If you don’t know what the BMW i8 is, it’s been summed up in the title. How much badassery does it contain? How about 0-60 mph in 4.2 seconds (my personal best)? How about a top speed of 155 miles per hour. How about the ability to sail up to 75 miles per hour on just electricity? How about those uber-cool looks and futuristic appeal? Or maybe it’s just the awesome butterfly wing doors.
It’s probably all of those things and more. This is one buttocks whoopin’ car.
The BMW i8 is not just a souped up Prius with the Bimmer name on it either. There’s an electric motor (96kW worth), battery controller, and cooling system up front, under that low hood and powering those front wheels through a two-speed automatic transmission. 7.1 kWh worth of batteries are slid between the driver’s and passenger’s seat in a tall tunnel that creates the unique and exclusively appealing interior. Behind the rear seats, which are for show only, is a 1.5-liter turbocharged aluminum engine that powers the rear wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission.
Yes, it’s all-wheel drive and no, there is no physical connection between the motor and engine, but they work in concert thanks to advanced control electronics. A total of 357 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque are to be had. This may not sound like much for a supercar of today, but we’re talking about a car whose curb weight is only about 3,300 pounds thanks to being almost entirely made of carbon fiber. Not to mention that a chunk of that torque is available from 0 rpm thanks to the electro motive in the i8.
Now imagine you’re behind the wheel of this sleek beauty, sitting at the end of a runway and ready to roll. You shift into Drive, pull the lever to Sport mode and hear the engine kick into life. Then you jam your foot down hard to the floor, hitting the throttle with all the foot pounds you can personally muster. You immediately jolt forward as the electric motor up front immediately starts spinning, though launch control keeps it from smoking the tires.
About a second later, you feel another push forward as the engine then engages to power the rear wheels. That pause was thanks to some smart engineering – why ramp up the engine to speed, with all the drag that entails, when you can use the EV motor to get you going and let the engine engage when axle RPM match peak first gear speeds?
That, my friend, is what makes a hybrid car a badass hybrid supercar. Because four seconds later, you are already at sixty miles an hour. By the time the quarter mile is up, you’re well over a hundred and thinking that the end of the runway is getting awful close. Ahh, wait.. regenerative braking and big calipers on a lightweight car.. Stopping is no problem either.
For four days, this was the dream I lived in the BMW i8. The furthest I drove was to a town twenty miles or so away. Yet I managed to pile on four hundred miles of driving in the i8 in only four days. I gave rides to friends and people I randomly met on the street. I raced the town cop. I tried every corner I could find to throw the car around it. I put on an impromptu one-man car show at the parts store.
That, friends, is the life. My chance to live it may have been short-lived, but I enjoyed every second of it. Yet despite driving the i8 like the powerful supercar that it is at every moment I could, the BMW still managed to return 40 miles to the gallon.
Hybrid badassery indeed.