Over the past 20 years, the word “hybrid” has taken a journey from the from the first Toyota Prius to the McLaren P1. It used to be that if you mentioned the word hybrid, you’d get laughed out of the car meet; now people raise an eyebrow and pause for a second before they laugh you out.
So this i8. Where does it belong?
Let’s start with it’s looks. It was a controversial design when it was first released, and some people seem to have acclimated to it. Still it has an odd design. In the modern world, the i8 perhaps initiated the hole-iness of the automotive development; you know, the ford GT teardrop; the P1 with the holes and the likes. You know, holes.
It’s poison of choice for its drivetrain is an interesting one as well. The engine on a Suzuki Hayabusa is a 1.3L 4-cylinder; the engine in the BMW is a 1.5L 3-cylinder. I’m sorry, did I misread that? No. The puny little engine combined with the electric motor puts out a combined 360 horsepower and just over 400 lb/ft of torque. From the driving experience, I can confidently say that it does deliver on those numbers-the owner tested sub-3 second 0-60 times with an independent testing device. While yes, we are inundated everyday with a new electric SUV with a 2.9 second 0-60 time which can make that of the BMW seem bleak, this car is plenty fast for most intents and purposes.
My biggest qualm with the i8 is this: it feels like a preproduction car. The front clamshell feels flimsy with no available hood prop, the interior felt like a BMW parts bin charcuterie board, and the seats didn’t even have lumber support adjustment. Its even missing a telescoping steering wheel! The MSRP of a hundred-and-forty-THOUSAND dollars made it a bit of a hard sell. However, you can find a decent example of this for as little as $50k. While that’s not the ~$40k that they used to trade for just a few years ago, it does seem appealing at that price point. For that price, you can either get a brand new Toyota Highlander Hybrid, which gets 36 miles per gallon, or – you can get one of these, get 76 miles per gallon and the inquisitive glances of middle aged men all at the same time. It’s quite the package.
While I’m on the subject, I’d say it’s a good looking car. I thought that the design of the car would seem a little eccentric in the wild. However, after spending a day with the car, I reached the conclusion that the classic BMW kidney grill design flows very well with the overall modern architecture of the car. The edges of the design flows directly into the curves, the side profile of the vehicle lends well to the futuristic design language of modern automobiles. While unusual, I am a big fan of the integration of the spoiler into the brake lights; like it’s been sculpted by the wind itself over a hundred years of abrasion.
The swooping design is not the highlight of this car however. As you can see from the attached video, it is….. well, very easy to get in and out of, assuming you don’t have limbs. If you have legs, or arms for that matter, there is no good way to get in the car. So pro-tip, if you ever find yourself in an i8 – do not get out. Not around other people at least. Oh and you thought you could give your friends a ride to the airport? Well think again. The cargo space is about as present as an absentee father who occasionally comes home to take a shower, and the rear seats are suited only for the shortest of midgets. Oh! Children too perhaps, if they have never been in a car and have no sense of comfort.
This is a fascinating machine here. It blew me away with the surprisingly athletic driving experience while simultaneously disappointing me for the lack of build quality. Cheap plastics are everywhere and not very easy to live with, but still delivering a sensible balance between economy and fun.
This is not a car for me. As cool as the design is, as quick as it may try to convince you, it is all too compromised in ways that I don’t want a car to be. While it’s not huge money, $50-60k is more than the average yearly wage in the States. For that, I’d want something that does one thing really well. It’s not more economical and practical than a new Prius; it’s not better looking than a 718 cayman; it’s not more fun to drive than a mustang, nor does it have the thundering sound of one.
Cars like the i8 were the pioneers in the auto industry as we know it today. Slowly opening our eyes and minds to be prepared for the impending hybrid takeover since as early as 2014. I wonder if what we know as the car world today-and the physics-shattering acceleration we can experience today would be the same if it weren’t for the efforts of these companies working towards the goal of “make hybrid cool”. If you’re in the market for something different, if you enjoy the Sunday drives but have a long commute, if you want to stand out from the crowd and save the turtles at the same time – I’d go find one to go check out, might just be worth your time.
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