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.