What you’re looking at could feasibly be seen as a concept car for the future, yet it’s actually a design that’s six years old. The BMW i8, which in fact has already gone out of production, uses a mixture of lightweight materials, extensive aerodynamics and hybrid technology to create a more ethical sports car that can crack 0-60mph in 4.5sec.
Rather than a large petrol engine as per rivals like the Porsche 911 and Audi R8, the BMW i8 uses a 228bhp 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo, which is mounted behind the cabin and drives the rear wheels. It is joined by a 129bhp electric motor that powers the front axle.
Extensive use of carbonfibre makes the i8 light, so it can go hard all the way to the 155mph limiter. Throw in a surprisingly meaty soundtrack from the three-cylinder engine and the i8 is genuinely exciting to drive. It handles well, too, although the lack of feedback through the steering wheel stops it from being as much fun as its Porsche and Audi contemporaries.
The ride is also firmer than a 911’s or R8’s and there’s a fair bit of road noise, but the i8 counters by being able to run silently on electric power for around 20 miles between charges. Indeed, choose one of the updated cars from 2018 onwards and its range rises to 34 miles. Being a plug-in hybrid, it can run in electric-only mode or with the petrol engine and electric motor working together (or even with the petrol engine acting as a generator to charge the battery) for potentially tiny running costs.
Like the 911, it also has a 2+2 seating layout. However, the two rear seats are tiny and very difficult to access, so don’t expect anybody other than kids to want to use them. The front seats are also fairly difficult to get into because of the car’s low roof, butterfly doors and wide sills, but once you’re in, the i8 feels pretty special, with swooping panels in chrome, leather and high-quality plastics, two large digital screens for the speedo and infotainment, and terrific ambient lighting. There aren’t any differing trim levels, but all i8s have climate control, a DAB radio, sat-nav, head-up display, heated electric front seats and parking sensors. Various options include a driving assistance package with a surround-view camera, keyless entry and an upgraded Harman Kardon sound system.