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REVIEW
From Edmunds.com
2016 BMW  i8 Picture
PROS
  • Exceptional performance for a hybrid
  • Exceptional fuel economy for a sports car
  • Futuristic design
CONS
  • Futuristic price
  • Can't match the performance of similarly priced non-hybrid sports cars

BMW knows a thing or two about building cars that combine good looks and performance. With the plug-in hybrid 2016 BMW i8, stunning eco-friendly technology has been added to the mix. Able to sprint to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds, the exotic i8 also boasts 15 miles of electric-only range and a total range of 330 miles on combined electric and gasoline power. In other words, the i8 is a great fit for just about any combination of driving demands.

The 2016 BMW i8 is a sporty plug-in hybrid with the sleek shape of a supercar.

The magic happens by way of a turbocharged 1.5-liter inline three-cylinder engine paired with an electric motor and a lithium-ion battery pack. This dynamic team cranks out 357 horsepower and channels it to all four wheels. Despite that formidable output, the car manages to deliver fuel economy approaching 30 mpg. When the time comes, recharging the i8's battery pack can take as little as 1.5 hours.

With its low, sleek body styling and unique scissor-lift doors, the 2016 BMW i8 pretty much guarantees that you'll make grand entrances and departures wherever you go. Inside, the i8 uses recycled materials and naturally treated leather, but the overall vibe is ultra-modern, highlighted by dynamic contours and high-tech gauges. The tiny rear seats, however, are best thought of as additional cargo space, which you'll likely need given the trunk's meager capacity.

If you're looking for other performance cars with green credentials, the Tesla Model S probably comes closest. It's purely electric, though, so you lose the gas-powered flexibility of the BMW; also, the Tesla is a large four-door hatchback, so it's a much different beast from behind the wheel. The Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid is a plug-in hybrid like the i8, and its EV range and fuel-economy numbers are competitive, but again, it's a large four-door hatchback, not a sports car. Ultimately, for the plug-in fan seeking sexy two-door styling as well as sizzling performance and admirable efficiency, the 2016 BMW i8 stands alone.

WHAT'S NEW FOR 2016

For 2016, the BMW i8 gets optional laser lights.

2016 BMW  i8 Picture

TRIMS & EQUIPMENT

The 2016 BMW i8 is a two-door, plug-in hybrid sports car with 2+2 seating. It comes in a single trim level.

Standard features include 20-inch wheels; an adjustable suspension; LED exterior lighting (headlights, foglights, running lights and taillights); automatic headlights and wipers; front and rear parking sensors; a top-view camera system; auto-dimming mirrors; keyless entry and ignition; leather upholstery; six-way power heated front seats; a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel; dual-zone automatic climate control; memory settings; and a head-up display.

The 2016 i8 might have the coolest key fob in the business.

Other standard electronics features include a navigation system, BMW's iDrive electronics interface (with an 8.8-inch central display screen), Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, BMW Assist and Online and an 11-speaker Harman Kardon audio system with a USB port, satellite radio and HD radio. Also included are BMW Apps (smartphone-app integration) and BMW Remote Services (which allows Apple and Android users to lock the car remotely and turn on the climate control, among various other tasks).

There are two optional trim packages available, known as Worlds. Giga World includes turbine-style wheels, upgraded LED headlights and extended and perforated leather upholstery. Tera World throws in some special interior trim, including unique cloth and leather upholstery. Note that the default package is called Mega World; it's included in the base price.

Newly optional for 2016 are BMW's Laserlight headlamps, which are available with all three World packages.

2016 BMW  i8 Picture

INTERIOR & SAFETY

Getting into the i8 requires a bit of choreography once you've swung the scissor door up and away. You'll have to step over a high and wide sill, so the best way to get in is to sit on the sill, swing a leg over, allow your backside to slip into the seat and then follow with the other leg. It's not hard once you master the move, but you'll need to duck under the bottom edge of the door at the same time.

The 2016 i8's dashboard trades traditional BMW styling cues for a festival of futuristic curves and slashes.

Once inside the i8, you'll find a multi-tiered and layered cockpit design that uses recycled materials and naturally treated leather for upholstery and panel surfaces. The power seats offer good support and long-distance comfort, and even taller drivers will have headroom to spare. The center stack is canted toward the driver, putting everything close at hand. The shifter and various mode switches are close by, too, and each selection changes the background color and gauge layout in the main instrument pod.

Despite the "2+2" moniker, this is essentially a two-seater, as those rear seats are tiny with scant headroom, and as such are best considered auxiliary luggage space. You'll need it, too, since the trunk is rated at a paltry 5.4 cubic feet.

The BMW i8 comes standard with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. Also standard are BMW Assist emergency communications (includes automatic crash notification, stolen-vehicle recovery and on-demand roadside assistance) as well as parking sensors and an around-view camera system.

At the Edmunds test track, the i8 came to a stop from 60 mph in 108 feet.

2016 BMW  i8 Picture

PERFORMANCE & HANDLING

The i8 employs a turbocharged 1.5-liter inline three-cylinder engine paired with an electric motor and a 7.1-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. The gas engine drives the rear wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission, while the electric motor powers the front wheels through an integrated two-speed automatic. When working together, the two combine to provide 357 horsepower, 420 pound-feet of torque and all-wheel drive.

Although the 2016 BMW i8 falls short of supercar performance, it's still a very quick car.

During Edmunds testing, a European-spec i8 sprinted from zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, a very quick time that's nonetheless eclipsed by a number of non-hybrid sports cars on the market.

The 2016 i8's battery pack can be fully recharged at home through a standard 120-volt garage outlet in about 3.5 hours. Upgrade to a 240-volt charger (or visit a public "Level 2" charging station) and you can trim that down to about 1.5 hours.

EPA energy-efficiency estimates for the i8 include 15 miles of electric-only range and a combined (city/highway) fuel economy rating of 28 mpg when the gas engine comes into play. Total driving range is estimated at 330 miles. The EPA also rated the i8 at 76 MPGe, factoring in both gas and electric operation.

Around town, the 2016 BMW i8 feels pretty normal. The accelerator is smooth and linear while the brake pedal's action is progressive and natural, without the hardness or "wooden" character of other regenerative braking systems. The hybrid powertrain never feels winded, as the electric motor's instant torque covers nicely for the small turbocharged engine while the latter spools up to make its contribution.

As one of the few production cars with so-called scissor doors, the 2016 i8 excites even before you get in.

You'll also notice the unique sound of the i8 while driving, which is no accident. In EV mode, it's eerily silent except for the keening sound of the electric motor and regenerative brakes. Once the engine comes into play, however, an electronic noise actuator under the rear deck lid performs a duet with specially designed sounds emitted from the stereo's rear speakers (whether it's switched on or not). In some ways, it's the opposite of active noise cancellation, but the result is a cool augmented-reality experience that you won't soon forget.

The i8 also delivers stellar handling thanks to its nearly 50/50 weight distribution, a low, centrally mounted battery pack and dual powertrains that essentially make this plug-in hybrid an all-wheel-drive performance car. The adjustable suspension allows drivers to tailor the car's handling and ride dynamics to their liking. The base setting is only slightly firm in town, but Sport can cross the line into jarring discomfort on sketchy surfaces. Push the car hard in the sort of driving Sport was intended for, however, and this firmer setting comes into its own, absorbing large bumps and small ripples with apparent ease while keeping the car stable around turns.

VERDICT

Offering sports car performance, miserly fuel economy and quick charge times, the 2015 BMW i8 redefines what a hybrid can be.

Copyright Edmunds.com, Inc. All rights reserved. First published on www.edmunds.com and reprinted with permission. Edmunds and the Edmunds.com car logo are registered trademarks of Edmunds.com, Inc.
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