BMW i8 – car review

‘You really have to be cut out for the kind of attention this car will garner: it’s like being famous overnight’

The BMWi8 is sleek, fast, futuristic and, most of all, defiant. The rules are, if you want to be green, you have to be crap. These were laid down in stone by eco-friendly cleaning products, and reinforced by decades of dirty hippies. The i8 is flash, showy, outrageously fast – and the future: one day, all cars will be like this – lighter, run on batteries – or cars will have ceased to exist.

The hybrid electric motor drives the front wheels, the turbo-charged petrol-triple engine the back. Sure, it plugs into the mains now, but as soon as they perfect the solar battery, this car is going to be first in line to run on sun. The frame is carbon-fibre reinforced plastic, somewhat lighter than aluminium, tonnes lighter than steel.

The resulting drive is, in any of the modes – SPORT, COMFORT or ECO-PRO (I’m not shouting; this is what BMW calls them) – more like driving in a video game than driving a car: silent, smooth, otherworldly. The speed dial is projected forwards into space, so only the driver can see it. This is handy, I imagine, if your passenger habitually tells you to slow down. Mind you, in this car, your passenger is going to tell you to slow down anyway. I defy you, feeling so protected (a high window line makes the world seem quite far away) and so omnipotent (thanks to the crazy raw power), not to go too fast, or at the very least accelerate in an ostentatious fashion.

Before you drive the i8, though, you have to get in; the doors open upwards in a gull-wing fashion. My kid asked me if it could fly. There is always someone taking a picture of it, if not as you approach, certainly by the time you’ve got the key out of your pocket. One time, walking purposefully toward it, then suddenly exhausted by the effort of explaining why I had it, even though it wasn’t mine, I just took a photo with my phone and walked away. You really have to be cut out for the kind of attention this car will garner: it’s like being famous overnight.

The cabin is swish and intuitive; in the dark, it comes alive with illuminated blue piping. The seatbelts are bright blue and heavily redolent of the professional pitstop. The posture is low and luxurious in a Swiss-watch-advert kind of way (“I’m reclining like this because I can afford to, not because my back’s gone”).

The motorway is where it gets to show off. It can make a decent noise, for a start, some of it simulated (people like that). More relevant is the ease with which it takes everything, and its remarkable fuel efficiency: at speed, something like 50mpg, roughly the same as a Prius, which feels like you’re pushing it along with your own buttocks.

The prototype for the i8 was in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. I can’t figure out how Tom Cruise swung out of the low driver’s seat on his tiny little legs, but I can’t conceive of a more Hollywood-ready car.

Source: The Guardian

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