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2020 BMW i8 Review

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author photo by Autotrader February 2020

The 2020 BMW i8, in coupe or convertible form, is the supercar for people seeking something different, yet still with the ability to turn heads and the ability to attack corners. This is BMW's vision of sustainable driving fun, wrapped up in an arguably gorgeous package.

The i8 looks like the wildest supercar this side of a Lamborghini. It's even had a starring role in a "Mission: Impossible" movie ("Ghost Protocol"), but it's a plug-in hybrid. However, the i8 isn't the typical hybrid holding up a line of vehicles.

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 is previously unheard of, but it's another indication of how the i8 plays to a different set of rules.

Nor is the i8 based on a conventional car platform. Instead, an aluminum frame houses components like the engine, electric motor, battery, gearbox and suspension parts. On top of that is a body shell made mostly from carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP). This composite material is strong yet light.

Everything adds up to a sports car for the real world, the world where not all of us have empty mountain roads to blast along, where gas prices keep going up, where air quality keeps deteriorating and where we can't all head for the track at weekends.

It won't be sucking down gasoline while sitting in traffic jams. It won't announce its presence with a fanfare of multiple cylinders and a loud exhaust. Braking energy is converted into kinetic energy. Many of the materials used have been recycled or are recyclable. The i8 is the right supercar for these times.

What's New for 2020?

What used to be 12 months' free subscription for Apple CarPlay smartphone integration is now effectively indefinite. BMW has stretched it to 20 years and heaven knows where technology will be at that point. The optional BMW Laserlight headlights are now Icon Adaptive LED headlights with Laserlight. Prices stay the same as last year. See the 2020 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

How Much?

$148,495 to $164,295. That's before any state and/or federal incentives.

Fuel Economy

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 creates a standard all-wheel drive system.

The combined output is 369 horsepower 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 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 69 MPGe combined (city/highway) when using the 18 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 and Options

The 2020 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, 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, garage door opener, head-up display, navigation with real-time traffic updates, 8.8-in infotainment touchscreen, front/rear parking sensors, forward collision mitigation with automatic emergency braking and daytime pedestrian detection, cross-traffic alert, side-view/top-view camera system, speed limit information, Bluetooth, USB port, Apple CarPlay, voice control, satellite/HD radio, 20GB audio file storage and an 11-speaker/360-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 many features. Buyers may choose the Tera World or Tera World Copper cosmetic packages. There's the BMW TurboCord with dual voltage (120/240 volts) charging abilities, plus an aerodynamic kit. The optional Icon Adaptive LED headlights with "Laserlight" are pretty expensive at $6,300.

Golfers won't be thrilled by the i8 Coupe's trunk area of 5.44 cu ft., although they could use the small rear seats for extra stowage. The i8 Roadster is even less practical with a trunk of 4.7 cu ft. but also has about 3.5 cu ft. of extra space behind the seats.


As well as all the mandatory safety equipment, the i8 has airbags for the front occupants' knees. Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have 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 will hit 60 mph from standstill in 4.2 seconds, and the convertible is slower by only 0.2 of a second. That's pretty quick but not awesomely quick, especially considering 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 on the most mundane of trips, or something even more thrilling when the roads become challenging. The i8 has a torque vectoring system that sends power to the wheel or wheels with the most grip at the time and enhances the car's cornering abilities.

The Roadster's roof opens and closes in under 16 seconds at speeds of up to 31 mph. The i8's strict adherence to weight-saving measures might seem in direct opposition to an open-topped car that has the added bulk of a powered roof, but 132 extra pounds isn't so bad.

Other Cars to Consider

2020 Acura NSX -- Available solely as a coupe, this is also a hybrid supercar. Fabulous to drive but feels heavy at 3,873 pounds. The i8 Coupe weighs 3,501 pounds.

2020 Porsche Taycan -- A brand-new model and the first all-electric Porsche. It's a sedan, not a supercar, but still seriously powerful. Range is around 200 miles.

2021 Tesla Roadster -- Not yet a production car, but Tesla claims a standstill-to-60 mph time of 1.9 seconds, which is insanely fast. The projected starting price of $200,000 is another kind of crazy.

Autotrader's Advice

At this level of expenditure, buyers can choose whatever they like. Find a BMW i8 for sale

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2020 BMW i8 Review - Autotrader