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We (finally) drive BMW's hybrid sportscar: 6 things to know about the i8

2017-12-28 06:43

Sean Parker

Image: Warren Wilson

Cape Town - The BMW i8 is a car that divides opinion like Donald Trump. Some say it represents the future of what sports cars (hybrid system using batteries and a small petrol engine) will be, while others scoff at its fake noise and 'lousy' intentions to take on traditional sports cars. 

Before you read on, it must be noted that BMW has updated the i8 coupe when it showed the new i8 roadster earlier this year. You can read all about that here. 

Let's look at the i8 as a driving machine, the automaker's plug-in hybrid sportscar...

1. It has the engine from a Mini Cooper - Yes you read correctly, Bavaria's most advanced sports car yet, is partly powered by a small transversely-mounted 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged engine. The internal combustion engine produces a claimed 170kW and 320Nm, and it only powers the rear wheels. 

2. It's supplemented by a rechargeable electric engine that powers the front wheels. BMW says it makes 96kW/250Nm and claims it can be driven for 35km in electric-mode only, at a speed of up to 120km/h. 

3. It's super lightweight - Open the i8's door and it literally feels as light as a feather, in fact the i8 tips the scales at over 1539kg. 

4. It has a fake exhaust note - Yes, the fake noise you hear (especially in Sport mode) is funneled through the speakers. Admittedly it sounds good and adds to the experience. 

5. Its 0-100km/h sprint time is blisteringly quick - The i8 has a launch-control system that only works if the battery has a minimum of 25%. BMW claims a 4.4 second sprint time from standstill to 100km/h. 

6. It's a frugal sportscar - I averaged 7.8-litres/100km during the four days the i8 was on test. For the most part the car was set up in comfort mode and it made sense as a relatively frugal sportscar. 

Summary

In conclusion, the experience of the i8 was interesting as it gave us an indication of where the automaker sees itself in the coming years. It's let down by understeer that creeps in when pushing it too hard, an aspect where other sportscars won't have that issue. 

At just over R2-million, the i8 is an expensive tool. But as a first drive it made a massive impression on me, and I'm keen to drive the 2018 model which has more power and a bigger battery. It can't match sportscars for driving thrills and power but it's a good first effort by the automaker. 

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