BMW i8

Three years af­ter driv­ing one for the first time, Richard Meaden re­vis­its the i8. Have his feel­ings about it changed?

Evo - - ESSENTIALS - Richard Meaden (@Dick­iemeaden)

THE TROU­BLE WITH the fu­ture is it quickly be­comes the present and then, in equally short or­der, the re­cent past. The first time I drove an i8, dur­ing ecoty 2014 (the sil­ver car pic­tured here), it very much felt like I was in some kind of time ma­chine. The looks, the tech­nol­ogy and, yes, the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence all felt like some­thing very fresh.

A few years later and that bold Bavar­ian vi­sion of the fu­ture is parked out­side my house, thanks to the benev­o­lence of ed­i­tor Gal­lagher, who wants to share the i8 love.

Its pres­ence has cer­tainly taken the sting from los­ing my old Fast Fleeter, the stonk­ing AMG C63 S (the fi­nal re­port for which you may have read on p148). I’m strug­gling to think of two more dif­fer­ent takes on the quick, pre­mium, Ger­man two-door, but the con­trast is very good for re­veal­ing what I like and dis­like about BMW’S state­ment of in­tent.

Do I miss a big, ballsy com­bus­tion en­gine? When I press the i8’s starter but­ton, yes, of course I do. The AMG was like a shot of adrenalin, whereas the i8 starts with an au­ral cue much like turn­ing on a lap­top. The funny thing is, so long as it has some juice in the bat­ter­ies, that dis­ap­point­ment lasts just as long as it takes to pull the gear-se­lec­tor into D and whirr off down my drive on near-silent elec­tric propul­sion. No, that nov­elty never wears off.

Sadly, the thrum of the i8’s triple- cylin­der petrol en­gine is less en­dear­ing – un­less you re­ally clog it, at which point it starts to be­come in­ter­est­ing. I didn’t mind it so much back in 2014, but ex­pec­ta­tions have grown in 2017. In fact, I’m the first to ad­mit the most sat­is­fy­ing solution could eas­ily be more/all elec­tric­ity and less/no in­ter­nal com­bus­tion. As it stands, the i8 feels like it’s caught be­tween two worlds – those of an all- elec­tric fu­ture and a past rooted in per­for­mance cars re­quir­ing petrol en­gines to feel au­then­tic.

Does it feel quick? When you floor it with all 357bhp, ab­so­lutely. The torque-fill from the elec­tric mo­tor re­ally does de­liver a de­cent shove, and the tall gear­ing adds to the sense of reach and elas­tic, ac­ces­si­ble per­for­mance.

Chas­sis-wise, it’s com­pe­tent but a bit of a cold fish. The numb steer­ing is the weak­est el­e­ment, which is a shame as you do feel in­clined to drive the i8 at a de­cent pace on fun roads. The damp­ing is firm but the body is nicely con­trolled, so it’ll find a flow on a good A-road. Some of the lack of feel can be blamed on the tyres, which gen­er­ate de­cent grip in the dry but lack pro­gres­sion when you ex­ceed their lim­its. And it all gets a bit spooky in the wet, with a glassy feel that of­fers lit­tle clue as to how much grip there is to play with.

What the i8 does bril­liantly is pro­voke thought and re­ac­tion. Kids love it – surely a good thing to en­thuse new gen­er­a­tions of car nuts – and even those adults I’d have down as diehard petrol­heads are in­trigued by the looks, tech­nol­ogy and driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

You can’t di­rectly com­pare the i8 in value-for-money or bang-per­buck terms with con­ven­tional ri­vals. But as a bold at­tempt at rec­on­cil­ing a love of cars and driv­ing with an en­vi­ron­men­tal con­science, this BMW has plenty go­ing for it.

‘Chas­sis-wise, it’s com­pe­tent but a bit of a cold fish. The numb steer­ing is the weak­est el­e­ment’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.