Test Drive! 2016 BMW i8 – the long awaited plug-in hybrid sports car of the future!

Golfautospinn Posted: April 8th, 2016

Nearly 2 years since the i8 was first introduced in Thailand, leaving BMW fans all over asking – “when will it be released?” Finally my dream came true, with BMW graciously handing me the keys for the weekend to test drive the latest eco-friendly sports car!

Ever since it was unveiled, the i8 jumped up on my personal list of top cars I could not wait to drive. The hand over went smoothly, and I readied myself for full weekend of driving BMW’s latest technological marvel!

Due to limited number of right hand drive i8s produced for the market and coupled with a longer than expected waiting list, the availability to test drive the i8 at an early stage was limited. Priced at 11.9 million baht, my test drive of the luxury sports vehicle had to wait longer than expected.

For the readers waiting for the test drive video, it’ll be coming out shortly. For now let’s get to the review and see how the i8’s combination of luxury, technology, performance swayed the team to try to convince BMW give us the key a little longer.

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An Exterior Design – Worth Paying!

The BMW i8’s design provides an eye-catching styling without having to pay over 20 million baht for luxury sports car. With the price in mind, I am not exaggerating when I say the exterior design alone is worth every satang of the 11.9 million baht.

The sports styling of the i8 makes the vehicle’s stance lower to the ground than normal vehicles. The butterfly doors surprisingly took up less space than I imagined. The body design focused on a minimal wind friction resulting in a body not only geared for performance, but stands out from the crowd especially from behind.

The all carbon fiber build allows the i8 an extra boost in performance through a lightweight body 50% lighter than steel, 30% lighter than aluminum bug but just as strong.

BMW adjusted the exterior styling to fit with the i8’s lower stance and wider body. The contour, sharp edges of the body LED headlights and wider grill flows smoothly along the vehicle. The well put together design still adheres and pays tribute to BMW’s DNA.

To my surprise despite the wider body, I had very few issues driving over bumps, inclines, and through Thailand’s many road obstacles. Compared to many other similar luxury sports vehicles, the i8 ground clearance was not a cause for concern. I would still recommend the obvious cautious measures when driving a luxury sports vehicle in Thailand.

The C shaped rear taillights is one of the many exterior design elements that stand out. BMW’s hidden placement of the turn signals above the brake lights hiding gives the i8 a futuristic look. At first glance rear lights look smaller than normal but are bright and quite noticeable. The large tires and rims fit the body just right. My only minor suggestion would have been a cover over the storage area behind the rear window.

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A Fuel Efficient Plug in Hybrid that screams Wow!

I am not going into detail about the amazing fuel efficiency claimed by BMW during this test drive. For our purposes, the focus will be more on what exactly made me go “Wow!” while driving the i8.

The i8 comes with the latest BMW iDrive plug in hybrid technology working alongside an electric 3 cylinder twin turbo gasoline engine to deliver an eco-fueled sports ride. With each drive mode delivering top notch performance, enthusiasts everywhere will be thrilled.

In electric mode, the i8 produces 131 horsepower with a maximum torque of 250 N·m which allows the vehicle to reach a maximum speed of 120 km/hr for 37 minutes on a single fuel charge. The sports mode produces 231 hp and along it 320 N·m torque.

During our road test, the i8 surges from 0-100 km/hr in about 5 seconds and from 80 to 120 km/hr in around 3 seconds. There’s no doubt the i8 will reach the advertised top speed of 250 km/hr, but considering the lower than ideal road conditions in Thailand it was wiser for us to avoid pushing the car to its limits. 

In electric mode, the i8 produces zero emissions to the delight of eco-conscious consumers. In normal mode, the car release only 49 grams of carbon dioxide emissions. Considering the excellent performance capability to the fuel economy of the i8, the low emissions released is quite impressive!

The responsive of the vehicle was remarkable. No matter when the throttle was pushed, the i8 reacted without a hitch despite our lead foot. After 400 km of driving, the fuel tank reached 25% as was planned.

I told the gas attendant to fill 1,000 baht because I figured the i8 would have a large tank. It ended up being less than 800 baht! A back of envelope fuel estimation comes out to 11 km/l. I had pinch myself for a second to make sure I was really driving a high end performance car.

No doubt! I was impressed with the performance of every single aspect of the i8. The overall drive, speed & responsiveness, and of course the excellent fuel economy exceeded my expectations. My normal driving behavior is not the most fuel friendly, but the i8 still managed to yield a notable balance of sports to eco-friendly performance.

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Everything placed in a confided but suitable Interior.

A lot of readers have asked, “How was the interior?” The interior packs all the high tech gadgets nicely within a confided space. Any buyer of a top of the line sports performance vehicle is not expecting a roomy and spacious interior. Cabin comfort or the ability to get into the car easily is usually low on the priority chain when the design of a sports car.

The butterfly door design allows a bit more space to get in-out of the driver cabin. It does take some time to get used to entering and exiting the car without looking totally awkward. Anyone who bought an i8 and wants a few tips on getting in and out – send me a message and I’ll happily share my tips!

The car comes equipped with sports bucket seats; however the seats are a tad too small for larger size drivers. The backseat is not recommended for passengers taller than 170 cm or requiring lots of leg room, but if you compared the i8 to similar caliber Japanese sports car – the backseats are more comfortable and more than adequate.

BMW’s basic latest functions are all installed in a minimalist layout controlled through a standard touchpad screen. The overhead display illuminates brightly and the placement is perfectly situated. The automatic 360 view camera conveniently shows the i8’s surrounding.

The driver seat position is a reasonable distance. The bright blue seatbelts matches nicely along with blue lights in the interior cabin. The driver needs to keep in mind the i8 is a slightly longer than usual sports car, but visibility is not an issue at all. Extra caution just needs to be kept in mind when driving.

In summary, the cabin is actually less of typical sports car than I imagined. The i8 drivers and passengers are treated a slightly more spacious leg room than similar cars in its class. The basic functions placement is vastly different from other BMW models. The display is entirely digital, and before I forget the entertainment system does not include a cd slot.

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If I could afford it, I would drive it everyday!

Whoever said a sports car is not suited for everyday use, I want to those readers to try out and drive i8 first. We drove the i8 through the streets of Bangkok and out in to the provinces without any issues or indication that the i8 would be uncomfortable for everyday use. The only small discomfort would be stares and eyes on the car for driving a car that stands out so much!

The complimentary points are not only exclusive to the responsiveness of the top of the line engine but also the suspension. The i8 meets all the requirements for everyday use with ease. The shakiness is a normal condition for cars built low to the ground. Safety features are jammed packed in the i8

I really am impressed by the attention BMW placed in the small details. For example, I was unable to release the charger without releasing the lock, or a system to alert the driver that there is no need to fill petrol in the car until the gauges reach lower than 25%. The default safety settings can all be overridden in the case of an emergency.

If you asked if there was anything I did not enjoy with i8, it would have to be the sounds coming out of the car. The motor screams a bit too loud for my taste. In my opinion, the roar of the engine is forced and did not hum smoothly. Sport car enthusiasts may appreciate the i8’s roar more than I did.

With all the features and technology packed in the i8, anyone looking for a car that stands out on Bangkok’s streets, with an unmatched performance and fuel efficiency. Do not forget to consider the i8 as a true marvel of innovation available to the everyday consumer today.

After my weekend drive with the i8, BMW nearly had to wrestle the keys back from me. If in the future I could afford to buy the i8 for myself, I would drive the i8 every day! No way has it stayed parked at home!

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