Electric dreamland: Ray Massey test drives the BMW i8 electric hybrid
BMW i8 electric hybrid
Price as driven: £94,845
If you’re well off, love fast cars, but still want to go green-ish, this is the supercar for you.
BMW’s i8 electric hybrid has just gone on sale. It takes smugness to a new level, but also makes electric cars look and feel supercool. Batteries and a plug are included.
As a boyish fan of the early Seventies Gerry Anderson TV sci-fi series UFO, I wanted to drive around in futuristic gull-winged cars. Now I’ve fulfilled that ambition. Even a neighbour who spotted it called it ‘space-age’.
BMW i8: Easy to drive. Press the start button. Slot it into sixspeed automatic ‘drive’ mode on the central gear toggle, and off you go
Boy does it get you noticed. Even white van man is impressed, judging by all the smartphones hanging out of passenger windows.
Fantastic, streamlined, styling with cutting-edge technology inside a lightweight carbon-fibre and aluminium body on 20in alloy wheels. Beautifully put together. Plenty of cupholders and cubbyholes. The push-up, gull-winged doors look fantastic. Getting in and out is good exercise, though the less lean or athletic — or anyone in a skirt — may require some deportment tips.
Easy to drive. Press the start button. Slot it into sixspeed automatic ‘drive’ mode on the central gear toggle, and off you go. You can drive manually using the stick or F1-style paddles.
Performance to match the looks. Goes from rest to 62mph in 4.4 seconds. Top speed limited to 155mph.
Power comes from a frugal 1.5 litre, threecylinder, 231 bhp, twin-turbo, petrol engine over the rear axle linked to a 131bhp electric unit over the front axle. It’s a ‘plug-in’ hybrid you can charge at home or at a charging station. It also generates electric power on the move from braking and deceleration.
Pure electric mode gives you about 23 miles with a top speed of 75 mph. The ‘comfort’ setting sees the petrol engine kick in at 37 mph.
Sport mode gives top performance with the full engine growl, plus the faint, but discernable high-pitched whine of the electric motor.
Average fuel consumption of 134.5mpg and CO2 emissions of 49g/km claimed by BMW. But it depends how you drive it. I tended to go for zero-emissions electric power in town, city and village, then open it up in more gas-guzzling sport mode on the open road.
The petrol engine ‘range extender’ means you don’t suffer the range anxiety of an all-electric vehicle.
Brilliant bird’s eye camera view of your car — as if from above — when negotiating a tight squeeze or through parked cars.
Futuristic interior illuminated blue piping. Nice air conditioning, too.
Price includes a £5,000 subsidy from the taxpayer. It won’t last for ever, so buy soon.
Not for shrinking violets. You’ll be photographed behind the wheel more often than Simon Cowell.
Long wait: the first year run of 750 is sold out.
Silent running. It is so quiet that in the depths of the countryside I slowed down and crept up on two people chatting. I was feet away before they noticed. Could lead to accidents.
It stalled at some lights.
Mild panic as I hit a few buttons to fire it up again.
Forget the back seats for anything except luggage or emergencies.
Hard suspension. Fine driving solo. More noticeable with passengers.