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- Highs Cutting-edge design, sophisticated and efficient powertrain, comfortable front seats.
- Lows Less supercar than its looks suggest, low-rent interior, teeny-tiny rear seats.
- Verdict The BMW i8 has the exotic looks, powertrain, and price of a supercar, but it's outperformed by more conventional rivals.
There are few cars that make a stronger first impression than the BMW i8. A plug-in hybrid with exterior styling that wouldn’t look out of place in a sci-fi epic, the i8 is one of a kind. Its mix of efficient technology, sporting credentials, and an astronomical price tag leave it with few natural competitors. The Tesla Model S sedan and the Acura NSX, with their electrified powertrains and sky-high base prices, are the closest matches.
What's New for 2017?
The i8 remains largely unchanged since its launch in 2014. For 2017, BMW has added a new Protonic Red model, with red paint, carbon-fiber interior trim, unique black seats with red contrast stitching, and a ceramic-look shifter
- Base: $144,395
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EV Motor, Power, and Performance
BMW offers a single powertrain in the i8, and it’s a peach. However, with less power than many competitors, it’s not the fastest supercar on the block. The i8 mates a turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder gas engine with a 7.1-kWh battery pack and two electric motors. The engine pairs to a six-speed automatic transmission, while the electric powertrain mates to a two-speed automatic. The trio of power sources combines for a total of 357 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque, driving all four wheels. The i8’s 7.1-kWh battery pack can be recharged in 2.5 hours when connected to a 240-volt outlet, but that time rises to 4.5 hours on a 120-volt household outlet. During road trips or when venturing to places untouched by the electric-car movement, the engine can recharge the battery. Based on its looks, you might expect the i8 to drive like a supercar. Sadly, the efficiency-minded powertrain isn’t up to that challenge. That doesn’t mean there’s no fun to be had in an i8: acceleration is persistent and satisfying, grip is far beyond what most drivers will exploit, and response to steering inputs is quick and accurate. Occupants enjoy a surprisingly civil ride, and while bumps in the road are felt, the result isn't overly harsh.
EPA fuel-economy testing and reporting procedures have changed over time. For the latest numbers on current and older vehicles, visit the EPA’s website and select Find & Compare Cars.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Based on its starship exterior, you would expect the i8’s interior to be equally out of this world, and you would be disappointed. For a vehicle that costs more than many houses, the i8’s cabin is surprisingly low-rent and uninspired. Standard interior features include heated, power-adjustable seats and touches of leather. But a vehicle in this class should not feature as much plastic as the i8 does. Still, front-seat occupants won’t feel cramped, however those in the back will not be comfortable. While cargo space is not typically a strong point for style-conscious two-seaters, the i8 is particularly lacking in this area, with a negligible amount of room for luggage and minimal cubby space for small items.
Infotainment and Connectivity
The i8’s iDrive infotainment system will be familiar to owners of less exotic BMWs. Standard features include an 8.8-inch screen, Bluetooth connectivity, navigation, and premium Harman Kardon audio. Sadly, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are conspicuously absent. The system is largely intuitive, but the reliance on ever-more-specific menu screens that must be backed out of one by one is an annoyance. It’s also slow to respond to inputs and lacks connectivity points. These are limited to a single USB port and one 12-volt outlet.
Safety Features and Crash Test Ratings
Some older vehicles are still eligible for coverage under a manufacturer's Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) program. For more information visit our guide to every manufacturer's CPO program.