If you have ever wondered what the sports car of the future will look like, a great place to look is at your BMW dealership. The BMW i8 is how BMW sees it, and if that is the case, the future may be brighter than we thought. If we had to guess what the sports car of the future would be, we can be almost certain that it will be electric or have at least hybrid power. It would also be made of high-tech materials and be futuristic looking — the i8 checks all those boxes.

Exterior & Engineering

2019 BMW i8 - Driven
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The i8 started life as a concept car, but in a rare move, it went from being a concept to reality without changing very much. Its shape is recognizable as a supercar, and it turns head wherever you go even five years after its introduction. The launch of the BMW i8 sees the world’s first sports car to be developed from the ground up under the banner of sustainability complete its journey from vision to reality. Both the exterior and interior embody a revolutionary, pioneering take on driving.

The BMW i8 boasts a drag coefficient (Cd) of 0.26 and the styling had to be modern yet functional.

There is a low-slung hood, almost totally blanked off kidney grille, air curtains in the front apron, sealed underbody, contoured side skirts, and air ducts between the rear lights and roof frame that allow the air to be channeled extremely effectively as it hits the car. The large wheels with their aerodynamically optimized design also help to quell efficiency and reduce turbulence. Their effect is reinforced by aeroflaps positioned behind the front wheels and ahead of the rear wheels.

Precisely defined air flow across all areas of the body provides a balance between air resistance and lift - a design that minimizes drag and improves directional stability.

2019 BMW i8 - Driven
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The i8 was designed from the start to be the car of the future, so engineers had to rethink everything. The passenger cell is made from carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP), and an aluminum frame holds the combustion engine and electric motor, the battery pack, and the suspension. CFRP is 50 percent lighter than steel and 30 percent lighter than aluminum yet stronger than both.

The doors are made up of a CFRP inner structure and an aluminum outer skin and weigh 50 percent less than traditional materials.

The instrument panel support is made of magnesium, which is around 30-percent lighter than the one in the BMW 6 series. In addition, the high structural rigidity of the magnesium support structure gives it a strengthening effect which allows the number of components to be reduced, thereby lowering weight by a further 10 percent. Innovative foam plastic technology used in the air conditioning ducts cuts their weight by 60-percent compared with a conventional solution, while also improving acoustics thanks to its sound-absorbing properties.

2019 BMW i8 - Driven
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The BMW i8 is also the world’s first volume-produced vehicle to be equipped with chemically hardened thin glass. This innovative technology, so far used mainly in smartphone manufacturing, lends the material impressive strength.

The partition between the passenger compartment and boot of the BMW i8 consists of two layers of chemically hardened glass, each of which is just 0.7 millimeters thick, with acoustic sheeting sandwiched in between.

In addition to excellent acoustic properties, a further advantage of this solution is a weight saving of around 50 percent compared with conventional laminated glass.

2019 BMW i8 Exterior Dimensions

Wheelbase (Inches) 110.23
Length (Inches) 184.60
Width (Inches) 76.45
Height (Inches) 50.90
Track, front/rear (Inches) 64.72/67.75
Ground Clearance 4.60

Drivetrain and Performance

2019 BMW i8 - Driven
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Since the i8 was designed to be a hybrid from the start, everything could be located exactly where engineers wanted. A 1.5-liter, turbocharged, three-cylinder gasoline engine is placed behind the passenger seats for optimum weight distribution. The engine’s 228 horsepower is channeled to the rear wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission, while the electric motor propels the front wheels via a two-speed automatic gearbox.

The total comes out to 369 hp, which allows the i8 to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds thanks to the torque of the electric motor and the traction of the AWD system.

In today’s world where you can buy so many cars with 500+ horsepower, 369 horsepower does not seem like a lot. Thanks to the use of high-tech materials, the i8 is actually pretty light at about 3300 pounds, so it is not slow by any means. But the goal of the i8 was not to build a competitor to the Porsche 918 that costs close to a million dollars. The i8 is about efficiency, so it is unique because it will go over 300 miles on an 11-gallon tank of gasoline, which is about the same as an economy car. We averaged about 35 mpg driving on the gasoline engine which is spectacular considering the performance. Driving on only the electric motor, you can go about 20 miles driving only the front wheels.

2019 BMW i8 - Driven
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With a low center of gravity and a wide 67.8-inch rear track, the i8 feels very plated and is amazing around curves. The front tires are 215/45-20, and the rears are 245/40-20. They do not provide a ton of grip but don’t worry because the steering does not really like to talk to the driver. Fortunately, the limits are high enough that you will never have any problems on the street.

BMW i8 powertrain and performance specs

Drive concept Hybrid-specific all-wheel drive: combustion engine sends power to the
rear wheels, electric motor sends power to the front wheels
Drive type hybrid AWD
Engine rear-mounted turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder
Electric motor front-mounted synchronous
Engine transmission six-speed automatic
Motor transmission two-speed automatic
Engine output 228 HP @ 5,800 RPM, 236 LB-FT @ 3,700 RPM
Motor output 141 HP @ 4,800 RPM, 184 LB-FT @ 4,800 RPM
0-to-60 mph 4.2 seconds
Top speed 155 mph (electronically limited)
Top Speed (electric) 75 mph
All-electric range 18 miles
Estimated fuel economy 70 MPGe
High-voltage battery
Storage technology Lithium-ion
Voltage V 355
Battery cell capacity Ah 34
Energy capacity (gross) kWh 11.6
Charging time for 80 % charge 2 h at 3.6 kW (16 A / 230 V)
Charging time for 100 % charge 3 h at 3.6 kW (16 A / 230 V)
Charging time for 100 % charge 4.5 h from domestic power socket (10 A / 230 V)

Final Thoughts

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The i8 is an engineering marvel, and it drives worthy of a car with the BMW logo on it. It is one of the most advanced cars on the road today and really showcases where we are headed. A starting base price of $147,500 does not seem cheap but, when you start to consider how much technology is crammed into this car, BMW cannot possibly be making a profit from that price.

Further reading

2020 BMW i8 Computer Renderings and Photoshop Exterior Exclusive Renderings
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2020 BMW i8

Read our full speculative review on the 2020 BMW i8.

BMW Debuts “New” i8 Coupe and the First i8 Roadster Exterior Wallpaper quality
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Weighs just 3,381 pounds

Read our full review on the 2019 BMW i8

2019 BMW i8 Roadster Exterior Wallpaper quality
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Read our full review on the 2019 BMW i8 Roadster.

2015 BMW i8 High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the current 2017 BMW i8.

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