I test drove several high-end, high-performance cars while in Florida last week. Of all the vehicles I test drove, I was perhaps most interested in testing out the BMW i8. The i8 is a stunning vehicle, imho. And knowing how wicked the i3 is to drive, I was drooling at the opportunity for even greater acceleration. At the same time, I knew it was a plug-in hybrid, and I knew my previous experiences driving plug-in hybrids (the Audi A3 e-tron and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV) left me disappointed with that electric car segment.
Again, this car looks stunning. While I like the looks of all 4 of these vehicles in person, the i8 suits my aesthetic tastes the most. And while I thought that would be limited to the external view, the internal view adds to it. Sitting in the car, when you look at the sideview mirrors, you see some wicked cool curves on the back corners of the vehicle that come together in a way I have never seen and never even dreamt. Nothing in another sideview camera I’ve ever used compares to that view. (Unfortunately, I didn’t grab a picture, and I’m not sure how well a picture could capture it anyhow.) Furthermore, BMW does an excellent job sticking your speed and a couple of other stats (iirc) in front of you holographically that makes them look like they are sitting on the road or the horizon several feet in front of the car. That was really impressive, and it made checking my speed much easier than in other vehicles, which is probably good, because…
… the acceleration of the i8 is indeed stupid crazy. Combining the power of the electric drivetrain and gasoline drivetrain, the i8 throws you forward when you step on it. It crushes the acceleration and the exhilaration potential of many a vehicle. However… the other cars on this list and in this price range are not Toyota Corollas. Actually, driving the i8 right after the i3, I was a bit disappointed with off-the-line acceleration. The i3 darts forward so quickly off the line, while the i8 has weaker instant torque from the electric motor and hesitates for a moment before the gasoline engine’s power kicks in. Additionally, once that kicks in, the smoothness of the driving experience goes down and, imho, the quality degrades. That said, there is something awesome about that surge of power, and the way the (fake) engine sounds (a low growl) puts some serious pumping into your heart. In other words, the i8 is a ton of fun in its own right.
Lastly, the regenerative braking of the i8 wasn’t nearly as strong as the i3’s regenerative braking. That super strong regen braking (I think the strongest on the market) is very addictive and makes driving more enjoyable, imho. One-pedal driving to the extreme.
All in all, I wouldn’t mind having both the i3 for more enjoyable daily driving and the i8 for some Sunday runs at higher speed for long stretches and around curves. Speaking of curves, you also sit so low in the i8 that you feel like your butt might scrape on the concrete. A bit of a nervous feeling, but also a lot of fun. Taking curves in the i8 is a blast, and I highly recommend anyone do so if they ever have the chance… with caution, of course.
The back seats of the i8 are not really back seats. You may be able to stick a toddler there, but I’d be impressed to see an adult squashed into one of those spaces. My understanding is that there are basically just regulatory reasons why the i8 has “two back seats.” Not a bad spot for a briefcase, though.
- looks/aesthetic design
- sporty feel
- 2nd burst of acceleration/power
The places where it loses points to most others in this comparison:
- off-the-line acceleration
- smoothness of drive
- Official 0–60 mph acceleration = 4.4 seconds
- Base MSRP = $135,700
- Electric miles = 15