The anticipation is over as the all-wheel drive BMW i8 sports car and its full details were released today at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show in Germany. Unique to every other production vehicle the brand built previously, the 4-seater i8 coupe combines performance with the latest plug-in hybrid technology in a package that will be available in the Untied States in the spring of 2014. It carries an MSRP of $135700. BMW is calling it, “the world’s most forward-looking sports car.”
As with the much more compact and urban-commuter based BMW i3, the latest i8 is broken into two main components: the Life module passenger cell and Drive module. The total curb weight is a claimed 3285 lb, which helps the vehicle boast a 94mpg while still reaching 0-62mph in a quick 4.4sec, as claimed by the BMW Group.
Behind the bodywork and aluminum frame is both a BMW TwinPower in-line three-cylinder combustion engine that powers the rear wheels and a hybrid synchronous motor that powers the front wheels. The all-wheel drive hybrid claims a top speed of 155mph (expect a later unrestricted M variant). Even more impressive is the 94mpg and CO2 rating of 59 g/km.
The gasoline four-valve in-line three-cylinder alone generates 231hp and 236 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. The BMW eDrive hybrid synchronous motor produces 131hp and 184 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels through a two-stage automatic transmission. Together the total output equates to 362hp and 420 lb-ft of torque.
For those interested in charge time, it will take 3.5 hours for a full charge if connected to a 110v power outlet but if you spring for the BMW i Charging Station the process takes only 1.5 hours.
Along with torque distribution designed to optimize efficiency is a five-mode Driving Experience Control switch. Comfort mode balances performance and fuel efficiency with unrestricted access to all features. Eco Pro mode promotes optimal mpg and lowers the electrical draw of features like AC, seat heating and heated mirrors. According to BMW, in an everyday driving scenario on a full charge and tank of gas the i8 can travel over 310 miles in Comfort mode.
Eco Pro mode can also be used for the purely electric eDrive setting. If the battery drops below a predetermined level or heavy throttle application occurs, it will switch to the gas engine. Sport mode allows sequential manual gear selection and changes suspension settings accordingly. All functions of the gas and electric motor are optimized. Maximum energy regeneration when braking and deceleration also occurs. Gear change time is also shortened.
The lithium-ion battery pack (liquid-cooled), combustion engine, electric motor, power electronics, chassis components, and structural components all fall within the Drive module. Helping improve performance and stability, the i8 has a low center of gravity of under 18in - lower than any other current BMW model - combined with near 50:50 weight distribution.
Smooth body lines, full LED-headlights, wing-like opening doors and a wide 76.5in stance accentuated by the dual front kidney grilles offer an aggressively futurist stance.
On the subject of light signature unique laser headlights are available as an option where regulations allow – not in US. Laser lighting is monochromatic, which means the beams are near parallel and offer supreme illumination 1000 times greater than conventional LEDS, according to BMW. This type of lighting uses less than half the energy consumption of an LED system.
Standard 20in forged aluminum wheels are optimized for aero and weight savings too. For markets that allow, CFRP three-piece wheels created exclusively for the i8 are also an option for further weight reduction and agility.
Suspension is handled by a double-wishbone front axle and five-link rear axle. Dynamic Damper control allows damping to change electronically depending on the selected driving mode. A variable front-rear power splitting function dependent on driving condition improves cornering further. When entering a turn, the power is biased towards the rear wheels to improve precision. The powertrain controller then returns to the default power split as soon as the steering angle decreases under heavy acceleration out of a corner.
Braking is also electronically monitored and controlled via the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system. DSC includes ABS, Cornering Brake Control, Dynamic Brake Control, Brake Assist, Brake Standby, Start-Off Assistant, Fading Compensation and a Brake Drying function. The push-button traction control system increases DSC thresholds depending on surface grip too.
The Life module passenger cell is made from carbon-fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) which is both light and durable – a main reason for the low curb weight. CFRP is 50 percent lighter than steel and 30 percent lighter than aluminum. The doors, for instance, are made of a CFRP inner structure with an aluminum outer skin and weigh 50 percent less than the conventionally constructed variant. A magnesium instrument panel support weighs 30 percent less than that within a BMW 6 Series too. Foam plastic technology within the AC ducts cuts weight by 60 percent over standard processes and reduces sound pollution. Even the design of the wiring helps decrease weight since the power electronics are directly connected to the electric motor shortening required wire length.
Another interesting feature is the chemically hardened thin glass – the world’s first volume-produced vehicle to use such. It weighs 50 percent less than conventional laminated glass and provides better sound qualities.
If you have not noticed yet, environmentally friendly practices are a main focus of the i Series formation. Most of the aluminum used is procured from recycling or created using a renewable energy source. Olive oil extract tans the leather surfaces of the seats and instrument panel to further the objective of sustainability. The interior accent strips, door trim, roof liner, floor mats, body pillar trim and floor covering are made of textiles derived from recycled materials too.
User-friendly BMW ConnectedDrive and 360 ELECTRIC services keep the driver connected to all aspects of road conditions, media and vehicle performance levels. Through an integrated SIM card, mobile services such as concierge and accident reporting is also possible. All of this is centrally located on vivid displays within the cabin. The fully digital display will show speed and rpm readouts when in Sport mode and a “power meter” in Eco Pro mode. The navigation system then connects to the drivetrain management system to ensure route efficiency and battery longevity if the user were driving in full electric mode, for example. A rearview camera and the Surround View system to PDC sensors along with two cameras in the wing mirrors collect outside data on the fly. That data is then translated to the Control Display from a bird’s eye perspective of the car. If that isn’t enough, a pair of cameras mounted up front helps the Side View system sport cross-traffic early.
Safety is also highlighted through the crash-active aluminum structures in the front and rear vehicle sections, and the rigidity of CFRP used throughout the interior structure. The battery is mounted in a central location under the body. Fail-safes within the high-voltage systems also protect both the vehicle and its occupants.
Visually, the 2014 BMW i8 looks as if it came out of a science fiction film. Incorporating performance with environmentally friendly makeup and high-technology leaves us excited to test this trendsetter on the road. The era of capable hybrid vehicles is here and there is no denying their appeal, especially after seeing releases like this from the BMW Group.
BMW i8 Specs
No. of doors/seats: 2/4
Length/width/height (unladen): 184.6in/76.5in/51in
Weight (unladen): 3285 lb
Air resistance: 0.26 Cd
Engine: BMW TwinPower Turbo in-line-three cylinder, 4 valves, Valvetronic fully-variable valve control, High Precision Direct Gasoline Injection
Output: 231hp, 236 lb-ft
Electric Motor: BMW eDrive hybrid synchronous motor with power electronics, integrated charging module and generator mode for recuperation
Output: 131hp, 184 lb-ft
Total system output (gas and electric): 362hp, 420 lb-ft
Transmission: 6-speed automatic (gas engine) / automatic, two-stage (electric motor)
Tires front/rear: 195/50 R20 / 215/45 R20
Wheels front/rear: 7Jx20” light-alloy / 7.5Jx20” light-alloy
Top speed: 155mph
Electric top speed: 75mph
Electric range: 22 miles
Consumption combined: 94mpg
*All technical data are provisional an based on EU measures