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For the past two years, BMW has shown concept versions of the BMW i8 at the Los Angeles Auto show. It was no secret that BMW was planning to put a version of it into production, advertising it heavily in the "Mission: Impossible" movie series. But after two years, the car is finally here, carrying a $136,625 starting price and more technology than you can probably imagine.
Using the same basic idea as the BMW i3--the carbon fiber structure, lightweight materials, electrified powertrain, and recycled materials--BMW has begun entering a new foray into specialty sports car manufacturing at a price that's about the same as the BMW Z8 that left the market in 2003. BMW is taking a big risk with clean technology in a supercar, but it may be on to something.
Who It's For
Hybrid sports cars are coming into prominence quite quickly. As fuel economy legislation nears, and 54.5 mpg fleet averages quickly become the norm, automakers are trying to bring down the costs of high-tech powertrains and exotic, lightweight materials like carbon fiber that help cars run more efficiently. The BMW i8's price might look daunting, but it's actually remarkably cheap considering that its structure is made almost completely of a material that was out of reach for most automotive applications just a few years ago.
So figure that the plug-in 2015 BMW i8 will be for the same people who want an i3, only wealthier: People who want to be seen in hyper-efficient supercars--the same sorts of tech- and image-savvy people who buy Tesla Model Ss. This car looks cooler than a Tesla, though.
With a plug-in powertrain, the 2015 BMW i8 makes a combined 362 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque, which will allow it to reach 60 mph from standstill in 4.4 seconds. Other notable features include:
- A 3,250-pound weight, which is light for a four-seater.
- A 22-mile all-electric driving range.
- A turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine that makes 231 horsepower by itself. This same engine makes 130 horsepower in the 2015 Mini Cooper.
- A ConnectedDrive suite of technologies that can read the road to maximize efficiency.
What We Think
We'd be surprised if BMW doesn't meet its worldwide sales goals for the i8, but we'd also be surprised if the car is popular in the way a BMW 3 Series is. Well, some markets like Los Angeles with all of its green technology might make the i8 popular, but we don't expect Norman, Oklahoma, will be a hotbed for a plug-in hybrid BMW supercar.
Still, we anticipate that the technology will at least be a sign of things to come, and you can be sure that more BMW i cars will be produced based on the success of the i3 and i8. BMW i and BMW M will never really cross paths, but we're interested in seeing of a high-performance hybrid is an oxymoron or whether BMW's engineers can really pull off this feat of making the Ultimate Driving Machine into something as mean as it is green.
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