BMW i8 rocks the luxe sports niche

Superb steering feel, soundless engine, plug-in hybrid tech, top speed of 250 km/hr, and fuel economy of 47.45 kmpl give it an unheard of aura

BMW i8 rocks the luxe sports niche

I kissed the BMW i8 the moment it was unloaded from the truck off the Noida highway in the wee hours of a misty Wednesday. I was so excited to drive the i8 that in fact, I couldn’t sleep the previous night, just dreaming about the car that is the craze of any car enthusiast or auto aficionado.

German luxury behemoth BMW is going full tilt as it combats competition from formidable rivals in the booming luxury sportscar market in India. The BMW i8 is the second model from the new sub-brand BMW i and the first plug-in hybrid vehicle from the BMW Group. The production version of the BMW i8 was exhibited at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show. It was launched in Germany in June 2014, and in India this February.

The interiors
I am all set to drive the brand new car. But before that, I wonder how to get inside. A simple rule comes in handy. First, your crossed haunches go inside, and then you twist to your left. Soon you are in the driver’s seat. With a low-seating position, finding a seat belt is a little difficult since one has to stretch the arm and drag.

Welcome to the BMW cockpit design with its standout features. The instrument cluster of the BMW i8, with its horizontal lines emphasising the width of the interiors and a structure determined by the ‘layering’ principle, creates a light, yet powerful impression. A contrasting colour scheme enhances the arrangement of the overlapping, three-dimensional segments.

I wanted to roll down the windows, but by mistake pressed the wrong button, which was very close to the right power windows. The boot opened. The co-passenger must get out and fix (close) the boot. I wish the boot opener could have been placed somewhere else.
The layering approach also finds its way, through dynamically curving lines, into the design of the centre console. It is home to the gear selector, the controller for the iDrive operating system, the start/stop button, the eDrive button, and the driving experience control switch.

The iDrive system’s control display comes in a freestanding 8.8-inch format. A custom sports steering wheel with multifunction buttons and the navigation system professional are included as standard in the BMW i8. Also standard is the multifunction instrument display, whose content and presentation formats change with the driving mode selected. Apart from the two seats in the front row, there are two smaller ones in the rear. The rear seats are, well, not roomy even for children. Perhaps BMW could have used them better for luggage, considering the limited boot space on board.

The drive
The beauty of this car is its COMFORT mode. The engine doesn’t make even a purr; it’s virtually soundless.I cross-checked if the car was on... you can barely tell whether the engine is there or not. I began my drive from the Noida Expressway to Agra. With firm hands on the steering, I nudged at the accelerator. Trust me, it flies... I mean, it will give you an experience just like an aircraft taking off. The thrust from the acceleration pushes the machine forward.

One can easily touch 0-100 kmph in 4.4 seconds. I was confident enough that I reached a top speed of 202 kmph effortlessly. It was a fatigue-free drive. Full marks to the electrically assisted power steering, which is smooth and helps to easily manoeuvre the car. I was eager to drive the car even in the city to check the 117 m of ground clearance, which is very low. Incidentally, the maximum speed the car can achieve is 250 km/hour; and this would be a still impressive 120 km/hour if it is running on purely electric power.

The plug-in hybrid system developed by BMW claims to be an advancement in efficient-dynamics. The three-cylinder petrol engine with the BMW TwinPower Turbo technology, combined with BMW eDrive technology in the form of a hybrid synchronous electric motor adds that extra push for the drive, while an engine displacement of 1.5 litres, delivers an output of 170 kW/231 HP and maximum torque of 320 Nm.

The power is sent to the rear wheels via a six-speed automatic gearbox. Its second engine, an electric motor with an output of 96 kW/131 hp and maximum torque of 250 Nm, has power channelled through the front wheels via a two-stage automatic transmission, and a lithium-ion high-voltage battery with direct refrigerant cooling and gross capacity of 7.1 kWh. Battery charging is done while driving by the petrol engine, and at home using the Wallbox charging stations.

A combination of BMW TwinPower Turbo and BMW eDrive technology plus intelligent energy management bring out a maximum system output of 266 kW/362 HP, and give the BMW i8 the performance characteristics of a pure-bred sportscar accompanied by fuel economy of 47.45 kmpl and emission figures of 50.36 g/km — which resemble the stats of a small car.

The Driving Experience  Control switch allows the driver to choose from four driving modes — COMFORT, SPORT, ECO PRO, and HYBRID — with the eDrive button optimising the driving situation. The car gives a maximum range of up to 35 kilometres on electric power alone; The COMFORT mode, which emphasizes comfort, offers a combined range of up to 600 kilometres (tank filled at 90 per cent, with total driver and luggage weight of 75 kg). The SPORT mode, stresses on performance, and the ECO PRO mode on efficiency. The HYBRID mode is used for charging the battery using brake energy.

The exteriors
The beauty of this car is its doors, which open forward and upward like wings, adding extra intrigue to the sportscar design of the BMW i8. A signature feature of BMW i cars is the “black belt”.

On the BMW i8, it emerges in a ‘V’ shape from the bonnet and extends back over the roof into the rear section of the car, where it frames the centre section of the rear apron.
The front view of the BMW i8 exudes sporting ability in its purest form. Large front apron air intakes arranged over several levels generate a power feeling of depth.

The extremely broad BMW kidney grille stretches over to the slim headlights, accentuating the width of the BMW i8 and its road-focused stance. The car’s full-LED (light emitting diode) headlights adopt the hallmark U-shape of BMW i models.

The BMW i8 embodies a revolutionary, future-focused interpretation of the driving pleasure for which BMW is renowned. It was purpose-designed as a plug-in hybrid sports car offering agile performance and outstanding efficiency. An exceptionally lightweight and aerodynamically optimised body, includes a passenger cell made from carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP).

The safety features
On the safety front are the intelligent lightweight construction with elements including a CFRP passenger cell, doors with a CFRP-aluminium structure, an instrument panel with magnesium supporting structure, an aluminium chassis, and a partition between the passenger compartment and boot made from hardened thin glass.

There’s also the comprehensive safety concept, and an ultra-torsionally stiff passenger cell; front, side and head/curtain airbags, inertia-reel seatbelts with belt force limiters front and rear; ISOFIX child seat attachment points; tyre pressure monitoring for each individual wheel; and pedestrian sound alert — all present as standard.

Sophisticated chassis technology featuring a double-wishbone front axle and a five-link rear axle; Electric Power Steering; Dynamic Damper Control and 20-inch light-alloy wheels are also included as standard.

Get noticed
You will become a celebrity overnight if you own a BMW i8. I had a tough time controlling onlookers, who were thrilled to see the car and were eager to know more about the new beauty from the BMW stable. Not to forget their desire to be photographed along with the car! One can buy a BMW i8 for Rs 2.29 crore (ex-showroom, all-India), through BMW i dealerships in Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai.

Comments (+)