To anyone who has ever stifled a yawn when the conversation turns to hybrids, the BMW i8 is a wake-up call. This is the second car in the company's new "i" range of low-consumption/low-emissions vehicles, both designed from square one to use alternative fuels. The first is the all-electric, four-seater i3. The i8 is a hybrid with a twist.
Whereas the Toyota Prius is a practical car for families, the i8 adopts a more extreme attitude. It's only a two-seater (well, technically a two-plus-two, but space in the back is severely limited), with scissor doors, like a Lamborghini. Made from lightweight materials like carbon fiber and aluminum, the car can zoom from zero to 60 mph in just under five seconds. That's almost as good as BMW's fire-breathing M3.
That car has a V8. This one has a three-cylinder engine. Although it is backed up by two electric motors, bringing something like 328 horsepower online. BMW reckons the i8 can handle extended periods of high-speed driving - 125 miles at 156 mph. But a driver could go for 435 miles before pulling into a gas station. "The main condition," says BMW, "is a light, slippery (aerodynamic) and efficient vehicle concept." Which the i8 most certainly is.
Both "i" cars are making their official debut at the Frankfurt Auto Show and each have a launch date some time in 2013. The i8 will not be cheap. Some estimates put the price at $157,000. There might also be a limited-edition, non-hybrid version, an i8M, with a turbocharged V8 engine and at least 450 hp. If that happens, it could cost $230,000 or so.
See more coverage of the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show.
|COLIN RYAN has driven hundreds of cars thousands of miles while writing for BBC Top Gear magazine, Popular Mechanics, the Los Angeles Times, European Car, Import Tuner and many other publications, websites, TV shows, etc.|