2013 Frankfurt - BMW i8 plug-in hybrid sports-car makes its global debut

Just over a month back, BMW announced the introduction of its ‘i’ sub-brand by launching the i3 hatchback simultaneously in New York, London and Shanghai. In a relatively-subdued affair at the recently-held Frankfurt Motor Show in Germany, BMW took the wraps off the i8, a stunning, plugin hybrid sports-car that follows the i3 as the second model in the tech-savvy ‘i’ lineup. It looks like BMW is trying to make a point here that ‘green’ cars can actually be ‘fun to drive’ and need not be ‘mundane’ as they are stereotyped today.

Proving that point more than anything else is the styling of the i8. The car looks absolutely smashing and we are sure that the i8 will leave onlookers spellbound when it gets going on public roads. The low-slung front-end looks menacing and the glossy black finish of the kidney grille adds to the appeal. The profile is characterized by the ‘floating’ C-Pillar that stops short of converging with the strong shoulder lines that creep up from the bottom of the doors on either sides. The way in which the C-Pillars flow into the split-spoiler-like structures at the rear is incredible. Together with the matching taillight clusters and the two-tone rear bumper, the i8 makes a strong design statement. With a drag coefficient of just 0.26, the i8 has also got to be one of the most aerodynamic cars on earth.

A 1.5-liter, 3-cylinder, Twin-Power turbo-charged gasoline engine with 231 HP of peak power and 320 Nm of peak torque powers the front wheels of the i8. With almost all of its mainstream models driven by the rear wheels, this decision of BMW to go for front wheel drive configuration in its sports car is weird. As if to make up things, an electric motor that develops 131 HP of power and 250 Nm of torque on its own drives the rear wheels of this car. With both of them working in parallel, the i8 boasts statistics of 362 HP and 570 Nm that’s capable of propelling the car from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.5 seconds and onwards to an electronically-limited top speed of 250 km/h.

Just like the i3 hatchback, the i8 was conceived from the ground up as a plug-in hybrid sports car and, as such, has the attributes of performance and efficiency built into it. The amount of research and development put in by BMW over the years has resulted in the unique ‘Life Drive’ architecture that has been designed exclusively for the ‘i’ sub-brand and consists of two individual modules. The “Life Module” is essentially the passenger cell that’s made of Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic (CFRP), while the “Drive Module” that’s made of aluminium comprises of the combustion engine, the electric motor, the battery pack and the structural and crash components of the car. The interiors are made out of materials as diverse as magnesium and recyclable Poly Ethylene Terephthalate (PET). The choice of materials has been dictated by twin goals of weight reduction and sustainability.

With such a pleasing combination of styling, technology, power, speed, handling and efficiency, there is no reason for the BMW i8 to not succeed globally. As for us, we were already smitten when we saw the prototype of the i8 in action in the Hollywood blockbuster Mission Impossible : Ghost Protocol. Its time for us to get ready to be smitten again, this time in real!

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