BMW would have you believe that the new i8 is the sports car of the future – and it’s a believable claim of a car that is daring, exotic and state of the art in just about every way you might judge it.

But the i8 also marks BMW’s return to a part of the market that it has flirted with in years gone by, and rather memorably so. The Z8 and M1 have a successor in this car – and they are some daunting acts to follow.

There are parallels to be drawn between BMW’s M1 and the i8. The M1 is the only other mid-engined production machine in Munich’s history, and was on sale from 1978 to 1981. But neither the M1, nor the Z8, had a start in life quite like the i8's. The i8 was conceived to redefine sports car conventions rather than abide by them.

The i8 began with the 2009 Vision EfficientDynamics concept, which reintroduced the idea of a mid-engined BMW flagship and drew power from two electric motors and a three-cylinder turbodiesel engine. That became the plug-in hybrid i8 concept at Frankfurt two years later, swapping the diesel for a petrol turbo.

Now, the production version has arrived. It is made from the lightest, strongest materials using the most advanced techniques that BMW could apply, and it’s driven by a revolutionary petrol-electric plug-in hybrid, all-wheel drive powertrain. This is Munich’s little miracle: a modern hypercar done for a fraction of the price. And it looks sensational.

But does all of that technological sophistication deliver the type of drive that no class-leading sports car can be without? Or are there limitations to all of this cutting-edge complexity?

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

Top 5 Super sports cars

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the BMW range

Driven this week

  • Lexus LC500
    Car review
    20 October 2017
    Futuristic Lexus LC coupé mixes the latest technology with an old-school atmospheric V8
  • Maserati Levante S GranSport
    First Drive
    20 October 2017
    Get ready to trade in your diesels: Maserati’s luxury SUV finally gets the engine it’s always needed
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake TDV6
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The handsome Jaguar XF Sportbrake exhibits all the hallmarks that makes the saloon great, and with the silky smooth diesel V6 makes it a compelling choice
  • Volkswagen T-Roc TDI
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    Volkswagen's new compact crossover has the looks, the engineering and the build quality to be a resounding success, but not with this diesel engine
  • BMW M550i
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The all-paw M550i is a fast, effortless mile-muncher, but there's a reason why it won't be sold in the UK