar? For me, the answer to this question is Yes, but not in the classical sense. The i8 doesn’t have the traditional attributes of such cars (incredible power, lightning-fast dynamics, uncompromising handling), but at the same time it is a very technological and very bold project that has no analogues.
Undoubtedly, now all these ingenious hybrid technologies against the background of Tesla resemble the Breguet tourbillon in a Swiss watch, which loses all its meaning next to the Apple Watch. Nevertheless, people still buy tourbillon watches, despite the fact that they cost a hundred times more than Apple. This is probably a tribute to a once-brilliant invention.
BMW i8 top view
For the same reason, the BMW i8 will always remain a legendary car and a highlight of private collections. To replace it, the Germans have already prepared a new personification of their “i” concept-an electric sedan i4 in the style of Gran Coupe. They promise that the novelty will produce 530 HP and will be able to overcome 600 kilometers on a single charge, while acceleration to the first 100 km / h will take only 4 seconds. Which, of course, is impressive.
But it seems that this car will be more an attempt to keep up with trends and leaders than a stubborn, but worthy and bold desire to offer the world something unique. As it was with the i8.