The i8 in ‘Protonic Blue’
Modern day gadgetry needs to wow us with its design as well as innovation. It needs to be a complete package that delivers a user experience beneficial to our daily lives, as well as exciting us every time we take it out of our pocket.
Pull the door handle on the i8 and watch as its clever dihedral doors swing out and up. You slip into the driver’s seat, surrounded by LCD screens, recycled materials and beautifully crafted dashboard panels. This is what technology is all about.
Those doors, not only do they look cool, but they save weight, which brings better economy and performance to the i8. Then there is the big 8-inch LCD sat in the centre of the dash – it’ll get you home, play your favourite song and show you just how efficiently you are driving.
The i8 is a hugely ambitious piece of technology.
Looking like a concept car that you can own, it’s designed to be a flagship product for BMW’s new electric ‘i’ division.
The car itself uses a turbocharged 3-cylinder petrol engine mated to a powerful electric motor. It’s not unlike the ones you see in an F1 car, although the BMW’s is a lot smaller. It can run either in a fully electric mode, or as a hybrid that will catapult you from 0-60 mph in 4.4 seconds.
The performance it delivers is quite frankly astonishing. Given the i8 can return upwards of 100 mpg if you drive it right, BMW has worked some sort of witchcraft making the i8 as fast as it is. It’s congestion charge and road tax exempt too, so you can potter about silently through central London, in fully electric mode, not spending a single penny.
You can’t see the exhaust on the back of the i8
There is a catch though: it does cost £94,850, which is obviously a huge amount of money. The car also can only manage 23 miles on full electric mode, which means the seriously eco-minded will need to run the petrol engine at times just to complete journeys.
One other disappointment is the amount of work BMW has put into tweaking iDrive for the i8. Like the smaller and much cheaper i3, you get an altered version of BMW’s nav and entertainment system that is geared up to electric cars.
It certainly does the trick, but we would’ve liked to see more animation and design work put into the look and feel of iDrive. This is after all a hugely special car, so it’s disappointing to see very few menus devoted to all the extra fun that can be had with the i8.
The same goes for the car’s digital speedo. Unlike what Audi has created with the ‘shape shifting’ dash found in the new TT, the i8’s setup looks cool but does little more than tell you how fast you’re going.
The design of the i8 is a thing to behold
Sending the car into sport mode will make it glow red, which we definitely liked, but years of being spoiled by smartphones and tablets left us wanting more from the dash.
The included HUD, however, is a totally different story. Detailed directions and the ability to completely control iDrive via an image projected onto your window screen is amazing.
The interior of the i8 is a very special place
These are fairly minor niggles for what is an incredible piece of technology. You really have to view the i8 as something more than a car. It’s proof that, in the future, getting from A to B will be fun as well as good for the environment.
We also think that owning an electric car is a statement in itself, so the car’s appearance should do just the same. Rather than just adding the words ‘hybrid’ to an already existing vehicle, BMW has created a complete product and system around owning an electric car.
At the moment, Tesla is the only company doing anything even close to this and it’s seeing vast success doing so. Given that, traditionally, automotive technology has flagged a few years behind phones and PCs, we feel like BMW is turning the tables.
Apple and Samsung should be taking note. Technology is all about risks and pushing innovation, something which we really haven’t seen for a good while now from the major consumer electronics manufacturers.
BMW has played its hand, creating a hugely compelling, beautiful and altogether exciting piece of tech with the i8. Now it’s time for the competition to play catch-up.