The i8 is the first sports car in which you can have your cake and eat it, offering economy blended with masses of dynamic ability and excellent looks

What is it?

The BMW i8, a car that has more depth and range to its dynamic abilities than almost any other car in history. 

Its hybrid power train and hybrid carbon/aluminium mid-engined chassis will enable it to hit 62mph in a mere 4.4secs and take apart the very best driving roads that bonny Scotland has to offer.

Press the right buttons, select the correct modes within its numerous dynamic menus and it is, quite simply, a sharp, fast and highly engaging sports car to drive. One that's as quick as it is composed, sounds like the real deal, steers like the real deal, stops and handles like the real deal and just is, in conventional sports car terms, the real deal.

And yet on the other side of the coin - or on the other side of the gear lever, to be accurate - the i8 has an entire ocean of altogether different tricks up its sleeve. Literally at the press of a button, it can be transformed from snarling, incisive sports car into a chilled, relaxing, smooth riding, near effortless cruising machine; one that can deliver a genuine 60mpg+ in the real world (or a theoretical 134.5mpg on paper) and which emits just 49g/km of CO2.

Never before has such a vast range of dynamic attributes been available under just one roof, and maybe the most amazing thing of all about the i8 is that pretty much everything it does, it does well. Given that it costs less than £95,000 once the government grant has been taken into account, you even begin to wonder if the i8 isn't, in fact, a loss leader for BMW in return for showcasing Munich's intentions for the future.

And if it isn't - if it really does turn out to be a profit-making vehicle just like a 3 or a 5-series, then it really is very clever indeed.

Think about it. The i8's carbon/aluminium mid-engined chassis alone would be enough to justify its price from most other manufacturers, but in reality this is but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the i8's development and engineering costs.

Put it another way. How many other sports cars can you think of that cost less than six figures that have a combustion engine as sophisticated as the i8's three cylinder turbo.

As well as that, think about how those cars that are also four wheel drive, feature two gearboxes, three electric motors, 200kg of lithium ion batteries. And also have body parts made from aluminium and carbon reinforced plastic to provide a surprisingly lithe combined kerb weight of just 1560kg, and which contain so much software that they could probably run the Large Hadron Collider machine in their spare time. Not much of a list, is it?

The i8 is a deeply complex car technically, in other words; in its way it’s every bit as sophisticated as the Porsche 918 Spyder or McLaren's mighty P1. Yet it costs the same as a Porsche 911.

Whether it is profit making for BMW or not will be of no concern to its potential customers, however, who will instead be rather more interested in the way it drives and what it’s like to sit in, ride in, revel in and, of course, own.

What's it like?

Very nice to sit in, once you’ve squeezed your way into its cabin via one of its dihedral doors across a sill that is frankly too high, and too wide.

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It’s also great to travel in, borderline spectacular to drive on most roads and, as a result, is a machine that car enthusiasts will surely find as fascinating as it gets at this kind of money. 

I came away after a day of driving it in all of its various modes and on all sorts of different roads in Scotland, completely beguiled by it to be honest.

It's one of those cars that you will still be learning things about several years further down the line. It intrigues on so many different levels, at both high and low speed, in the mind as well as beneath your backside.

And the main reason why the i8 entertains so richly is because BMW has got the basics just about spot on. Select Sport, put your foot down and it delivers, plain and simple. Which actually makes all the other clever stuff that it can do – its massive mpg, its all-but zero emissions when driving in e-mode, its ability to cruise along a motorway like a limousine - that much more remarkable overall.

Complaints? The steering is maybe a touch light and definitely a fair bit lacking in feel, even though it is without question hyper accurate on turn in.

The ride in sport is pretty firm, so much so that I wish you could put the power train in sport and have the dampers in comfort but at the moment that's not possible, although BMW might well make a change to the software on that one in months to come. And the boot is also somewhat pathetic while the entry/egress routine is, as already intimated, surprisingly awkward.

Should I buy one?

Absolutely, because other than our few foibles the i8 really does represent a carte blanche moment in the history of the sports car. As BMW says, you can have your cake and eat it with this car. And for once the marketing claim is absolutely spot on. 

How does the BMW i8 compare against the Porsche 911? Find out here.

BMW i8

Price £94,845 (with £5k government grant) 0-62mph 4.4sec Top speed 155mph Economy 134.5mpg CO2 emissions 49g/km Kerb weight 1560kg Engine 3 cyls, 1499cc, turbo, petrol, plus 129bhp electric motor Installation Mid, transverse, RWD (petrol); front, transverse, FWD (electric) Power 357bhp at 5800rpm Torque 420lb ft at 3700rpm Gearbox 6-spd auto

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Add a comment…
Wanos 14 July 2014

get used to it guys....

Eventually this is the way all performance cars will go. Maybe then we will think of it as a technical marvel. I'm sort of middle the field when it comes to looks, not sure but its definetley distinctive.
fadyady 13 July 2014

video review?

Are there any plans for a video review?
volvocu 13 July 2014

This review is so much

This review is so much different than the previous one, what gives?!