Seat Time: 2015 BMW i8

April 20th, 2015 at 8:00am

BMW i8

Seat Time is a chance for us to share our impressions of vehicles being tested in the Autoline Garage and at media previews from around the globe.

Reviewer: John McElroy
Manufacturer: BMW AG
Make: BMW
Model: i8
Type: Plug-in hybrid sports car
Competitors: Tesla Model S P85D, Porsche Panamera Plug-In
Price: $137,450
Made in: Leipzig, Germany
Drivetrain: Rear: Twin-turbo 1.5 L 3-cyl. Front: 96 kw electric motor
EPA Ratings: Gasoline: 28 mpg combined; Gas + Electric 76 MPGe

Final Impression:

BMW i8 InteriorThis is one of the most beautiful cars I’ve ever seen and one of the weirdest I’ve ever driven. If not for its super-model good looks and rocket science technology, the i8 could win medals for being one of the quirkiest car on the planet.

It starts with getting into the car. You have to duck under the flip-up doors and figure out a way to flop into the seats. The door sill is actually higher than the seats, so the easiest way is to squat down on the sill, then slide backwards and down into the seat at the same time you swivel your legs into place.


If that doesn’t sound very elegant, getting out is even worse. You have to lift your legs up and over the sill, hoist your butt off the seat and onto the sill, and then duck out from under the door. I hope you’re in good shape because most people physically struggle to get out of the car. And I defy you to find a woman who will do this in a skirt.

BMW i8 ControlsOnce you’re inside, the cabin is a wonder to behold. It is one of the most modern looking interiors produced to date, with all the controls clustered around the driver and relatively easy to figure out. BMW did a great job of layering the instrument panel in horizontal tiers, with different controls on different tier levels. And at least two different colors are used to break up the mass and give the IP a thinner, lighter look.

Thanks to its low-slung layout and heavy battery pack, the i8 really hugs the road. Even when cornering hard there is no noticeable body lean and the car encourages you to drive in even deeper. But the trade off is a pitchy ride on bumpy pavement. And while the steering feels precise out on the road, in certain low-speed parking lot maneuvers the return of the wheel is weak.

BMW i8 Rear

Another noticeable difference is the body boom you hear when driving over rough pavement. It’s unique. All cars transmit road noise, but because the i8 is made mainly of carbon fiber, the noise doesn’t ring or resonate as it can in a steel car. Instead, you get a muted boom. It’s not necessarily quieter, just different. And anyone who lives in a gated community and drives through a gate that opens when triggered by an electromagnetic sensor could find that all that plastic means the i8 may not trigger the sensor. Be ready to drive back and forth over the sensor several times until it realizes there’s a car in the driveway.

Acceleration of the i8 is brisk, and you will be stunned to hear how good its 3-cylinder engine sounds, when the engine comes on, that is. This is a plug-in hybrid after all and your first 15 miles or so can be in pure electric mode. But my test car from BMW did not come with a recharging cord, so I never got to plug it in, and never got a good reason from them as to why a cord was not available.

BMW i8 Powertrain

I found this hybrid powertrain an odd choice for a sports car. Several times I found myself accelerating at light throttle, only to have the engine come on strong to recharge the battery, and startle me into thinking the car was about to take off on its own. If I backed out of the throttle, the car would slow down, but not in relationship to the engine’s rpm. To me, sports cars are all about crisp response and I found this to be out of character for a car like this, and especially for a BMW.

BMW i8 AeroEven so, I truly like this car. It’s a showstopper. The exterior design is beautifully sculpted and practically invites you to run your hand over the surfaces, especially where the rear fenders and roof line create a tunnel that directs airflow to the rear of the car. Everybody I showed the car  to just had to touch it. And when a car compels people to reach out and touch it, you know you’re driving something special.

5 Comments to “Seat Time: 2015 BMW i8”

  1. Jonathan Says:

    Awesome insight Mr McElroy!

    As far as getting and out…that alone makes this vehicle only for those with great patience…(not for me)

    I remember many years back digging the c4 corvette but after renting one for a weekend I knew entry and exit was not for me. This seems even worse…

    Thanks for the video action as that said it all.

    Cool car all the same..

  2. Brett Says:

    Perhaps one could bond one of those magnets sold to motorcyclists to trigger such sensors somewhere on the underside of the car.

  3. SD Says:

    There are two ways to get inside a car…. foot first entry, and like Mr. McElroy’s style, butt first. Not sure either way is better than the other with this car.

  4. Mike Ma Says:

    When I see this, I imagine of what Cadillac’s ELR might have been if it featured a turbocharged 2.0L 4-cyl engine driving the front-wheels with a battery powered electric motor for the rear wheels and using the building technique of the CT6; one could imagine like the CT6 Hybrid, a ELR would be fun to drive and get 60-70mpg blended mileage.

  5. Chuck Grenci Says:

    I was going to say (about getting in/out), is it more form over function, but maybe because of the structure and how it is put together, the problem is function ‘over’ function. ;)