Proof that the electric revolution can be fun and fast, and a firm entry into the motoring history books
Matt Prior
31 December 2014

The email’s preview pane had scarcely disappeared from my computer screen before I had replied to it.

It read: “Can you nominate your favourite car of the year?” Within seconds I’d written back: “BMW i8”, knowing that if I didn’t, somebody else – everybody else – would beat me to it. 

Why is it my favourite? The i8 isn’t the fastest or most rewarding car I’ve driven this year. I like light, simple cars that handle predictably and are dynamically engaging. Cars like the Lotus 2-Eleven, Caterham Seven Supersport and Porsche 911 GT3 have the attributes that usually top my personal wish list.

The i8 isn’t like any of those. It isn’t simple, for a start. That it has a Mini Cooper engine at one end and a pair of electric motors at the other sees to that. And because of those, its dynamic reward is slightly limited, too.

This is a car that handles differently depending on whether its batteries are charged, in which case it understeers quite a lot, or empty, in which case it is slower but understeers not at all.

Objectively, to a dynamics purist like me, that should make it about as appealing as a radio that won’t broadcast Test Match Special on one randomly selected day from each test. But somehow it doesn’t matter, because the i8 is just so interesting.

Interesting to look at? Of course. No other mid-engined 2+2 looks as good. Admittedly, that’s a limited field, for the very sound reason that it’s hard to package a mid-engined 2+2 and make it look good. The fact that the i8 has one of the most compelling (and not the least bit awkward) stances of any modern car makes it an aesthetic triumph.

Interesting to sit in? Undoubtedly. Some of our testers thought that it didn’t veer far enough from the BMW norm, especially when compared with the i3, but it hits just the right note for me.

Interesting to drive? Yes, and not only for the wrong reasons. Because if you leave its outright handling alone – and to be fair, even though it’s no Porsche 911, that isn’t so bad – the i8 is a fine GT car. It steers with oily slickness and smoothness, it rides soundly, its electric motors fill the considerable torque gap in the heavily turbocharged engine’s delivery, making it quick to respond to the throttle, and its refinement and stability are of the first order.

But, more than anything, it is just interesting to study, to be around, to spend time adoring and admiring. Everywhere you turn, there is a detail to be savoured. Every time you fill it with fuel, there is surprise at how little it asks for. And every time you glance at it, you know you’re looking at a car that is a shoo-in not just for this year’s shortlist, but any other year in history’s, too. The i8 is a car we’ll remember, and remember well, in half a century.

Come back tomorrow as we reveal another star car of 2014

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Our Verdict

BMW i8
The BMW i8 joins the i3 as part of the firm's 'i' range of vehicles

Can BMW's baby hypercar blow the lid off performance convention?

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Comments
10

31 December 2014
It would be my choice too. And judging by the fact the secondhand price is greater than the price of new one and BMW can't keep up with demand we're not the only ones. Long live the plug-in.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

31 December 2014
Top gear made it their car of the year too and they were pro hydrogen car, once upon a time!

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

31 December 2014
Stunning looking car. I wonder if they'll an M version.

31 December 2014
Not unattractive to look at. But an appliance.

31 December 2014
BMW has boldly risen to the challenge of giving us the drive-train of the 21st century leaving traditional rivals lots of catching up to do.

31 December 2014
If I remember this car does not handle very well.
I do not care how it looks
what tecno bits it has if it does not handle well what is the point.
just another bit of tecno rubbish to fool people.
may be in 10 years time but
not now in my opinion.

31 December 2014
If someone can afford to spend £94k on this, is it fair that the tax-payer has to help him ?? I guess we all own a bit of this car and maybe we should get a refund when it is sold on.

2 January 2015
I guess the £5000 government grant was to help change transport from petrol to EV. But as you say it was not meant to help the rich to buy their expensive cars a bit cheaper. They have the same argument in Norway, the only other big market for Tesla after California. In Norway buyers of EVs don't have to pay all the taxes included in a car's price which are as much as half of the car's price. All EV buyers get a 50% help from government/taxpayers.
Problem is a Tesla buyer's cut is much more than a Volt or Nissan buyer's. Taxpayers are helping the rich with half of the price of their car purchase. That is the only reason there are so many Tesla cars sold in Norway. And why many think the system is wrong.

Dan

1 January 2015
I like the styling of the Lotus Evora, the I8 is a technical masterpiece and I like it but Porsches plug in hybrid panamera surely offers similar with more room and better handling.

26 January 2015
Motoring journalist comes out of test pilot mode, realises that the limit of 'handling' is irrelevant, decides he likes £94000 BMW after all.

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