Looking totally like a Baller, we’re cruising through Palm Beach in what is essentially a Darth Vader helmet on wheels. This is the BMW i8.
The BMW i8 is a parallel hybrid-electric near supercar that offers all the functionality of a Prius, a lot more horsepower and a 1000-percent improvement in the looks department. As the country song goes, “She’s got her daddy’s money, her mama’s good looks…” And 357 combined horsepower and 420lb-ft of torque between the 1.5-liter three-cylinder petrol engine and what BMW calls the eDrive electrical machine motor. Coupled with the Aisin Six speed automatic transmission and an all-wheel-drive powertrain, it makes for a mighty powerful vehicle in a sleek sexy package. Its nearest competitor is likely the Lexus LC500h.
On its own, the i8 electrical drivetrain manages to supply enough battery power to go about 14 miles. Using the occasional charging cord, it will take approximately 12 hours to recharge the lithium-ion batteries to their fully charged capacity. Top speed from the electrical motor will go to 75 mph, while the gas engine can cruise all day (as long as there is fuel in the tank) at an electrically-governed 155 mph. What’s up with BMW and their 155 mph top speed fetish?
Getting in requires practice and should be completed while no one is looking until you have become confident in your abilities. Also, men should avoid wearing kilts, and ladies should avoid miniskirts or dresses when getting in or out of the vehicle, lest you are into al-fresco entry and exit experiences. It starts with the large-ish side sills that are a huge structural component of the i8’s carbon-fiber tub and construction. Style counts, and is better achieved for the driver by placing his or her right leg into the footwell first, followed by a slight swing of the buttocks over the side sill with a quick lift of the other leg to follow. It is easier to do than describe.
Sure it’s listed as a four-seater but as for the back seats, they are uninhabitable for the most part. Stick a dog, a six-pack or overnight bag back there instead.
Behind the wheel, all the usual accoutrements found in contemporary BMW models are right here. iDrive, in their latest form is in place and offers complete functionality versus earlier generations. Sitting lower than most vehicles in the lineup, the i8 feels closer to a go-kart than any of the others, although we have used that description so many times throughout the years. Still, the road handling manners are sublime. We love the lack of sound this gull-winged beauty possesses, but when we feel a bit randy, all it takes is a stomp on the skinny pedal to unleash a (half) band of demons from the gas engine. Work with us here: it’s only three cylinders.
Cornering is an exercise in thinking where you want the car to go. A second or two later, it is there. Power from the combined package works together to offer acceleration, that although not in the category of Tesla’s “insane setting,” still lets you achieve a certain speed, all while looking better doing it.
For $150,000 and a 76-mpg electrical equivalent mileage rating, what more could you possibly ask for?
2017 BMW i8
Type: Two-passenger hybrid-electric sportscar
Power: Three-cylinder 1.5-liter twin-power turbocharged engine, 228 hp, 236 lb-ft torque
1 electric motor, 129 hp, 184 lb-ft torque
Combined: 357 hp, 420 lb-ft torque
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Ground Clearance: 4.6-inches
Cargo: 4.7 cubic feet
Curb weight: 3,455 pounds
Top speed 155 mph
Fuel Economy: 76 MPGe