BMW i8: A Star is Born

Imagination moves us, but reality accelerates us…

It is fact, not conjecture that the latest invention from the BMW i brand is the most polarizing vehicle moving around town right now. Take your pick: Bugatti? BTDT. Tesla? Old news. Lamborghini? Typical. In fact, no one wanted to believe the inconvenient truth that the i8’s fanciful design made it to production almost entirely unscathed from its concept debut in Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible “Ghost Protocol.” How could they have the temerity to produce a sports car so sumptuous that the most nefarious adversary of Bavarian Motor Works could be seen wagging his/her tail? This in fact happened! No, it’s not available for purchase just yet, but test models have been seen in droves on the Hollywood streets of Los Angeles and each and every model caused quite a stir including the Silver/Black/Blue machine Automotive Rhythms was loaned for a day in L.A.

The mind is driven by thoughts and fueled by inventive answers…

So what is the i8 and how is it differentiated from the smaller and peculiar i3? Simple, the i3 is 100% pure electric and the i8 is a plug-in hybrid sports car, which means its power is sourced from both gasoline and electricity. How does it work? The i8 is comprised of a Life module and a Drive module. The 3-liter gasoline motor is placed in the rear and the smaller electric engine is housed up front. The most basic driving platform will resonate from the internal combustion engine. BMW’s goal was to create a maximum sports car experience with the fuel consumption of a compact vehicle.

How to escape the conventional…

“Wow! The design is so sharp it can cut you like a razor blade,” excitedly stated an aficionado of the i8 who happened to be in the right place at the right time as I pulled into the elegant Viceroy Hotel in Santa Monica. Indeed it was a special day for Automotive Rhythms as we dynamically evaluated the BMW i8 throughout Hollywood, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills and Malibu. After a spectacular run through the canyons in Sport Mode, we stopped for photos and happened upon a meeting of Ferrari minds. No worries as each owner lauded the architecture and technology of the i8 while a few offered to purchase our test model right off the bat. Not happening but we all exchanged cards.

The future belongs to those who tackle things with spirit and courage.” – Dr. Norbert Reithofer, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG…

I was on deck September, 2009 when the BMW Vision Efficient Dynamics Concept was introduced to the world in Frankfurt, Germany. BMW listened to the desires and emotions of everyone who laid eyes on this hypnotizing automobile. They followed up with the i8 concept in 2011, also in Frankfurt, and 38 months later the i8 became reality. The rest is history. Poignantly, this vehicle advancement is the first plug-in hybrid sports car for BMW and represents a new era of sustainable performance with a futuristic design and groundbreaking technology. It features a customized rendition of the aforementioned Life module developed for BMW i cars. We first experienced the Life module and its carbon fiber reinforced plastic passenger cell a year ago with the i3. The two axles are brought together with the combustion engine, electric motor, battery pack, power electronics, chassis components and structural functions through the high-tech aluminum Drive module. Together, the Life module and Drive module complete the innovative LifeDrive architecture.

A whole new dimension of sheer driving pleasure…

The i8’s 1.5-liter inline 3-cylinder TwinPower Turbo produces 228-horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque which is guided to the rear axle through a 6-speed automatic transmission. When working in unison with the front electric motor (129-horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque and 2-speed automatic transmission) 357 total horsepower and 420 total lb-ft of torque are at the driver’s disposal. A 7.1 kWh lithium-ion battery provides an electrified range of 22 miles and also adds extra boost to the 3-cylinder when top-end speed is needed such as the moment when I was chasing down sport bikes in the canyons. We all know that electric torque is produced instantaneously, so to help the rear petro motor synchronize with the front electric motor, a second smaller electric motor is placed next to the petro motor to speed up its torque delivery. In addition, the i8 is essentially an AWD vehicle channeling traction from both axles simultaneously but doesn’t utilize the company’s hallmark xDrive system. A few common i8 performance specs include:

•    0 to 60 mph = 4.2 seconds
•    Top speed = 155 mph (electronically limited)  
•    Electric only top speed = 75 mph
•    Pure electric range  = 22 miles

It takes courage and passion to make a dream come true…

How often do you see a concept make it to production with its original flair? Not often. The i8’s design is dynamic, efficient, lightweight and intriguing. It features a long wheelbase, short overhangs, a low-slung body, wider BMW twin kidney grille, i Blue accents, scissor doors, and laser lighting in the automatic high beams which illuminate nearly 600 meters ahead and save 30% energy over standard BMWs. Its aero package is styled to allow efficient air flow for wind carving. Flexibility is suggested to maneuver bottom first under the door and into the cockpit. Please do not travel with more than one guest or more than a handbag or two since trunk space is extremely limited and the two rear seats are suited for extra storage rather than another occupant. It’s best to purchase the tailored Louis Vuitton carbon luggage collection. I am extremely fond of the i Blue seatbelts and lighting which accents the most aggressive contours of the interior.  


How to take a chance on something completely new…

Sometimes you don’t have to totally re-invent the wheel. Incorporating BMW’s intelligence from iDrive, ConnectedDrive, Head-Up Display, Collision and Pedestrian Warning with City Braking function and connectivity, the i8 offers a range of advanced telematics and navigational features to enhance reams of i8 driver information with public transportation, parking availability, preventative safety, local entertainment and vehicle monitoring with the i Remote app. For example, when reversing, the iDrive display graphic emulates your actual vehicle so you are aware of the surrounding environment at all times.

The best thing about getting out is getting back in…

The i8 feels as light as BMW describes its CFRP DNA which is approximately 600 pounds lighter than an M6. The eDrive button and Driving Experience Control switch incorporates five drive modes -- Comfort, Sport, Eco Pro -- and two Eco Pro electric modes by selecting eDrive to put the i8’s energy output in your control. I first cruised through Beverly Hills with BMW’s eDrive technology that propels the i8 up to 22 miles and is mainly relegated for city driving as the front e-motor motivates the front axle. Sport mode starts the combustion engine with a growl for top end RWD performance as we demonstrated in the winding canyons. Steering is precise and direct while the newly developed suspension is road adaptive by way of the aforementioned modes. When unified in Comfort mode (electric engine works first) both engines synergistically connect, turning the i8 into a 4WD performance coupe. Charging can be done through the home BMW i Wallbox in under two hours with the Pro version, ChargeNow public charging stations and overrun and braking regeneration particularly in Sport mode.

The future starts now…

There will be no set production number for the i8 which is slated for August deliveries, yet, BMW says it will monitor demand and react accordingly. Pricing starts at roughly $135,700 in the U.S.

How to start a revolution…

BMW’s pioneering i brand may just be the closest connotation to an oil free society to date. The possibilities for the brand are endless. Covering both spectrums of automotive advancement with the i3 and i8, there is no telling what offspring will yield from the amalgam of electric current, fossil fuels, and BMW Efficient Dynamics. But what we do know emphatically is that a star is born! Actress Uma Thurman can vouch as she unveiled the i8 Concept Roadster at the opening night party of the BMW i "Born Electric" World Tour in New York City.

The greatest population increases in the future will occur in the world’s already crowded cities, which will further stress their mobility infrastructure and create a need for new vehicles and technologies that make getting around easier and more efficient. The sole purpose of BMW “i” is to address these issues and provide solutions that will improve personal mobility for each individual, whether it is by car or other modes of transportation -- Ludwig Willisch, President and CEO, BMW of North America.

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