I closed out 2021 looking at the birth of BMW’s “real” M-car legacy with the M6, since the M1 was pretty much unattainable. It seems fitting to start of 2022 with BMW’s foray into electrification, then. One could argue that the reinvention of the 8-series moniker was a disservice to the original; I disagree. The E31 pioneered a new frontier for BMW, with electronics, a new design language and took BMW to a different market. There is no more fitting designation than the i8 in my mind. The slinky, futuristic coupe utilizes lightweight construction to keep the curb weight down; 3,200 lbs may not sound particularly lightweight, but keep in mind that the BRZ/FR-S twins were lauded for their light design and are only a few hundred pounds less without all of the heavy electric equipment and twin motors. Pushing the very aerodynamic lithe coupe are two motors that run together or separately – a 1.5 liter turbocharged inline-3 paired with a smaller version of the i3’s electric motor. The results of this combination are pretty astounding; a combined 357 horsepower results in 60 miles an hour in 3.8 seconds and a near effortless limited 155 m.p.h. top speed. Couple that with the ability to drive for around 20 miles with no assistance from the gasoline motor and return mid-40 mpgs, and the 911-like performance is truly impressive. No other car has yet come close to the combination of attributes the i8 offers.
When these cars rolled out now bordering on seven years ago, MSRP was thrown to the wind and dealer invoices rang in some $70,000 over sticker, with near $220,000 asking prices. While the i8 and i3 introduced BMW’s electric intentions, their more recent and impending offerings like the i4 are decidedly more mainstream. So for a bit more than the price of a loaded i4 M50, you can get into a much more exciting used i8, like today’s Protonic Blue Metallic example equipped with the Pure Impulse World package:
We’ve been accused of preferring older car designs to new ones. Rightly so, a majority of the cars that we feature are at least 10 years old, with a fair chunk now being over 20 years old. Are we out of touch with the market? Well, certainly that could be said – however, I think if you poll the authors here (and, a majority of our fans), most people just don’t get as excited about a car that you can pop down to the dealership and buy versus one that’s been well traveled, taken care of, and is hard to find in good shape. It’s the same reason why Antiques Roadshow is so popular; anyone can go buy the popular toy of the day and leave it in its original packing – but find a toy from the 1950s or 1960s in its original package and the pricing will probably surprise you. Heck, even my Transformers from when I was a kid are now quite valuable in good shape.
So we’re only interested in old cars? Well, not so fast – there have been several very exciting and pioneering designs over the past few years that helped in transforming the automotive landscape. The Porsche 918 Spyder, for example, redefined supercars along with the LaFerrari and McLaren P1. They’ve looked at hybrid technology not as the death of performance, but as an opportunity to better exploit it. However, all three of these designs are ultra-limited, ultra-exclusive and ultra-expensive cars, leaving mere mortals without hedge funds to dream of owing them only in passing flights of fancy. However, BMW has taken a very different route with its hybrid technology, offering two platforms that are both brilliant and innovative in their own ways. The admittedly less exciting, more practical application is the i3; a small electric city car. The reaction from enthusiasts to the i3 was less than, well…enthusiastic. However, I suggest that BMW’s departure into functional, efficient designs was at least innovative and admirable – this is technology that won’t kill cars, but will in fact allow them to thrive and continue for generations to come. Perhaps, then, the more exciting application of BMW’s efficient design “i” branding will sway you – the lightweight, sporty i8: