A Tantalizing Taste of the Future
Check one off the bucket list. It’s not every day you get to drive a $136,500 car. For Clean Fleet Report it’s a red-letter (or maybe that should be green-letter) day when that high-end car is a plug-in hybrid from those performance boys in Munich. As we noted when we tested the 2014 BMW i3, Bayerische Motoren Werke is keeping its eye on its history while still pushing into the future with electric cars. For BMW, on-road performance is always a ticket of entry and the 2015 BMW i8 does not disappoint.
That performance comes from surprising places—a twin turbo 1.5-liter three-cylinder gas engine drives the rear wheels while two electric motors put power to the front wheels. The diminutive
engine pumps out 231 horsepower and with the electric motors tops out at 357 horsepower combined, more than enough to propel the 3,274-pound car down the road from 0-60 mph in 4.2 seconds. The all-wheel drive car is designed to top out at about 150 miles per hour and the exhaust note hints that it’s possible.
BMW touts the cars 50:50 weight distribution which says classic sports car, while the electric motors in front, gas engine in the rear and battery between say contemporary green car. The balance between the two worlds is palpable although for this enthusiast the sports car side takes preeminence.
Getting In Before You Go
But before you experience all that powerful efficiency, you have to get in the car. The first barrier is the scissor doors—huge aluminum, carbon fiber and thermoplastic appendages that are 50 percent lighter than conventional doors. They’re an engineering feat, but once they’re open, you’ve got to step or slide—or step and slide—over the wide sill into the form-fitting seat. Once in, you’re coddled by leather and surrounded by all manner of gadgetry. The dash is at once daunting with all of the information and technology available, but also focused on giving you the key
information for driving.
The first choice for a driver is: Comfort, Eco Pro or Sport, the three modes. In addition there’s an eDrive button for all electric driving up to 75 miles per hour. Of course, at 75 mph you’re not going to get the full 23 miles of electric range. The transition where the engine kicks in is seamless.
Out front the 2015 BMW i8 continues its space-age theme with a head-up display that shows your speed, the speed limit on the road, navigation info, infotainment details and even your telephone directory. It’s all programmable by the driver.
Using maximum electric power and a light foot the i8 has a potential of 112 mpg, drawing on an 11.1-gallon gas tank and 7.1 kWh lithium-ion battery. To keep the battery topped off, BMW offers two versions of home charging—the Wallbox Pure and Wallbox Pro, the latter of which can take the battery to an 80 percent charge in two hours through its unique cable connection. That’s a half-hour quicker than a normal Level 2 (220-volt) charger. Of course, there’s also a smartphone app that will keep you posted on everything your i8 is doing. Total range of the car using electricity and gas is 273 miles.
The Beginnings of the i8
Before it was the 2015 BMW i8, this car was teased as the Vision EfficientDynamics concept that no one thought could be built in the avant-garde shape it was presented. The 2008 Project
featured a combination of carbon fiber and aerodynamics that looked positively futuristic, not unusual for a concept car. But BMW built it and maintained almost all of the exotic details of the concept car.
The i8’s long wheelbase, short overhangs and long, low and wide stance give it a look that is a classic sports car. The dimensions are impressive: 110-inch wheelbase and 188 inches overall, 51
inches high and 76 inches wide. The 20-inch tires sport a different look front and rear (195/50 and 2015/45) accentuating the sporty look.
It’s smooth on acceleration like a sports car, quick on the brakes (all the while sending energy back to the battery like a good green car) and handles like you’d expect a BMW to, precisely. Then you notice the fuel economy and have to agree with BMW’s goal; they’ve created a sports car with a compact’s fuel economy.
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