It’s hardly cheap to buy, but the eco-friendly BMW i8 offers supercar performance with uber-efficiency

The BMW i8 has redefined what a supercar can be. With bedroom-poster looks, ground-hugging proportions and ‘butterfly’ doors, it’s the most striking car BMW has ever made. Its performance is impressive too, capable of doing 0-62mph in 4.4 seconds, while the handling can compete with some of the best sports cars on the market today.

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On top of that, the i8 has a party trick: combined with its rapid performance, it boasts an economy figure of 134.5mpg and emits just 49g/km of CO2. Those miraculous numbers are the product of the i8’s petrol-electric hybrid engine, together with the culmination of all BMW’s engineering experience. It’s not the best supercar on our roads by any stretch, but it’s certainly more stunning and futuristic than anything else at its price point. The addition of a soft-top Roadster variant in 2018 both broadened the i8 model range, and heralded a facelift for the Coupe.

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BMW i8 1.5 Hybrid

The BMW i8 plug-in hybrid is one of the most exotic ways available to show off your green motoring credentials, but it’s not entirely unique. The Honda NSX is another high performance ‘ecosupercar option, but drivers looking for a sporty/luxury experience might equally consider the Porsche Panamera SE Hybrid or even the Tesla Model S.

The BMW i8 partners the i3 hatchback as part of BMW’s ‘i’ eco range, and features advanced carbon-fibre construction for lightweight and strength, while rakish and eye-catching looks give the low-slung coupe the sort of road presence its Porsche 911-rivalling performance demands. The BMW i8 interior design is equally as striking, and overall the sporty coupe does a very good job of conveying its futuristic intent. It’s still a relatively rare sight too, especially when you consider BMW has offered the i8 for sale since 2014. Low production volumes mean the model is nowhere as ubiquitous as its Porsche 911 rival.

The powertrain concept doesn’t sound that exciting at first, especially if you like your supercars with high-capacity multi-cylinder engines. The BMW i8 spec includes a three-cylinder petrol motor nicked from the MINI Cooper, which doesn’t have quite the same ring – or soundtrack. It’s only tuned to 228bhp too, which is doesn’t sound much by supercar standards either. Fortunately, the BMW i8 engine is fitted in the right place – behind the driver in classic supercar fashion – and there’s an additional 139bhp electric motor driving the front wheels to help generate the necessary muscle.  

In total, the powertrain adds up to a meaty but not excessive 357bhp (369bhp for 2018 facelift cars), supplemented by 570Nm of torque. Thanks to the instant delivery of the electric motor, it’s enough to give the BMW i8 acceleration that matches the car’s style. It won’t trouble a Ferrari 488 GTB, but it’s enough to rattle the cage of most 911 drivers, and run the Audi R8 close. 

4.5
4.5/5
The hybrid setup isn’t necessarily original, but this is the most exciting one there’s ever been – the i8 drives like a supercar
4.5
4.5/5
You’ll never match the i8’s claimed mpg figure in the real world, but you’ll still enjoy small car running costs – mostly
5
5/5
Fantastically futuristic and beautifully designed, the BMW nonetheless uses familiar parts and technology
2.9
2.9/5
Clearly not a car designed for practicality, the i8 has a tiny boot and rear seats, but front occupants will be impressed
4
4/5
Not tested by Euro NCAP but the technology and construction make this a very safe car, while BMW parts offer reliability

That puts the BMW i8’s £100,000 price point into perspective. In fact, combined with its 'B' tax band status and 134.5mpg fuel efficiency rating (156.9mpg official for the facelifted model), it looks a relative bargain.

Is it perfect? No. The reality is that you can’t have that much technology working away in a sports car and make the driving experience feel truly ‘natural’ (a fake engine noise is piped into the cabin through the speakers, for example) but it does a very good job of trying. It’s also not as economical in real life as it is on paper, not by any means.

But still, no other sports car of this type and price can come close to its efficiency, or its sense of futuristic occasion, and that makes the i8 truly special. 

This car scored 3.8 on our sister site DrivingElectric

Last updated: 
21 Jan, 2019