I think it’s safe to say that BMW surprised alot of people with their unveiling of the i3 and i8, first showcased as the Vision EfficentDynamics concept at the IAA Frankfurt Motor Show in 2009 and since then, the production ready BMW i8 has gone from strength to strength with over 5,400 units sold in 2015 alone. Official figures provided by BMW suggest that with its clever hybrid drivetrain, the i8 boasts an output of 362hp and can also cover close to 22 miles in electric only mode. It also takes BMW’s EfficientDynamics philosophy to a new high, posting emissions of just 59g/km and a combined consumption figure of 113mpg in the process. Now MotorMartin is as cynical as the next person regarding manufacturers’ claimed mpg and emission data but these figures will be particularly impressive if they are achievable by real drivers on real roads, especially when considering the sports leanings of the BMW i8.
Those of you lucky enough to be in the market for a car such as this will be pleased to know that, available for a limited period only, the new special edition BMW i8 Protonic Red Edition puts a new angle on the immediately recognisable BMW i model. The paintwork, created exclusively for this sports car comes in a Protonic Red finish with Frozen Grey metallic accents. The colour scheme is complemented by BMW W-spoke 470 light-alloy wheels painted in Orbit Grey metallic with hubs painted in Aluminium matt and mixed-size tyres (front: 215 R20, rear: 245/40). And in MotorMartin’s opinion, looks absolutely stunning.
BMW have spent just as much time on tweaking the interior as the special edition i8 comes with high-class red double-stitching and exclusive carbon fibre and ceramic trims. The exterior and interior design of the i8 are heavily influenced by its LifeDrive architecture and pioneering BMW eDrive system, however its reinterpretation of established design features ensures it’s still recognisable as a BMW.
According to BMW, the structure of overlapping and interlocking surfaces also contributes to the unmistakable appearance of the BMW i8 Protonic Red Edition. This layering principle allows aerodynamic forms to be wrapped up in a progressively styled package, while powerfully formed wheel arches draw attention to the wide track of the BMW i8. The dihedral doors open forwards and upwards, adding intrigue to the sports car design of the BMW i8. Thanks for that, I hope that’s clear for everyone. What MotorMartin can say is that by spending time looking at the photos accompanying this article you find yourself constantly spotting new forms and shapes amongst the many different surfaces of the BMW and your appreciation grows with every new look.
From the very beginning, the BMW i8 was purposefully-designed as a plug-in-hybrid sports car offering agile performance, near 50:50 weight distribution and outstanding efficiency. The design team would appear to have been given a blank sheet of paper at the beginning as they started with an exceptionally lightweight and aerodynamically optimised body – including a passenger cell made from CFRP. It includes an advanced BMW eDrive drive system technology, a compact, highly turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol engine with BMW TwinPower Turbo technology and intelligent energy management to all come together to create an overall package that, BMW say, represents a new landmark in the EfficientDynamics development strategy.
Rather surprisingly, the original i8 is the first BMW production model to be powered by a three-cylinder petrol engine, really? It may be a humble 1.5-litre engine but that doesn’t mean that BMW have scrimped on the details as this turbocharged unit is equipped with the latest-generation BMW TwinPower Turbo technology with high-precision injectors positioned between the valves, along with VALVETRONIC. This 1.5-litre engine in the BMW i8 develops 231hp and drives the rear wheels, while a maximum torque of 320Nm is available from 3,700rpm.
The car’s second power source is a 96 kW/131hp hybrid synchronous electric motor which sends its power to the front axle. The motor develops 250Nm torque from a standstill as well as providing a power boost to assist the petrol engine during acceleration, the electric motor can also power the vehicle by itself with a range in everyday driving of up to 22 miles and a top speed of 75mph on electric power alone, drawing its energy from a lithium-ion battery. The high-voltage battery has a liquid cooling system, offers a maximum usable capacity of five kilowatt hours and can be recharged from a conventional household power socket, at a BMW i Wallbox or at a public charging station. This is certainly a very well thought out and impressively developed powertrain which, BMW hope, will provide one of the transport solutions for the future.
According to BMW, the combustion engine and electric motor, battery pack, power electronics, chassis components, and structure and crash functions are arranged together in the aluminium Drive module, while the central element of the Life module is the 2+2-seater’s CFRP passenger cell.
The battery unit is positioned low down in a central position, helping to give the car a low centre of gravity and enhance safety accordingly. Indeed, the centre of gravity of the BMW i8 is less than 460mm from the ground, making it lower than any other current BMW Group model. And this, like the car’s almost exact 50:50 weight distribution, ensures excellent handling properties. I think it’s clear to say that the i8 has benefitted from an approach to design that looks at every aspect of the vehicle and how each individual component can be made to work together for maximum effectiveness.
Sharing with MotorMartin, Dr. Ian Robertson, BMW AG Board Member for Sales and Marketing said, “The success of the BMW i8 speaks for itself, it is already the world’s most successful hybrid sports car and has comfortably exceeded our own expectations. I can think of no better illustration of the relevance of our young BMW i brand.”
The BMW i8 Protonic Red Edition will be produced at BMW Plant Leipzig from July onwards and will officially be on sale from September, 2016 priced at £112,535 OTR. Expensive? Certainly, but innovation never comes cheap. We need the first adopters of new technology to bring the price down to the level that is accessible for all. In MotorMartin’s opinion, BMW are to be applauded for looking into the future and allowing us mere mortals a taste. Well done.
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