Do this job for long enough and you can get into most cars and just go. You’d don’t need to spend hours with the handbook, figuring out how the damned thing works.
The i8 is not like this. Experience of other BMWs will tell you how the nav works, but in most other respects this is a car that needs to be learned, at least if you’re hoping to make the most of it. To me, this is an entirely positive thing, because it means I’m making new discoveries every single day. The last time a BMW sports car did this was back in the 1970s with the launch of the M1.
For example, I’m still getting used to doing all local journeys on electric power. You don’t have to, of course, but with energy being far cheaper from plug than pump, why wouldn’t you? I waft around in silence, unable even to hear the noise it makes to warn those outside that it’s approaching. Pedestrians stop and stare.
But I’m also learning that it’s a magnet for every moron on the motorway. Suddenly you’re aware of a car filling the rear-view mirror, and it’s always the same: the other driver is holding up a smartphone, filming your progress. Next they’ll be alongside, before diving in front to get the full cinemascope view. It would bother me less if it weren’t so bloody dangerous.
The ride quality fascinates me, too. Sometimes it’s superb — almost eerily good, in fact — and at others it simply falls to bits. There’s a certain frequency of transverse ridge it absolutely hates. Refinement follows a similar pattern. In normal use, the car is quieter than any similar machine I can recall, until you hit a coarse surface, whereupon tyre noise becomes an instant irritant. Perhaps the carbonfibre core doesn’t soak it up like a car made from metal.
Ultimately, I’m just happy to know that the rest of the year with the i8 will continue to be a fascinating voyage of discovery. Whatever else its rivals may be able to do, they can’t offer that.