The 2019 BMW i8 is a sports car for the real world — the world where we don’t all have empty mountain roads to blast along, gas prices keep going up, air quality keeps deteriorating, and we can’t all head to the track on weekends. The i8 looks like the wildest supercar this side of a Lamborghini, and it’s even been in a "Mission: Impossible" movie, "Ghost Protocol," but it’s a plug-in hybrid.
It won’t be sucking down gasoline sitting in traffic jams. It won’t announce its presence with a fanfare of many cylinders and a loud exhaust. Braking energy is converted into kinetic energy. Many of the materials used have been recycled or are recyclable. But the i8 isn’t the typical hybrid holding up a line of vehicles. This is BMW‘s vision of sustainable driving wrapped up in an arguably gorgeous package. And, more to the point, it’s sustainable driving fun.
BMW has taken the same kind of clean-sheet approach to this enthusiast machine as it did with the highly practical i3 hatchback. The i8 is not based on a conventional car platform. Instead, an aluminum tub houses the engine, electric motor, battery, gearbox, suspension components and a few other parts. On top is a body shell made mostly from carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP). This composite material is strong yet light.
The whole car has been designed and built with an emphasis on keeping weight to a minimum. After all, mass blunts performance and hurts fuel efficiency. The i8 can, therefore, make the most of its battery power and, instead of having something like a V8 engine, it deploys a small 3-cylinder unit. Three cylinders in a supercar was previously unheard of, but it’s an indication of how the i8 plays to a different set of rules.
What’s New for 2019?
The BMW i8 Roadster 2-seater convertible is all-new for this model year. Power is increased by 12 horsepower to make 369 hp, and the battery has greater capacity and range. Apple CarPlay smartphone integration is now standard. A new optional aerodynamic kit becomes available. The Tera World package is revised, E-Copper is a new exterior color, and the Giga World package has been discontinued. See the 2019 BMW i8 models for sale near you
What We Like
- Radical approach to construction
- Wild styling
- Great handling
What We Don’t
- There are faster supercars that are heavier
$148,495-$164,295 before any state and/or federal incentives.
The i8 has a mid-mounted, turbocharged 1.5-liter 3-cylinder internal combustion engine that turns the rear wheels. An electric motor under the hood drives the front wheels and runs off a liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery. This setup effectively creates an all-wheel-drive system. The combined output is 369 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. This is linked to a 6-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted shift paddles.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a way of calculating miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe) with electric and plug-in hybrid cars. The agency estimates that both versions of the i8 should achieve 68 MPGe combined (city/highway) when they use the 17 miles of all-electric range. As a regular hybrid, the i8 manages 27 mpg combined.
A DC Fast Charger will replenish the battery in 2.5 hours, while a 240-volt outlet does the job in three hours.
Standard Features & Options
The 2019 BMW i8 comes as a coupe with a 2+2 seating arrangement (the rear seats are small) or as a 2-seater convertible.
The i8 Coupe ($148,495) has 20-in light-alloy wheels, LED headlights with automatic high beams, LED daytime running lights, rain-sensing wipers, selectable driving modes, adaptive dampers, heated/power-folding side mirrors, a self-dimming rearview mirror and driver’s side mirror, keyless entry/start, remote start, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated/6-way power-adjustable front seats, leather upholstery, carbon fiber cabin trim, ambient LED cabin lighting, a garage door opener, a head-up display, navigation with real-time traffic updates, an 8.8-in infotainment touchscreen, front/rear parking sensors, forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking and daytime pedestrian detection, cross-traffic alert, side-view/top-view camera system, speed limit information, Bluetooth, a USB port, Apple CarPlay, voice control, satellite/HD radio, 20 GB audio file storage, and an 11-speaker/280-watt Harmon Kardon audio system.
BMW Assist is also included, bringing roadside assistance and stolen vehicle location. The company offers a warranty of 8 years/100,000 miles on hybrid components.
The i8 Roadster ($164,295) brings the power-operated soft top and a rear window that raises automatically to act as a windbreak. It also has a 12-speaker/360-watt Harmon Kardon audio system.
There aren’t many options, since the i8 is already packed with features. Buyers can choose the Tera World or Tera World Copper cosmetic packages, and there’s also the BMW TurboCord with dual voltage (120/240 volts) charging abilities and an aerodynamic kit. The optional adaptive LED headlights with "Laserlight" are pretty expensive at $6,300, even if they do include lasers.
Golfers won’t be thrilled by the i8 Coupe’s trunk area of 5.44 cu ft, but they could use the small rear seats for extra storage. The i8 Roadster is even less practical with a 4.7-cu ft trunk, but it also has about 3.5 cu ft of extra space behind the seats.
In addition to the mandatory safety equipment, the i8 has airbags for the front occupants’ knees. Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has crash-tested the i8. Don’t let that be a deal-breaker, though. The body is extremely tough, and we can be sure that BMW has run all sorts of collision scenarios.
Behind the Wheel
Open those cool upward-opening scissor doors (in either body style), drop into the sport seats covered in perforated leather, activate the drivetrain and step on the accelerator. The coupe has a 0-to-60 mph time of 4.2 seconds from a standstill, and the convertible is slower by only 0.2 of a second. That’s pretty quick, but not awesomely quick, especially when one considers the lightweight construction.
As we said earlier, though, the i8 is great for the real world, where massive power and fearsome acceleration can only be appreciated on rare occasions. The light body mixed with BMW’s exceptional chassis tuning expertise means an exciting, involving, exhilarating driving experience, even on the most mundane of trips. When the roads become challenging, the trip can be even more thrilling. The i8 has a torque vectoring system that sends power to the wheel or wheels that have the most grip at the time and enhances the car’s cornering abilities.
The big news for this year is the introduction of the Roadster, which has a roof that opens and closes in under 16 seconds at speeds of up to 31 mph. The i8’s strict adherence to weight-saving measures might appear to be in direct opposition to an open-topped car that adds the extra bulk of a powered roof, but 132 extra pounds isn’t so bad.
Other Cars to Consider
2019 Acura NSX — Available solely as a coupe, this is also a hybrid supercar. It’s fabulous to drive, but feels heavy at 3,873 pounds. The i8 Coupe weighs 3,501 pounds.
2019 Tesla Model S — For no-emissions driving fun, the all-electric Model S luxury car offers serious acceleration with a 0-to-60 mph time of 2.4 seconds from a standstill. Many tech features are standard.
If we were seeking a conventional driver’s machine, we’d probably choose a Porsche 911. If you’ve already been there, done that, worn holes in the T-shirt, and now want something different, then the i8 could be an intriguing choice. Find a BMW i8 for sale