The long standing tradition of ‘Concept Cars’ serves more than one purpose. On the one hand it gives manufacturers and designers a chance to push the boundaries and take things beyond the norm, and on the other it encourages public responses to new ideas. Sometimes a concept car will be refined and moulded into a production reality, and there are many who hope the BMW i8, a simply stunning design from the German giant, will be one that makes it onto the road. Who knows, before long you may be able to go to an Atlanta or Phoenix BMW dealer and test drive one.
BMW i8 – Is This The Future?
The idea behind the BMW i8 is that we are moving forward and looking for efficiency as well as performance. The car is a hybrid, combining a small three cylinder internal combustion engine fitted in the rear and an electric powerplant at the front. The idea is to provide stunning performance with city car economy.
Let’s have a look at some of the figures, to get an idea of what BMW is trying to do. The two motors work together to provide the full performance – 0-62mph (0-100km/h) in less than five seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 155mph (250 km/h). When you take into account that the fuel economy figures come in at 94mpg, or three litres per 100km, things start to look very impressive indeed.
On paper, of course, it all looks great, but does it translate to a real, everyday car? Let’s get one thing straight before we go on: the i8 is a high performance sports car. If you want a runabout, the car you should be looking at is the i3 city car, which uses a version of the same electric powerplant. But we don’t want to talk about that, we want to talk about the future of supercars.
BMW i8 – A Question of Range
One aspect of hybrid cars that always draws criticism is the distance they can be driven between refills or charges. The superbly efficient 1.5 litre three cylinder engine is capable of the amazing fuel consumption figures we have already mentioned, so decent distances should be achieved, but if you want to go electric on its own you are looking at no more than 20 miles (35km) between charges. Charges, by the way, are from a standard domestic mains connection.
Away from the problems with range we can take a different view of the BMW i8. Look at it from any angle and you can only conclude it is a very good looking car, if unmistakeably a BMW. The car is designed in a philosophy the company refers to as LifeDrive, and it is designed to offer perfect efficiency and a driving experience that is as satisfactory as any.
Both engines are deliberately placed over the axles at front and rear, and a specially designed tunnel houses the battery in the middle of the car for maximum weight distribution and a low centre of gravity. This should guarantee handling of the highest order.
Stunning Looks from Beautiful BMW i8
The design of the car is striking, a modern and very aggressive look that is everything a 21st century sports car should be, and with a combination of sensuous curves and wonderfully sculpted defining lines gives it a stance that is very much worthy of a car of the future. The scissor opening doors, typically Lamborghini and looking very fresh on a BMW, are a feature that may not be there for practicality, but why should everything have to serve a purpose?
One area of the design that is noticeable is the impressive use of glass, giving the i8 a roomy and light feel that adds to the appeal. It is a capable 2+2 and fits four adults in comfort. Inside the car is designed to provide driver and passengers with the ultimate comfort, and more. Putting an ‘i’ in front of any product may be something of a cliché these days, and while BMW has refrained from explaining what it means, the inference is that it is up to date with modern technology.
The futuristic and impressive instrument display is designed to give the driver all the information needed at any time in clear, concise and high definition terms, and is fitting of any concept car worth its weight. It is notable, also, that the car is very much designed – in terms of the tools needed to drive it – with the driver in mind, and everything is to hand in a cleverly packaged console that makes it simple to handle.
Typical of BMW, and of concept cars, is the use of laser lighting, a new concept that is intended to give the driver vision in the dark that is more efficient than any other form of standard lighting. It is a very futuristic touch on a very futuristic car.
BMW i8 – The Movie Star!
So, what is it like to drive? Bear in mind that this is a concept, and is not tuned for the road, but that the overall design is intended to introduce dynamics that are incorporated for the best driving experience.
Perhaps Tom Cruise can tell us, as the BMW i8 features heavily in the new ‘Mission Impossible 4’ movie, a clever piece of product placement that is well worth the effort. Needless to say, the car looks stunning in the movie.
It’s difficult to draw a conclusion on a car that is as yet just a concept, but the fact it has made an appearance gives a clue as to the way forward. BMW, much to its credit, is to go ahead with a production version of the i8, with 2013 scheduled for launch. Such has been the public response to the idea that the company has to take the plunge. The i8 will be launched alongside the i3, the city car, and will form part of a new range of ‘i’ cars which BMW sees as the future of the automobile. We are not so sure, given the limited range of the electric engine and the cost of replacement batteries.
However, innovation is essential in car design, and the BMW i8 – which will cost a reported $150,000 (£96,500 or €116,000) – is certainly innovative. Perhaps it is the future of motoring, perhaps not, but we welcome it for its beauty and inspiration.