[Update: Price] BMW i8: The Full Skinny on BMW’s Super Green Supercar

The BMW i8 scares me.  I’ll tell you why.  It has all the earmarks of a great, groundbreaking sports car.  With its hybrid eDrive, LifeDrive architecture and carbon fiber reinforced plastic bits, it looks fantastic on paper.  When I drive it, I’ll have very high expectations.  And, whenever I have high expectations, I’m a bit nervous for the reality.  I’ve been bitten before.  But, until my rump settles in behind the 2015 BMW i8 super-green-super-car’s wheel, I will have to trust what I see on paper.  And, what I see on paper is very, very interesting.

Remeber those immortal lines from Fifth Element? “Green?  G-green.  Super green?  Super green…”  That’s what the BMW i brand is all about.  The BMW driving experience, only greener.  Last month BMW introduced the first production i brand car, the i3 to a global audience.  The i8 shares a lot with its i3 sibling, but, where the i3 is a smaller car-about-town, the i8 has the soul of the BMW M division, only much, much greener.

Don’t mistake the plug-in hybrid BMW i8 for the new hybrid hypercars like the McLaren P1, Porsche 918 Spyder or Ferrari LaFerrari.  Think of it as a more practical version of the all-electric Audi R8 e-tron only with a range extending gas engine.  BMW is aiming to redefine the sports car market by selling a car with BMW M3 performance that gets an astonishing 94.1 miles per gallon.  And, according to the performance figures, it may be doing just that.

It all starts with BMW’s LifeDrive architecture.  That is to say an aluminum Drive module mated with a Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) Life Module, just like the i3.  By building the Life Module, which houses the i8’s passengers in a 2+2 layout, out of CFRP it reduces the module’s weight by 50 percent over steel construction and 30 percent over aluminum, while giving better protection and optimizing weight distribution (the BMW i8 has nearly a 50/50 weight distribution).

The Drive Module is the heart and soul of the BMW i8.  It houses the electronics, the battery, all the chassis bits, the mid-mounted 1.5 liter three-cylinder engine — which puts out 231 horse and 236 pound-feet of torque and will power the next-gen MINI — and the front-mounted 131 horse, 250 pound-foot electric motor within a single cell.  Basically, everything that makes the i8 go.

The electric motor puts all of its 131 horses to the front wheels.  Every pound-foot of electric torque of the 184 on tap is available the second you punch the go-pedal.  The electric motor alone can drive the i8 to a maximum speed of 75 mph and reach a max range of 22 miles on the 7.2 kWh battery pack.  A battery pack, which, by the way, can charge in three-hours off of a 110-volt outlet.

Add in the 231 horse gas motor that powers the rear wheels, and you get a 362 horse, 420 pound-feet all-wheel-drive car capable of running from 0-62 mph in 4.5 seconds (0-60 in ~4.3) thanks to a meager weight of 3,285 pounds (only 55 pounds heavier than a Porsche 911 Carrera 4S).  Top speed is electronically capped at 155 mph, just like most other BMWs.

There are more cool bits on BMW i8 other than what you get in the Life and Drive Modules.  The doors are CFRP wearing an aluminum skin.  Some of the wiring is even aluminum to save even more weight.  The air ducts are a plastic foam, the dash panel is magnesium and the 20 inch wheels down to the wheel bolts are aluminum. But, the coolest bit are the windows.  The windows are made from the same ultra-strong, ultra-light Gorilla glass as your smart phone.

The only problem with the BMW i8 is the stereo.  Well, not the stereo itself.  Just the fact that BMW pumps artificial engine noise into the cabin via the speakers.  I hate that.

In any case, BMW lifts the final veils from the i8 in September at the Frankfurt Motor Show.  Anticipate a base price around $120,000 or so.  [Update: Pricing for the BMW i8 starts at $135,925 (including destination and handling) when it arrives in US showrooms in spring of 2014.]  And, the i8 should hit dealers sometime near the end of 2014 as a 2015 model.  If you want the full details on the 2015 BMW i8, check out the technical specifications below.
Technical Specifications:

Price: from $135,925
Performance:
0-60 mph: ~4.3 sec
0-62 mph: 4.5 sec
50-75 mph: 4.5 sec
Top Speed Overall: 155 mph
Top Speed Electric: 75 mph
Efficiency:
Range Overall: 310 miles
Range Electric: 22 miles
MPG: 94.1 miles per gallon
CO2: 59 grams per km
Body:
Number of Doors: 2
Number of Seats: 4
Dimensions: 185 in Long / 76 in Wide / 51 in Tall
Wheelbase: 110 in
Weight: 3285 lbs
Coefficient of Drag 0.26
Drive System:
Internal Combustion Engine:
Number of Cylinders:
Displacement: 1.5 liter
Output: 231 hp
Torque: 320 lb-ft
Electric Motor:
Output: 131 hp
Torque: 250 lb-ft
TOTAL OUTPUT: 362 hp
TOTAL TORQUE: 570 lb-ft
Battery:
Type: Lithium-Ion
kWh: 7.2 kWh
Driving Dynamics:
Drive Concept: AWD (FWD in all electric)
Tires Front: 195/50 R 20
Tires Rear: 215/45 R 20
Wheels Front: 20-inch Alloy
Wheels Rear: 20-inch Alloy
Transmission:
Gas Drive: 6-Speed Automatic
Electric Drive: Automatic 2-Stage

Author: Nick Glasnovich

Founder & Executive Editor of TickTickVroom.com.

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