One thing’s certain about the new BMW i8 Coupé: it attracts plenty of attention. Since the futuristic-looking car’s initial release in 2015, the hype has not died down. The plug-in sports hybrid is now available in a Roadster for the first time, alongside a facelifted Coupé version, which TechCentral took out for a spin this week.
The 2018 i8 Coupé is a refresh of the original and features increased battery capacity for the electric motor — up dramatically from 20Ah to 34Ah. This takes the pure electric range from a claimed 30km to 55km on the Coupé (it’s 53km on the Roadster).
The output of the electric motor is 105kW, and combined with the 1.5l turbo-petrol engine’s 170kW, it delivers a maximum 275kW of power. This allows you to go from 0-100km/h in a blistering 4.4s on the Coupé, and 4.6s on the Roadster — with a top speed of 250km/h (electronically governed).
We got to experience this during a “take-off” on a quiet road in Midrand, which was incredible, including the roar of the petrol engine. (Listen to TechCentral editor Duncan McLeod’s child-like excitement in the Cars & Gadgets podcast.)
When you’re not trying to floor it, starting the car and driving off for the first time is, not surprisingly, completely silent, making you wonder if something is wrong. The very first time I switched it on, I switched it off and on again because I couldn’t tell if it was engaged.
Driving in Sport mode is thoroughly enjoyable, but unfortunately got we got stuck in traffic in Midrand during much of our testing. Despite the not-ideal driving conditions, we managed to increase the battery range up from 13km on the partially charged vehicle to around 27km.
The car has a regenerative braking system, which charges the battery as you drive. There are five driving modes, comfort, sport and a hybrid eco mode, and two pure-electric modes, comfort and eco.
The i8 comes with a charging cable that takes up half the tiny boot space, but let’s be honest here, nobody is buying an i8 for the size of the boot. We loaded the boot with one camera bag, which filled it completely, and moved the cable to the backseat.
Not much space
BMW refers to the seating configuration on the Coupé as 2+2 instead of a four seater, and when you get into the car, you can see why. The rear seats are more suited to holding a few items you’d rather not put in the boot, not two additional passengers.
The car comes with a ChargeNow card from BMW South Africa and the company covers all electricity costs when charging the i8 at public charging spots. These include 57 dealerships around the country, with 30 more expected by the end of 2019.
Charging the car on an AC charger from flat to 80% takes about two-and-a-half hours, but if you use any of the five public DC chargers in South Africa, this time drops to about 30 minutes. The DC chargers are located at dealerships in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town.
Additionally, a faster charge is available by using a BMW i Wallbox, available as an extra, which can be installed at a location of your choice — like your garage at home or at the office.
I drove the i8 Roadster in bright e-copper colour a few weeks back and a black Coupé for the podcast, and one thing was noticeable: the bright car got a lot more attention. But perhaps driving it around Melrose Arch would’ve elicited a different reaction than lunchtime traffic in Midrand.
The i8 is a car that is meant to be noticed, and if you’re not buying it in a flashy colour, why bother?
With a R2.1-million price tag for the Coupé (before extras), you’re certainly coughing up the big bucks to be noticed. But the power of the electric motor and petrol engine combined is very satisfying when you put pedal to the metal. Roooooaaaaar! — © 2018 NewsCentral Media