The 2017 BMW i8 looks more like a car of the future than something you can buy off a BMW dealer lot today. It's almost ludicrously low, its styling is beyond the dreams of George Jetson and the plug-in gas-electric hybrid drivetrain may as well be classified as science fiction. And this is a supercar that's built to be environmentally aware. It's an exotic sports car that exudes virtue.
Describing the dance between all the elements of the drivetrain could fill volumes. There's a turbocharged inline-three cylinder gas engine in the middle that combines with a battery-powered electric motor to produce 228 horsepower for delivery to the rear wheels. Then there's a second electric motor in front that throws in another 129 hp that gets sent to the front wheels. A six-speed automatic transmission gets involved along the way, and there are computers determining where the torque is best distributed. It's complicated.
Add up all the various components, and there's 357 hp available to propel the two-seat (the rear "seats" are really storage shelves pretending to be seats) i8. It's enough to push (and pull) the i8 to 60 mph in only about 4.5 seconds. It's not the only hybrid sports car out there, but it's not a crowded market. The competitor that comes closest in price is the new Acura NSX. It's good company to keep.
With such a complex drivetrain, just reporting the fuel economy numbers can be mind-boggling. Running strictly on electricity, the EPA rates the i8 at the equivalent of 76 mpg. Running solely on gasoline, it's a combined 28 mpg. The number that may be most impressive is that, when gas and electricity are both used, the total range of the i8 is 330 miles.
All these tech details obscure the bottom line about the i8: it's a blast to drive. It's quick, it handles well and it doesn't beat you up doing it. It's also comfortable for cruising across whichever continent needs crossing, and it’s fun to whip along mountain roads. Plus, it attracts astonishing amounts of attention. This is the car you need for profiling in places like Miami Beach or Beverly Hills. They'd probably like it in Nebraska and Kentucky, too.
With its wide sills and low roof, there's no way to get into an i8 with any elegance. But you can get into an i8 at a great price by using the tools available to you right here on Edmunds.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.