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First drive: BMW i8 Coupe 2019MY LCI. Image by BMW.

First drive: BMW i8 Coupe 2019MY LCI
BMW's gobsmacking i8 Coupe remains a hybrid tour de force.

 



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BMW i8 Coupe 2019MY LCI

5 5 5 5 5

Perhaps overshadowed by the launch of its showboating Roadster sibling, the stunning BMW i8 Coupe has received its midlife facelift and technical update. Here, we drive it on the UK's roads to see if we can discern any difference between this and the 2014 original...

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: BMW i8 Coupe (2019MY LCI)
Pricing: i8 starts at 112,735; car as tested 124,050
Engine: 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol with synchronous electric motor
Transmission: six-speed Steptronic Sport automatic (petrol), two-stage reduction gear (e-motor), all-wheel drive
Body style: two-door, 2+2 coupe
CO2 emissions: 42g/km (VED Band 1-50: 0 in year one, 440 per annum years two to six, then 130 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 149.8mpg (plus 34-mile fully electric range)
Top speed: 155mph (limited; 75mph maximum on electric power)
0-62mph: 4.4 seconds
Power: petrol 231hp at 5,800rpm, e-motor 143hp at 4,800, combined system maximum quoted as 374hp
Torque: petrol 320Nm at 3,700rpm, e-motor 250Nm, combined system maximum quoted as 570Nm
Boot space: 154 litres

What's this?

The BMW i8 Coupe, and the 'Coupe' epithet is now required because the open-top i8 Roadster is on the scene, thus meaning we've got to distinguish which version of BMW i's magnificent plug-in hybrid (PHEV) sports car you're looking at. If the folding roof of the Roadster doesn't give the game away, that is.

And, on the subject of the aesthetics, BMW's part-electric masterpiece still looks utterly stunning and otherworldly today - making it hard to accept the fact that it's now four years old. Four! Look at it! It'll probably still be considered as futuristic in 2036, never mind 2018! Ahem. Anyway, the changes for the 'Life Cycle Impulse' (LCI) of the i8 amount to two new colours (these being E-Copper and Donington Grey), a fresh design of 20-inch alloy wheel, a 'Coupe' badge on the C-pillar (to further help you distinguish it from the ONE WHERE THE ROOF CAN BE FOLDED AWAY, just in case you're struggling with that concept...) and some snazzy new interior colourways.

So perhaps the bigger change for the i8 Coupe LCI (or 2019MY, whatever's yer poison) is the change to its technical make-up. 'Bigger' is perhaps over-selling an increase of 9kW (12hp) to the e-motor of the i8's clever two-part drivetrain, but that's what we're dealing with. It now means the overall output of the PHEV has gone up to 374hp, which doesn't really change the performance figures (they're the same as they were pre-LCI) or the eco-stats (they're slightly more absurdly brilliant than they were before, but not to the extent that it will change any VED/tax implications here in the UK) too much, but it does mean the i8 can apparently go 50 per cent further on electric power alone - now capable of 34 miles of EV range, instead of 22 miles previously. This is because the lithium-ion battery of the i8 has been boosted in capacity from 20 ampere hours (Ah) before, to 34Ah now.

As previously, the 231hp engine (that sees service, albeit in a lower state of tune, in some MINI models) still handles the rear wheels, via the medium of a six-speed Steptronic automatic, while the e-motor and its attendant two-speed reduction gear drives the fronts, with genius on-board software manging the car's four-wheel-drive system. Other than that, the suspension has had a minor tweak to make the i8 more fun to drive, while the 1.5-litre three-pot has been given a fruitier exhaust note and a particulate filter to boot. So, does this transform what we already thought was a pretty stellar car anyway?

How does it drive?

Beautifully, for a PHEV, but perhaps a little too numbly for a dyed-in-the-wool sports car enthusiast. As magnificent as the i8's chassis is, if you're intent on comparing its driving experience to a hardcore Porsche 911 or the sublime Audi R8, then you might take issue with the BMW's overly-light steering, or its propensity to opt for understeer first and foremost when it (eventually) runs out of grip, or the perhaps slightly synthetic soundtrack of its petrol-electric propulsion system. You might also lament having to climb in and out of a cabin that is accessed through theatrical if not massively practical rising scissor doors, which in turn conceal gigantic, wide chassis sills that make ingress/egress inelegant, or the fact that there's only 154 litres of boot space on offer (there are the i8 Coupe's vestigial rear seats to call upon for extra storage, though, because you're never going to put anyone over the age of six back there for any length of time whatsoever - not unless you're into arcane forms of torture, at any rate).

But we can't help but marvel at the sheer excellence of the i8's execution by BMW, first time out of the box. There is no PHEV, this side of the now-defunct hypercar trio of the McLaren P1, Porsche 918 Spyder and LaFerrari, that can possibly drive anything like as engagingly as this. There is steering feel to work with, and there is an innate sense of balance and poise to the all-wheel-drive underpinnings that means the upper dynamic limits of the i8's chassis really shouldn't be broached when driving on the public highways. The noise the BMW makes as it revs out might not match the likes of a 911 GT3 screaming its heart out at 9,000rpm or an Audi R8's V10 wailing its minor-key banshee howl into the night, but then by the same token neither of those can roll around utterly silently on zero-emissions power when you want them to. And we definitely think the i8 LCI sounds better than the pre-facelift model, so it's not without its own acoustic merit anyway.

As a balancing act, the i8 is a Cirque du Soleil-grade high-wire artist. It can do thrilling driving as superbly as it does saintly pootling around on full electric power, and it'll handle wonderfully well while also riding in a supple, controlled and comfortable manner. That it has traffic-stopping looks like you wouldn't believe and a BMW interior of the highest calibre are just extra cherries on a very appealing PHEV cake; albeit, a cake that costs at least 113,000 on-the-road. Nevertheless, the i8 is not just a sensational PHEV - it's a sensational sports car, of any ilk you care to mention.

Verdict

The BMW i8 Coupe is not flawless - certainly not if judged against the wider array of conventionally powered supercar and sports car rivals that are on sale right now. But, in terms of PHEVs, it's one of the most exciting, rewarding and desirable vehicles of its type, at any price point, that's either still being made or is now out of production. The BMW looks incredible four years on from launch and it drives almost as sharply as some long-serving, thoroughly honed machines that have spent decades trying to attain this level of dynamic ability. For that reason, it's impossible to give the i8 anything but full marks overall.

5 5 5 5 5 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Passenger Space

3 3 3 3 3 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 2 Jul 2018









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2018 BMW i8 Coupe. Image by BMW.2018 BMW i8 Coupe. Image by BMW.2018 BMW i8 Coupe. Image by BMW.2018 BMW i8 Coupe. Image by BMW.2018 BMW i8 Coupe. Image by BMW.

2018 BMW i8 Coupe. Image by BMW.2018 BMW i8 Coupe. Image by BMW.2018 BMW i8 Coupe. Image by BMW.2018 BMW i8 Coupe. Image by BMW.2018 BMW i8 Coupe. Image by BMW.








 

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