It has been 15 years since the last BMW 8 Series rolled off the production line. The Grand Touring Coupé was one of the sleekest models of its time and has become known as a modern classic, having never been replaced… until now.
Launched in the UK in July, the first BMW of the 21st Century to bear the 8 series designation is undeniably modern and every bit as sleek as its predecessor. Using the company’s new “i” prefix, the i8 is the second BMW model to be powered by electricity. The smaller i3 City Car has been proving popular in the first few months since its release, but the £100,000 i8 sports car presents an entirely new prospect for the company.
An attention grabbing, 2-door sports coupé, which hasn’t lost much of the jaw dropping drama of the concept (as used in a recent Mission: Impossible film), the i8 is designed to suit its hefty price tag. As with the original 8-Series, the i8 promises performance and prestige but unlike the old car, this doesn’t come at the expense of fuel economy. In the new world of electric and hybrid vehicles, only a tiny amount of fossil fuel is required. The i8 is a plug-in hybrid, which means it runs on electricity, but the supply can be topped up on the move by a small 1.5 litre petrol generator. This helps to extend the range of the car and allows fast topping up at a petrol station on longer journeys when plugging in to charge up would be inconvenient. Given that this is the kind of car that will be used as a second car, or for special occasions, it is feasible for the car to run entirely on battery power alone, and not require a drop of fuel for months or even years.
In a unique innovation, services to i model owners include BMW Access, allowing owners to make use of another BMW model for pre-planned journeys where an electric vehicle would be inappropriate. While this seems to give additional peace of mind to prospective buyers, I will be fascinated to see how often this service is actually used, as it will give a very good indication of the effectiveness of the current Electric Vehicle infrastructure in the UK.
The BMW design centre in California, USA, had been given a free hand to design the extravagant shapes that carbon-fibre construction allows, and the final assembly of the car takes place in Leipzig, Germany. However, the responsibility for BMW’s first ever 3-cylinder engine has been given to the company’s Hams Hall Plant in Britain. With this engine coupled to a 96kw electric motor, the BMW i8 can reach the 155mph top speed that most German branded cars are limited to. Yet, the car delivers a remarkable 135mpg and emits just 49g/km of carbon, allowing tax-free ownership in the UK.
The BMW i8 is now available in Britain at selected BMW dealerships, across the country, and the purchasing process can begin online at BMWi.com.