BMW, you’ve done it. With the i8, you’ve made a car that generates Ferrari-esque levels of interest, which turns the same number of heads as a redlining 458 Italia even as it swooshes away under silent all-electric drive.
In the real-world Hertfordshire road test, it is every inch the supercar.
Hence the excitement at MR Towers when the man from BMW gently announced the i8 was here. You can pour over a car all you like on a motor show stand but you only really appreciate its impact when seen in context. The long-term Octavia provided the context; the i8 stunned.
It’s a remarkable looking thing. Like late 2000s-era F1 cars, the surfacing is impossibly complex, meaning it’s hard to take it all in at first. The impact of it is staggering.
No lessons needed on how it drives, said our man, but he did give us a tip with the gullwing doors. They open out, wide – you’ll be clearing door mirrors off cars parked next to you in no time if you don’t open them carefully.
Getting in also didn’t come elegantly; we don’t get all that many cars with gullwing doors in on test. I’m sure it would come with practice.
For all its futuristic layout – think all the BMW familiars fast-forwarded 20 years into the future – one thing really stood out as I got comfortable: the trip computer. It was reading 47.9mpg (and the BMW man had driven it up there, too). That really is a supercar first (we’ve had ‘em reading the same but missing the ‘4’ before).
To keep it safe, I needed to turn it around. I could have three-pointed it. But taking it out for a quick spin was far more sensible. So, sat low in my wide supercar rocketship, I silently eased away in silent yet swift serenity. All rather headspinning – and that was before I booted it, felt the immediate kick but also heard the soft and eager harmony of a slightly muted straight six engine. Bizarre; I thought they put Brit-built 1.5-litre turbo triples in the i8. Y’know, the same ones they put in the new MINI Cooper.
Seamless and vibrant, it’s a corker of a trick install.
Like all supercars, speed quickly risked getting silly, so I glided back to the office in, again, ear-rubbing silence. With a deep windscreen ahead of me and a low, wide nose further forward, It felt rather like being in a 458 or a McLaren 12C: this thing’s swimming in supercar kudos. Yet factor in a pair of seats in the back, just like in a Porsche 911, and you can really start to rationalise the thing.
Particularly as, back at base, the inevitable crowd was pulled. The guy in the Audi A4 even blocked me in with his determination to get a smartphone pic. How much?, he asked, expecting something hyperspace. £100k, I answered. His face said it all. Isn’t that £20k less than even the most basic Porsche 911 Turbo? Yup.
BMW, you’ve done it, alright; passed the supercar snapshot test. Tomorrow, we’re taking it onto our favourite test roads, to see how it compares to the supercars we know and love there, too. Stay tuned for more…