Autocar's in-house race driver Steve Sutcliffe tests the BMW i8 in Scotland.
The i8 has a transverse mid-mounted 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged engine that drives the rear wheels through a six-speed automatic gearbox. An electric motor acts as a starter motor but can also fill in any torque gaps in the engine’s delivery. The front axle is driven separately by an electric motor and two-speed gearbox to create a car of incredible flexibility and complexity.
In eDrive mode the i8 is a zero-emission, front-wheel-drive machine with a useful 129bhp and 184lb ft, a top speed of 75mph and a range of 23 miles. In Comfort mode the i8 is a plug-in hybrid that’s quiet, refined, has a range of up to 310 miles and can be charged from zero to 80 per cent inside two hours.
Select Sport mode by simply moving the gear selector from ‘D’ to ‘S’ and the i8 transforms again. Now the internal combustion engine and electric motor combine as effectively as possible to deliver maximum power, noise and excitement. So configured, the i8 generates 357bhp and 420lb ft. It also tightens its damping, reduces the electric power assistance for the steering and manages the car’s balance by manipulating drive to the front axle for ultimate agility and engagement. The numbers say the i8 combines 135mpg and 49g/km on the one hand or 0-62mph in 4.4sec and 155mph (limited) when driven like a sports car should be.