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Motoring: Turning heads in the 2016 BMW

Credit: NAUMAN FAROOQ

If you're looking for a technological wonder car that amazes people for its futuristic looks, drivetrain and by the way it drives, this is the car for you.


Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | March 28th, 2016



Earlier this month, BMW celebrated their 100th birthday. I thought this would be the best time to feature what I think is the best vehicle this German company has ever made; the i8 plug-in hybrid sports car.

The i8 offers everything you’d want from an exotic sports car. If you’re the type who is into posing, nothing gets the attention out on the road quite like the i8. This vehicle turns more heads than Gigi Hadid.

Open its swan-wing doors and you’re greeted by a civilized interior that offers all the technology one expects from a luxury car. If you want a great sound system, along with the best navigation system, space, comfort, etc., the i8 has plenty to offer in all those areas.

If you’re looking for a vehicle to deliver large packages in, the i8 is not the car for you. However, if you’re looking for a technological wonder car that amazes people for its futuristic looks, drivetrain and the way it drives, then keep reading because this is where the i8 really shines.

BMW has shown in the past that it doesn’t quite care to follow what others are doing; they like doing things their own way.

In the last few years, Ferrari, Porsche and McLaren have produced plug-in hybrid supercars that cost well over $1-million and feature massive engines with little electric assistance; BMW took an entirely different approach.

First of all, the i8 doesn’t cost millions of dollars to buy; in fact, its base price is far more reasonable at $150,000. Sure, that is still a lot of money to spend on a car for most of us, but the i8 is far more attainable than the LaFerrari, 918 Spyder and P1.

Part of the reason why the i8 is not nearly as expensive as the other plug-in hybrid performance cars is because BMW used a far more economical drivetrain. Rather than having your hybrid supercar use twin-turbo V8s or V12 gas engines, the i8 makes do with a three-cylinder gas engine.

It is a 1.5 litre motor that is turbocharged, essentially the same motor you’ll find in a 2016 MINI Cooper.

Powering the front wheels are two electric motors that combine to give 131 horsepower. When the i8’s lithium-ion battery pack is charged up, you can drive this car purely in electric mode for about 24 kilometres. For an actual economy number, I averaged 6.0 litres per 100 kilometres in my test during a cold week. Furthermore, the battery pack gets charged up every time the car is braking or even coasting, and if you’re cruising around in “Sport” mode, that also charges the batteries.

On top of all this, there is a six-horsepower, electric motor mounted to the gasoline engine in the back that fills in for any gaps in power delivery. As a result, the i8, despite having only a reasonable combined power output of 362 horsepower and 420 pounds per foot of torque, performs better than many vehicles with much more power.

It comes down to how the system is tuned and how it all translates when you put your foot down.

I was skeptical before I jumped in as to how good the i8 can be; after all, I’m usually all for simple, lightweight sports cars that have lots of go power.

But when you have the i8 in “Sport” mode, are on a deserted stretch of tarmac and you decide to put your foot down, you’ll discover that it performs every bit as well as you’d want a car that looks like this to. In fact, it performed better than I expected; it even sounds amazing.

It is not a car for the numbers however, because they’ll say that other $150,000 sports cars can cover the sprinter from zero to 100 kilometres per hour faster than 4.4 seconds, and have top speeds far north of 250 kilometres per hour. But, the i8 isn’t for them; it is for those who appreciate smart engineering solutions.

Hybrids and plug-in hybrid vehicles have generally been slow and heavy. BMW went around that issue by making the i8 mostly out of carbon-fibre and plastics; this ensures that not only will the car will be rigid, but it is also light.

It is cheaper to fit a car with lead-acid battery packs, but they weigh a lot more, and don’t deliver the electric range a lithium-ion battery pack does; hence the i8 uses the latter.

A key feature of any sports car is its ability to handle corners like it’s on rails. Typically you’ll achieve that by fitting the car with heavy springs and dampers, and tires as wide as garden rollers.

BMW had other ideas. Since the chassis is so rigid, the i8 doesn’t need stiff suspension, so it rides well. Since it is light and has intelligent all-wheel drive, the i8 doesn’t need big tires to help it handle. This car flows through the bends due to its clever set up using 215/45 R20 tires in the front and 245/40 R20 tires in the rear.

BMW also somehow managed to give electric power steering system lots of feel.

The i8 is an incredible machine and is easily the greatest vehicle built by one of the best auto manufacturers on the planet. Happy 100th birthday BMW, I can’t wait to see what you come up with next.
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