Other car reviews by

Michael Woodhouse

 

BMW i8

This is a sports car. It can reach 62mph in 4.4 seconds. It has a electronically limited top speed of 155mph – like every premium German car. But there's no raging vee-engine in the back, and unlike something more traditional it manages 135mpg on the official test cycle.

There's no big lump of an engine in the back because this is the BMW i8 and its a plug-in hybrid. It has a 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine linked to a 96kW electric motor and a lithium-ion battery. Please don't stop reading because I mentioned hybrid and electricity.

The i8 is an awesome machine – and so it should be for £95,000. It's a high price but it is a leap into a new world for car manufacturers.

There are a lot of people who say that performance cars need to have huge engines, and that even the use of a turbocharger is a complete disaster, but even those companies that make fast cars can't ignore that they can't keep pumping out high levels of CO2 into the atmosphere, and that the ever rising cost of fuel means it isn't viable to ignore what's being burned in the combustion chamber. But that doesn't mean we can't still have fun, and the i8 is a lot of fun.

The interior looks much like any other BMW, and if you know and like those cabins you'll instantly feel comfortable. Getting into the car takes a lot of grace, there are low, large sills to clamber over much like in a Lotus, and a door that doesn't open traditionally, but rather the dihedral design opens forward and upwards. It adds to the wow-factor.

Press the start button and there isn't a lot of theatre, no gruff exhaust note, just silence. That's good for your neighbours.

The reason for the silence is that the i8 has a range of roughly 22 miles on battery power alone, (and as it has a petrol engine too the total range with tank full of fuel is no different to any other car), so you can creep out of your house on a sleepy morning, down the road and onto open roads without disturbing anyone, before hitting the sport button and opening the throttle. It is a sports car after all.

And if you're a bit more enthusiastic behind the wheel hitting the sport button is a necessity. Watch the instrument cluster change from blue to red and listen to what is an enthralling sound from the 231hp/320Nm three-cylinder engine.

The throttle blips as you downshift through the six-speed transmission, and if you're the same as me, your heart skips a beat.

Pairing both the petrol engine and electric motor together means maximum output is 362hp and combined peak torque is 570Nm, but with power sent to all the wheels, you always feel secure.

It was a blustery, damp autumn day in Gloucestershire when I got behind the wheel of the i8, but even with conditions far from perfect I felt in control. That's more than can be said for the equally fast BMW M4 I drove the same day. High-performance rear-wheel drive isn't something you want to experience in the wet.

But there is another aspect, other than the performance, that sells the i8 to me it's looks. It looks space age and receives a huge amount of head-turning stares because of it.

Vehicles such as the M4 might be equally fast, but they look just like every other car you see travelling down the motorway and through town. Boring. Isn't half the point of spending big on a sports car that you stand out?

And there is one more point that goes in the i8 plus column, you get the performance and you get the looks, but you also get something futuristic. How many other cars in this sphere can you park at home and plug in to recharge.

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