Time for another special one. Two of my favourite reviews to date are poles apart… I loved the electric instantaneous performance of the Tesla, and I also loved the raw savage power of the Aston Martin. I can afford to run a Tesla, I can’t afford to run an Aston. The obvious conclusion was surely to combine the two.
And how better to do that than with the hybrid offering of BMW’s i8. A supercar in every way – power, looks, performance, (price…) but not fuel consumption.
Capable of delivering 0-62mph in a shade under 4.5 seconds, or 135mpg (sadly, not both together) this is a new breed of supercar, and one that only a few manufacturers have attempted, and fewer still succeeded.
But I genuinely believe BMW have achieved it. With four seats (granted the rear ones are not that spacious) and stunning scissor doors, this looks every bit the well-heeled toy that it invariably is… and at the same time isn’t.
Yes, it’s incredibly fast but at the same time it’s remarkably comfortable and practical enough for a more everyday use… although you do have to learn how to get into it gracefully, or at least not embarrassingly. Granted, you’re not going to be going on family holidays in it, but still it is an impressively useable supercar. I know someone who owns one, and he does use it everyday.
Practical? Well, I took a colleague to a business meeting in it without issue (she may have not quite mastered the art of getting into it gracefully on the first attempt, but she got there in the end… kind of) and I also did the school run in it. My son loved it – as I think any five year old would – and it certainly turned a few heads parked outside the school!
But it is the detail that BMW have gone to in order to ensure it ticks the supercar boxes. Consider first of all, that this is powered buy a 1.5 litre 3 cylinder diesel engine; that means it compares (in terms of emissions) with Ford’s 1.0 EcoBoost, Vauxhall’s 1.0 ECOTEC and the VW / SEAT / Skoda 1.0 litre power unit. That means that, on its own, the noise coming out of the exhaust was never going to match the looks. You expect a growling V8 (as a minimum) and what is delivered is anything but. So to match the experience with the expectation, BMW have installed a speaker system behind the front seats that are tuned to the engine. They are programmed to deliver the engine note that you expect from the performance at any one point, making the whole experience match the expectation.
And the whole thing really does deliver. Oh boy, does it deliver. The controls are familiar – if you’ve driven a modern BMW, there will be nothing surprising. The dash looks a little more futuristic, but thats partly to do with combining the displays needed to communicate both petrol based combustion with electric wattage consumption. There are a couple of additional menu options to switch between full economy, a power / economy mix, and full attack-mode, but otherwise, it really does feel like a normal car.
It’s comfortable, luxurious (and with the £104,000 price tag, it should feel luxurious) but with little touches that remind you you’re in something special; the blue LED lighting accentuating the cabin, the heads up display to focus the attention on the driving experience and the throaty roar (albeit, artificial) and the kick to the lower back when you put your foot down. It definitely feels, looks and performs like a supercar. And yes, to buy one you may have to be save up a few pennies, but once you’ve done that, the costs of running it don’t have to be bank-breaking.
If I had £100k to buy a car would I buy this or the Tesla… Honestly, I’m not sure. But I think, with my family situation, I’d opt for the Tesla. But if I were five or so years down the line, I think the added practicality of dual fuel over the dual boots that the Tesla offers would be the thing that tips the balance.
And although the Tesla is a beautiful car, the looks of the i8 win me over. Everytime. Just not for another five or so years.
Now where’s the order form for the Tesla Model 3…