• BMW i8 will offer all-wheel drive, 6-speed automatic
  • Plug-in hybrid sports car boasts combined 362 horsepower
  • Dimensions suggest wide, low exotic shape

BMW has announced several key details about its upcoming i8 plug-in hybrid sports car. The automaker revealed specs including dimensions and engine information ahead of the i8's debut later this year at the Frankfurt Auto Show.

First previewed in concept form at the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show, the production-ready i8 uses a plug-in hybrid drivetrain that makes a combined 362 horsepower. That figure comes from a 231-hp 1.5-liter 3-cylinder hybrid gas and electric powerplant combined with a 131-hp fully electric motor mounted on the front axle. Combined torque is 420 lb-ft.

According to BMW, all production i8 models will use a 6-speed automatic transmission. The hybrid engine will power the sports car's rear wheels, while the electric motor sends power to the front. That means the i8 will feature standard all-wheel drive.

While BMW hasn't revealed the i8's finalized styling, the automaker did announce the sports car's dimensions. BMW says the i8 will be 184 inches long, which makes it roughly the same length as the new BMW 4 Series coupe. But at 76 inches wide and 50 inches high, the i8 will be considerably wider and lower to the ground than the 4 Series. Expect the low, sleek i8 to take on exotic car dimensions.

Despite the i8's technologically advanced construction, the sports car weighs just 3,200 pounds -- far less than many modern sports cars. That's due to BMW's LifeDrive architecture, which emphasizes lightweight materials. The result is that the i8 can reach 60 miles per hour from a standing stop in around 4.5 seconds, along with a top speed of 155 mph.

The i8 is the second model BMW has released in its new, energy-efficient "i" lineup. The first, dubbed the i3, is a fully electric hatchback that boasts 170 hp and starts around $41,000 with shipping.

What it means to you: The BMW i8 will bring some sporty zest into the tame world of the electric car.

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Doug DeMuro has a wide range of automotive industry experience, from work at a Ferrari dealership to a manager for Porsche North America. A lifelong car enthusiast, Doug's eclectic vehicle purchases include a Porsche 911 Turbo, an E63 AMG wagon, an old Range Rover and a Mercedes Benz G-wagen.

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