Text by Wooley Photos by Geoff Dennis & Jonathan Walker
What we’re learning here with cars like the BMW i8 (and hybrid Lexus LC), is humbling as enthusiasts. We’re learning that there is a mark being penciled on the timeline, where automotive technology is not just evolving… it’s totally reinventing itself. And the automotive future is, in fact, way bright… if you can afford to be on the cutting edge of it.
But if you’re NOT on the cutting edge (ourselves included) it becomes very easy to resist/hate where the technology is going. Easy to shine light on the negatives. It gets comfortable to hold on to what we know/trust – the analogue, the internal combustion.
This new stuff is foreign, it’s complicated, and (for now) it’s unaffordable for most.
…Making it real easy to dismiss & say, “Well why would I ever…”
But – have a little faith. And seize any opportunities that come your way to experience this stuff. Because experience starts to change perspectives pretty quickly.
The BMW i8 is the next chapter of "whatever it is" that we’re moving toward in automotive history.
One week later…
The BMW i8 is exceptional. And the more time you get behind the wheel, the more that becomes apparent. Not just good, not just great… but exceptional.
Admittedly this is a difficult article to write, because there is a lot of sensory experience in driving the i8 that is hard to trace down on paper. The car is so much more than just specs on a quick Google search. It’s… a new chapter.
You can feel it when you drive the car. Whether you’re just driving down the road at efficiency speed, or you starting to get into the sport of it… you can feel that this car/chassis/concept, is the next chapter of ‘whatever it is’ that we’re moving toward in automotive history. So much is up in the air right now about the future of the automobile. So much speculation about where we’re going. But this car is a clear, unmistakeable glimpse into that future. I just wish, I could put each of you behind the wheel to experience it first-hand.
The carbon composite chassis behaves differently than metal. It sounds different. It feels different. It’s a subtle difference. But the more time you spend with the i8, the more you begin to understand its language. (If you’ve even ridden a carbon fiber bike versus aluminum steel, it’s kind of like that.)
The car is a brilliant marriage of performance & efficiency.
There’s nothing external, like giant tires & spoilers, that need to be bolted on this chassis to keep it in check. Everything that makes this chassis so special/functional is just… in the chassis… written into its DNA from conception.
When you’re driving the car at normal pace, the electric motor is primary. The chassis is quiet. It’s calming. It’s serene. It’s well sealed. It’s a bit zen. But don’t mistake that as boring, because even in electric, the BMW i8 is an engaging car to drive. It’s just engaging in a very soothing type of way.
But when you go into Sport Mode, and the BMW/Mini 1.5-turbo engine comes to the assist. Engine sounds pour into the cabin, and the car’s split-personality runs through its channels.
Sport Mode + Paddle Shift is where the BMW i8 steals your heart.
The dual engines, the all-wheel-drive, the carbon chassis, the weight balance, the steering control… like I said… it’s exceptional. The harder you push this car, the more reassuring it gets. The connection to the car is indescribable. You feel the Gs… but you don’t feel body roll, or tire squeal, or resistance of any kind. Just complete control.
‘On rails’ is a term that gets thrown around a lot on automotive culture. I will never use that term again, without flashing back to the BMW i8.
An here’s the interesting part: As you’re neck deep in Sport Mode… you’re actually using energy to charge the electric engine. Quite rapidly actually. According to the dash readout, a 13-mile run up a mountain yielded us about 10 miles of electric charge/range. So you’re using gas in the moment, while simultaneously putting electric milage in the bank for the ride home. BMW’s i8 makes you revisit everything you thought you knew about performance cars. And it’s markedly different from anything else I’ve ever driven.