Although many know about the far more common electric BMW car, the BMW i3, not so many know much about their quicker, much more expensive, hybrid sports car the BMW i8.
Released in Australia way back in 2015, the BMW i8 not only turned heads due to its extremely cool futuristic design, but also because it was a hybrid sports car. Standing out from the crowd of other high end luxury sports cars by touting it’s green street creds, the BMW i8 is a car that not only oozes style and coolness, but does so with speed and a super tiny 1.5 L petrol engine / electric motor hybrid system.
Drive Zero Car Guides are written for people trying to get a feel of the electric car landscape in Australia. We only wrote guides for battery (BEV) and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) electric vehicles that are confirmed to be on sale in the market in Australia now, or are coming soon.
Our goal is to summarise as much as you might want to know about the different considerations for each of these electric cars and who they may be useful for. That said, we’re not qualified car reviewers, so full reviews of these models, we’ve included the best links and video for reviews that we could find.
What’s so special about the BMW i8?
When you’re commanding a starting cost of $318,900 (plus on road costs) you’d better hope to be getting something exceedingly special. For the same money you can get an all electric, absolute top of the range Tesla Model S P100D for $242,000 (including on road costs as of Dec 2018) and still have about $77,000 left over to buy yourself a Tesla Model 3 when it comes out in 2019 (or a BMW i3 now).
However if you’re spending that kind of money chances are you’re not too concerned about the money itself. What’s likely more important to you is what you want. Tesla is a fantastic company but BMW has a time honoured legacy building cars and for some, they just love how BMW builds their cars, the luxury materials they use, their styling as well as support.
Looking at the specifications, design and overall package of the BMW i8 this is what seems to really stand out. There are other cars that are hybrids, there are other cars that are all electric, there are cars that are faster as well as cheaper but none of them are BMW’s.
None of them are quite the head turner that the BMW i8 is either. Normally when a car manufacturer goes wild and creates a “futuristic” looking design we end up with something ridiculous. With the i8 however BMW has done a fantastic job of blending stunning forward looking designs together with practicality and just the right amount of “normal” which results in a car that looks like no other on the road… but is still highly appealing to a lot of people.
So what does a BMW i8 cost and what versions are there?
Let’s be honest here, when you’re buying a BMW it’s not because you want the cheapest car. Adding to that is the fact that the BMW i8 is their high end, luxury sports car and it should be clear this isn’t your every mans car!
As such the BMW i8 comes in two variants, the Coupé starting at $318,900 plus on road costs and the new Roadster model which starts at $348,900 plus on road costs. Beyond these two versions everything else is just styling, looks and materials differences such as the even more stunning “Proton Red” look in the image above.
The Roadster model comes with a soft top roof that can be stowed in just 15 seconds, even at speeds up to 50 km/h. For the “hair in the wind” feel though you’ll not only be paying that extra $30,000 but also loosing out on the two seats in the back. You do get a nice little compartment area though.
It will accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 4.4 seconds using both the petrol engine and electric motor. Its top speed is 250 km/h and the car has an overall battery and petrol range of around 440 km’s with the battery range only making up about 40 km’s of that.
Both the Roadster and the Coupé have the same drive train, same 0-100 km/h time, same battery size and range as well as the same overall power. While this does make configuring a bit easier on the brain I’d really like to see BMW come out with a higher range battery version of the i8. Maybe they could do a BMW i8 M Series that not only has a bigger battery but also a bigger electric motor to use the higher power output.
The Coupé has the hard top and a 2 + 2 seating configuration seeing as there’s no room to have to store the drop top. The Coupé has also been available since 2015 with the new 2018 version introducing some minor styling updates along with the Roadster variant.
BMW i8 key details
|BMW i8 Coupé||BMW i8 Roadster|
|Release Date & Availability||On sale since 2015||On sale since 2018|
|Price||$318,900 Plus On Road Costs||$348,900 Plus On Road Costs|
|Range||Electric Range: 55 km (30-40 km Real World)|
Maximum Total Range: 440 km
|0-100 km/h||4.4 Seconds (Top Speed: 250 km/h)|
|Drivetrain||Turbo 3-cylinder Petrol Engine: 1.5 litre, 170 kW / 320 Nm|
Hybrid Synchronous Electric Motor: 105 kW / 250Nm
Total System Output: 275 kWh / 374 hp
|Seats||2 + 2 Seats||2 Seats|
|Charging||Type 2 (Mennekes)|
Charging At 2.4 kW: 2.5 Hours
Charging At 3.6 kW: 1.5 Hours
|Vehicle & Battery Warranty||3 Year Unlimited km Warranty + 8 Year / 100,000 km For Battery|
|Table last updated Dec 2018|
At the heart of the BMW i8 is the hybrid engine/motor system. On the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) side of things we have a turbo charged, 3 cylinder petrol 1.5L engine putting out 170 kW and 320 Nm. The electric motor is no slouch either putting out 105 kW and 250 Nm.
All up they combine to a total system output of 275 kW or 274 hp which enables the 0-100 km/h time of 4.4 seconds all while using not a lot of actual fossil fuels. The range of the electric battery is only a very small 30-40 real world km’s but as discussed before with hybrid cars, this can still cover a substantial percentage of peoples everyday drives.
This is because most of the time your average person only drives maybe 30-50 km’s max each day unless they’re going on a long road trip. That means assuming you charge the i8 each night, you could do a lot of km’s just with electricity.
But this is a sports car we’re talking about here so you’re going to want to use both motor and engine to get the fastest acceleration all while going on those long road trips. As such even with the “hybrid” status and extra effort BMW has put into this being quite a green car… it does still use petrol. So for those that want no compromises and are only after an all electric car, they’ll have to go elsewhere. Perhaps the Porche Taycan?
Both variants come with 20” BMW i light-alloy wheels as standard with two other 20″ options also available. Also standard are a heads up display, reversing camera and BMW’s Connected App service which provides remote services for the car.
One of the final quite key details about the BMW i8 is its doors. While you might expect them to just open like normal doors BMW has once again thrown in something head turning with their imposing lightweight carbon-fibre gull wing doors,
These open up and out which might make things a bit difficult when trying to get out of the car while parked next to someone or in a garage. They do suit the car very well though and certainly add to that special look and feel.
What’s the BMW i8 like to drive?
When looking for reviews on the BMW i8 do be careful to make sure you’re watching a video about the new 2018 version. While there aren’t a huge range of differences between the original 2015 and newer, updated 2018 models you don’t want to be watching the wrong review!
First up we have a super quick overview of the BMW i8 from car advice.
Next is a bit more in depth review by the UK based Carbuyer guys. They go over the Roadster model with a lot more detail and also talk about some of the more negative aspects of the car.
And finally we have a few other good reviews that also include the Coupé variant by various channels.
BMW i8 – The battery and charging it
Obviously the BMW i8 doesn’t have the biggest battery out there, but that’s not what hybrids are about anyway. In high end sports cars hybrid drive trains are meant to combine the best of both worlds for maximum performance.
The electric motor provides the instant torque giving you a huge boost off the line while the engine delivers more power at the higher end enabling faster top speeds all while still being able to fill up super quickly. There are two different charging rates for the BMW i8:
- Charging At 2.4 kW: 3.5 Hours
- Charging At 3.6 kW: 1.5 Hours
The first one is done through the provided, normal charging cable which can just plug into any plain old power point in your house at 10 Amps. This will take a fair bit longer than the second option though which uses a BMW charging station solution called the BMW Wallbox which is rated up to 15 Amps.
Like most other hybrids out there, using public charging stations isn’t as important as the car will still run fine on traditional petrol but the i8 has a Type 2 or Mennekes plug which means it can be plugged in at most stations.
What does the interior of the BMW i8 look like?
As you’d expect for a car of this calibre the interior is luxurious and high tech all around. From the in dash and updated touch screen to the key fob BMW hasn’t held anything back. Storage does seem to be be where the i8 falls down a little bit both inside and in the boot. Being a sports car this isn’t a huge surprise but there isn’t even enough room for two cup holders which isn’t the best.
The back seats in the Coupé aren’t the biggest either but again, we’re talking about a sports car here so they’re not expected to be SUV sized and are still handy to have.
There’s a heads up display and a BMW ConnectedDrive app to change and monitor the cars functions remotely. There’s also Driving Assistant, High-beam Assist, Person Warning, a rear view camera and even a number of different trim options such as Black, Ivory White, Brown/White and the E-Copper look of the Roadster below.
In the drivers seat you get a centre cockpit with what BMW calls “the control centre of tomorrow”. Featuring push to start, a dial wheel to help control the new infotainment system and a whole slew of buttons all inclined towards the driver for ease of access.
Summing Up – All form, a lot of function
BMW have been making great cars for a long time. They are one of the top premium German brands and they know what they’re doing. They also have a huge amount of extremely loyal customers too so it’s great to see them not just bringing out the BMW i8 all the way back in 2015, but bringing it to Australia and also updating and expanding the line up with the Roadster now in 2018.
The stand out feature of the i8 is undoubtedly its looks. In review after review, despite some complaints here and there such as the ever battery dying key fob or lack of boot space everyone seems to agree that BMW hit it out of the park with the i8’s design language.
Over the years the i8 has sold in quite high numbers too, over 10,000, making it a top seller in its class so customers clearly like the design. Hopefully these sales along with their refresh this year means BMW is going to commit even more to the BMW i8 in the future.
And while a Tesla Model S P100D might be faster and cheaper, not everyone wants or likes Tesla cars. The BMW i8 by contrast brings heritage, a classic but also modern looking interior and BMW’s excellent design language all into something that no other car maker has, a stunning looking sports car that’s not just electric, but a BMW.
*Supplementary photos courtesy of BMW