By: IOL Motoring Staff
Frankfurt Motor Show - The future of BMW has officially arrived.
Having teased us for years with two concept cars and titbits of information, BMW has now spilled the beans on the showroom-ready i8, which is expected to reach South Africa at the tail end of 2014.
Built around a bespoke version of BMW's LifeDrive architecture that was developed for eco cars like the new i3, the i8 is a purpose-built lightweight plug-in hybrid sports car with 2+2 seating.
Within its hybrid drivetrain, a 170kW/320Nm rear-mounted 1.5-litre three-cylinder TwinPower petrol engine sends power to the rear wheels via a six-speed automatic gearbox while an electric drive system churns its voltage through the front wheels via a two-stage automatic transmission.
BMW's “intelligent powertrain control system” ensures that both power sources are perfectly coordinated, while also allowing all-wheel drive capability when required.
BMW claims the i8 can drive on battery power alone for up to 35km, which should allow many drivers to do a zero-emissions commute between recharges.
Come weekend and there's more than enough power to play, with the drivetrain offering total system outputs of 266kW and 570Nm, enough to shunt it from 0-100km/h in just 4.4 seconds and reach 250km/h (electronically limited).
BMW claims an EU-cycle combined fuel consumption figure of 2.5 l/100km, no doubt attained with a lot of pent-up electrical charge.
To help you match your driving mood, the i8's eDrive button offers a choice between five driving modes.
THE LIGHT WAY
Despite the extra weight of the batteries, the i8 tips the scales at just 1490kg, thanks to its extensive use of CFRP, a high-tech material that's around 30 percent lighter than aluminium. Not only are the components light, but BMW has also used recycled materials and naturally treated materials as much as possible.
In addition, the positioning of the battery pack low down and in the middle of the chassis ensures a centre of gravity that's lower than in any other BMW model. This arrangement, and that of the other mechanical components, also allows a near-perfect 50:50 axle load ratio.
No doubt the i8 will handle well, its grip enhanced further by standard 20-inch alloy wheels (CFRP wheels can be ordered as an option).
The placement and size of the electric and petrol engines also allows the front and rear ends of the i8 to be as low slung as possible. As with any traditional sports car, it has a long bonnet, short overhangs and imposing wheel arches.
Although it has been toned down a bit, the i8 showroom car still pays a close visual tribute to the i8 and EfficientDynamics concept cars that came before it. While it's missing those strange transparent door panels, the upward-swinging 'wing' door mechanism has been retained, along with the 'black belt' colour scheme that runs in a 'V' from the bonnet to the roof.
Inside, occupants are greeted by overlapping 3D segments complemented by a contrast-rich colour scheme. The iDrive system's Control Display comes in a freestanding 8.8-inch format and BMW's Navigation system Professional is fitted as standard.