2020 BMW i8 Convertible
2020 BMW i8 Review
- Excellent integration of powertrain and in-car technology
- Head-turning futuristic design
- Unique powertrain and limited production guarantee exclusivity
- Performance-wise, it lags competitors
- Difficult to get in and out of
- Few available advanced driving aids
- Powertrain is a little unrefined for the price
- No significant changes for 2020
- Part of the first i8 generation introduced for 2014
The 2020 BMW i8 seemingly has all of the prerequisites for supercar status. It has funky flip-up doors that are hard to operate. It's made from carbon fiber. Inside, you'll find high-end materials everywhere, with an options list that includes materials such as ivory white perforated leather. Heck, you can even get the i8 with lasers for headlights. But there's one aspect that's very different from most of the supercars on sale today: The i8 is a hybrid.
Rather than using a supercharged V8 or a sonorous V12, the BMW i8 is powered by a turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine, paired with an electric motor and an 11.6-kWh battery, all hooked up to all-wheel drive. That's right, the i8 is a plug-in hybrid. It puts out 369 horsepower with that hybrid powertrain, which makes it relatively quick, and it has an EPA-estimated 18 miles of all-electric range.
The BMW i8 is a unique and deeply interesting car on many levels. From its construction to its powertrain and even the ease at which you can explore its considerable limits, the i8 can be a very satisfying drive. But when not charging around, or charging up at home, the i8 can feel clumsy. Driving in slow-moving traffic highlights most of the i8's deficiencies.
How does the i8 drive?
The BMW i8 has exotic styling and the performance to back it up ... mostly. Acceleration is quick as long as you've got the car placed in Sport mode. In our testing, the i8 sprinted from 0 to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds. In the other driving modes, it becomes more ordinary. It's also worth mentioning that a lot of other performance cars these days are quicker still.
The i8 can seem clumsy in city traffic because of its grabby brakes and noticeable transition from electric to gasoline engine power. It's just not a particularly smooth car to drive. Out on the open road, the i8 is more fun to drive. The car's handling limits are easily approachable, even if they are a bit modest.
How comfortable is the i8?
From the outside, the i8's sleek styling might make you think it's a car that will take quite the commitment to put up with. The seats, too, look uncomfortable. But looks can be deceiving since the i8 offers comfortable seating (for two, anyway) and, at least as performance cars go, a reasonably compliant and smooth ride quality.
There's not much wind noise, but the road noise more than makes up for it. It's constant, especially on the highway. To drown it out, you'll have to crank up the sound system. We do like the climate control system. The A/C is strong, and there are plenty of air vents.
How’s the interior?
The simplicity of the i8's interior can, at first, be underappreciated. BMW has kept the controls basic, and anyone who has spent any time in a BMW over the past 10 years will immediately be comfortable interacting with the i8. The interior is not as space-age as the exterior, but that's just fine by us. You can just concentrate on the fun part: driving. The driving position is excellent and caters to a variety of body types. Forward visibility is excellent.
Getting in and out is something you'll either look forward to or dread. The upward-opening doors are easy to open and close. But getting in requires a bit of a slide down, and climbing out can't really be done gracefully. But if you just think the doors look cool, it's probably worth the effort.
How’s the tech?
The i8's older iDrive system might not offer the flash of a newer competitor's interface, but it certainly gets the job done. Navigation is quick to use and easy to read on the road, and the audio system does a good job of getting loud while maintaining clarity and balance.
The i8 falls short on other fronts, especially in this price range. Android Auto isn't supported, and even Apple CarPlay requires a subscription after a free one-year trial. The i8 is also lacking in some now nearly ubiquitous driver aids such as adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and high-speed emergency braking. You do get forward collision warning and low-speed emergency braking. Thankfully, both of those systems are not overly sensitive.
How’s the storage?
No one's going to accuse the i8 of being overly practical, but it can function as a daily driver thanks to its efficient use of cargo space. Three grocery bags can fit in its 4.7 cubic feet of trunk space. That's less than what you get from an Audi R8 or Mercedes AMG GT but more than the Acura NSX.
The i8 benefits from having back seats no matter how impractical they might be. They do double duty as an interior storage shelf for larger items such as backpacks and jackets. There's even a bit of storage in the center console — just don't expect it to hold more than a phone, charging cables and some sunglasses.
How economical is the i8?
The BMW i8 has some decent green-car credentials, with an EPA-estimated 18 miles of all-electric range and then 27 mpg in combined city/highway driving once the battery is depleted. Our test car lived up to those estimates with most tanks of fuel returning north of 27 mpg. And even after 15-mile stints at highway speeds, it still had another 5 miles or so of full electric range.
Like any plug-in hybrid, how and where you drive, and how often you plug in to recharge, can greatly affect efficiency. As for recharging the hybrid battery, it takes about three hours using a Level 2 charger. Using a standard 120-volt household outlet will take about eight hours.
Is the i8 a good value?
Probably the most controversial piece of the i8 might be the price. Starting at nearly $150,000, the i8 is in the same price range as the Acura NSX, Audi R8 and Mercedes-AMG GT Coupe. All have oodles more speed and performance. But comparing them dollar for dollar would almost miss the point of the i8.
The i8's interior materials aren't anything special, but the actual quality of construction is excellent. The exposed carbon-fiber tub is visible everywhere and just looks so cool. What you see is not done for effect, and BMW had every right to show it off.
It's quite easy to say "wow, cool!" when checking out the BMW i8. From the styling details to the upward-opening doors to the readily visible carbon-fiber tub, the i8 is chock full of uniqueness. All of that coolness is amplified once you get behind the wheel thanks in no small part to how comfortable and easy to use everything is. It's a future classic for sure.
Which i8 does Edmunds recommend?
BMW i8 models
The 2020 BMW i8 is available in a single trim level offered as either a coupe or a soft-top convertible. The i8 Coupe features 2+2 seating, while the i8 Roadster subs out the seats in exchange for the roof mechanism. Both models use the same plug-in hybrid powertrain that produces a combined 369 horsepower. A turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine and a six-speed automatic transmission power the rear wheels, and an electric motor drives the front wheels through a two-speed automatic transmission.
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Our experts’ favorite i8 safety features:
- ConnectedDrive Services
- Lets you know about traffic and parking spots and, in case of accidents, can connect you to BMW's Accident Assistance for vehicle support.
- BMW Laserlight
- Helps drivers see farther down dark roads with advanced laser projection technology.
- Active Driving Assistant
- Warns of potential front collisions with vehicles or pedestrians and if the i8 is about to leave its lane.
BMW i8 vs. the competition
2020 BMW i8
2020 Audi R8
BMW i8 vs. Audi R8
If a test drive in the i8 leaves you wanting a bit more in the way of performance, the Audi R8 is a great place to start. It's powered by a 562-hp V10 with a great exhaust note and all the supercar performance you expect. It's slightly more expensive up front, but the R8 is much more powerful than the i8 and it still offers a comfortable enough ride for daily driving.
BMW i8 vs. Acura NSX
Like the i8, the Acura NSX is a hybrid. Unlike the i8, however, the NSX isn't a plug-in hybrid. It doesn't have any stand-alone electric range, but it does offer a bit more supercar-level performance. The NSX puts out 573 hp and 476 lb-ft of torque with its combination of batteries and gasoline-powered performance, a big increase over the i8.
BMW i8 vs. Porsche 911
If you're looking for supercar performance and the practicality of four seats, the Porsche 911 is hard to beat. Even in the base trim, the 911 Carrera outperforms the BMW i8, but the Carrera S — which is still less expensive than the i8 — dials up the performance even further. With razor-sharp handling, impressive acceleration and an excellent interior, the Porsche 911 is one of our top choices in this segment.
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Is the BMW i8 a good car?
What's new in the 2020 BMW i8?
According to Edmunds’ car experts, here’s what’s new for the 2020 BMW i8:
- No significant changes for 2020
- Part of the first i8 generation introduced for 2014
Is the BMW i8 reliable?
Is the 2020 BMW i8 a good car?
How much should I pay for a 2020 BMW i8?
The least-expensive 2020 BMW i8 is the 2020 BMW i8 2dr Convertible AWD (1.5L 3cyl Turbo gas/electric hybrid 6A). Including destination charge, it arrives with a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of about $163,300.
Other versions include:
- 2dr Convertible AWD (1.5L 3cyl Turbo gas/electric hybrid 6A) which starts at $163,300