Plugged into power
SIBONELO MYENI experiences instant torque and becomes a believer
I’VE just been stopped by Metro cops and after five minutes, I am yet to reach for my wallet — no, not for that! To get my driver’s licence.
That’s ’cause the two friendly cops wanted to see the car I am driving upclose and to take selfies in and around it … such is the attraction power of the BMW i8.
The design of the i8 is cutting edge with a shape that is more akin to a concept car than a production one. It shows, judging by the number of people that are stunned when they see it, most just seem in a trance as they approach you to ask to see it closer.
In my nine years of car testing, I have never seen a car that cuts across race, age, sex with interest like the i8 does.
Open the party trick “Bat wing” doors and ladies envy the passenger seat … oh and its got four seats but the rear two are for midgets. Because of those doors, getting in an out is a bit tricky, especially for the rear passengers, and you need to master it considering the attention you get when parking.
The interior is typical BMW with good-quality materials and well laid out switchgear meaning the i-Drive control infotainment screen dominates the driver-focused cockpit. The electric seats look and feel snug with good adjustment allowing a comfortable driving position.
Press the engine start button and a futuristic sound gives a hint that you are now ready to go … no engine sound. The i8 is a plug-in hybrid that fuses a rearwheel drive 1,5-litre three-cylinder Turbo with a front-wheel drive electric motor for a combined power output of 266kW/570Nm enabling the svelte coupe to sprint from 0 to 100km/h in 4,5 seconds before topping out at 250 km/h.
That sprint time is possible with a charged battery because at less than ideal charge, the i8 uses the petrol engine, which results in slower sprint times.
Fully charged, the i8 can drive for 35 km at speeds of up to 120km/h on electric mode only. We averaged 6,2l/100km during a week of hard driving which is impressive taking into account the performance. However, the 30 litre fuel tank does limit range.
The BMW engineers dialed in a good dose of seat-of-your-pants fun on the i8 as it handles like a sports car.
The combination of all-wheel drive and instant power from the electric motors ensure rapid speeds are achieved with no fuss. However, squeal from the narrow tyres make the driver know when the limit has been reached.
Slot the gearshift into Sport and the instrument dials turn red with a V6 like growl from the engine (helped by the radio for that explosive sound inside) with a nice exhaust blip on manual up-shifts. In comfort mode, the i8 rides bumps well, helped by the light but rigid carbon fibre body which in turn aids high-speed change of direction.
The transition from using the electric motor to adding the petrol engine could be better as it sometimes gives a clumsy kick.
At R1,9 million, the i8 is a bargain taking into account the technology and most importantly the drop-dead gorgeous looks. You have to pay three times that money to get similar attentiongrabbing looks from the Italians.
Oh … I got stopped at every roadblock I encountered during the week of driving in Durban and Jozi … with very little interest being shown in the driver.
Zero to 100 km/h comes up in 4,5 seconds, in what is basically a 1,5-litre three-cylinder turbo front wheel drive car.
All wheel drive plus instant electric power equals blistering accelleration in the BMW i8, perfect for the Formula E pace car and our blue light bridge will love it.