The innovative BMW i8 plug-in hybrid sports car has arrived in Australia, priced from $299,000 plus on-road costs.
The first batch of cars are however, are predominantly press cars as well as demonstrators used for customer test drives through six specialist BMW i network dealerships across the country. First customer deliveries are scheduled for February 2015.
Under the snout of the futuristic 2+2 sports car is a 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that produces 170kW of power and 250Nm of torque. It drives the rear wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission.
Driving the front wheels is the BMW i8’s second power source, a 96kW/250Nm BMW eDrive electric motor that runs through a two-stage automatic transmission that draws its energy from a 355 volt, six-module lithium-ion battery pack that is mounted centrally beneath the car’s floor. Each module contains 16 individual cells equaling 96 cells in total.
The resulting combined outputs of both power units is a maximum of 266kW of power and peak torque of 570Nm, enabling the i8 to rush from 0-100km/h in just 4.4 seconds before hitting a limited top speed of 250km/h.
Like other plug-in hybrids, the i8 can travel up to 37km in pure electric mode, while the combined fuel consumption is rated at 2.1L/100km. It produces just 49g/km of CO2.
With a sophisticated powertrain control system, the BMW i8 offers a choice of five different modes of driving that determine which power source is used and when, as well as programming more efficient use of ancilliaries.
COMFORT mode is selected on startup and offers a balance between sports performance and fuel efficiency automatically using both power units as necessary according to the driver input and road conditions. In this mode, with a full 42-litre tank of fuel and fully charged battery, the BMW i8 has a driving range of up to 600km.
In ECO PRO mode, the powertrain controller optimises the use of both the electric motor and petrol engine for the greatest fuel efficiency while also programming electrical ancilliaries such as climate control and seat heating to operate with minimum power consumption.
In both COMFORT and ECO PRO modes, the BMW i8 can be switched to operate solely using the electric motor by pressing the eDrive button and drawing power from the batteries. If the battery charge drops below a certain level or the driver suddenly needs an additional surge of power, the petrol engine will kick in automatically.
The SPORT driving mode uses both front and rear power units to their maximum potential as well as adjusting throttle response, Dynamic Damper Control, Electric Power Steering and gear changes for the sequential manual gear shifts to provide extra-sharp performance and a truly dynamic driving experience.
With a very low centre of gravity, 49/51 weight distribution and BMW’s proven lightweight aluminium front double wishbone and rear five-link suspension systems, the BMW i8 is said to be a true driver’s sports car that delivers BMW hallmark driving pleasure with outstanding efficiency.
The BMW i8 sits on what the company calls the LifeDrive architecture that combines advanced technology and materials in two separate modules, with an aluminium Drive module housing the drive elements and a safe, strong carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) passenger cell Life module.
In the BMW i8, these elements have been combined to produce a stunning sports coupe with a design aesthetic that reflects the advanced and futuristic nature of the technology. The low wide stance is emphasised by the broad BMW kidney grille and trademark BMW i U-shaped LED headlights while in profile, the BMW i8 is classically proportioned for dynamic expression with long scissor-wing doors that open forwards and upwards and wheel-arch filling 20-inch alloys. The broad squat rear of the car is crowned by a large rear window that opens to access the storage area and further strengthens the car’s powerful appearance.
Inside, the future focussed design continues with a choice of three colour and trim packages for the 2+2 cabin. Here too sustainability is showcased in leather seats tanned using an environmentally-friendly olive leaf extract and various trim materials made from recycled products.
Reflecting the layered design of the exterior, the cabin of the BMW i8 features a broad sweeping instrument panel and centre console with all controls including the iDrive controller, transmission selector, stop/start button and Driving Experience Control falling easily to hand with all information relayed through a large 8.8-inch freestanding display atop the centre console.
As a premium sports car, the BMW i8 is fully equipped for comfort and convenience with standard features including keyless Comfort Access, Navigation System Professional with a 20GB hard drive, 11-speaker Harman Kardon HiFi audio system with a DAB+ Tuner, power heated front seats, multi-function sport leather steering wheel, dual zone climate control, cruise control, automatic windscreen wipers and lights and full Voice Control and Bluetooth connectivity for smartphones.
In addition to the safety provided by the ultra-strong rigid CFRP passenger cell, the BMW i8 also features a vast array of standard safety equipment including six airbags, Dynamic Stability Control, Park Distance Control, camera-based Driving Assistant system and Head-up Display.
In delivering the car for the future, BMW has also ensured that the BMW i8 is always fully connected for convenience and features a full suite of BMW Connected Drive functions such as internet access, Concierge Services, Real-Time Traffic Information, BMW Online services and the ability to carry out functions like opening or locking the doors or preconditioning the climate control remotely through the BMW i Remote App.
For safety, ConnectedDrive’s intelligent system also provides automatic emergency calls to the BMW ConnectedDrive Call Centre in the event of an accident while the BMW Teleservices automatically transmits service related data to the customer’s preferred BMW dealer.
In addition to driving the most progressive sports car ever, owners of BMW’s i8 will also have exclusive access to the range of services under the 360 ELECTRIC program. This includes the assessment of premises and installation of the optional BMW i Wallbox Pure charging unit.
The battery of the BMW i8 can be charged from a standard domestic power outlet but using the Wallbox unit reduces the charging time from about two hours and 30 minutes to just one hour and 45 minutes. Under the 360 ELECTRIC program, the BMW i8 can also be charged at public charging facilities run by BMW partner ChargePoint using the ChargeNow card for cashless payments.
Other benefits of the program include access to Flexible Mobility – which provides a range of services for BMW i8 customers such as provision of conventional BMW hire cars for occasions when they may need a larger vehicle for holiday.