The BMW i8 has exotic styling and the performance to back it up … mostly. Acceleration is quick as long as you’ve got the car placed in Sport mode. In our testing, the i8 sprinted from 0 to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds. In the other driving modes, it becomes more ordinary. It’s also worth mentioning that a lot of other performance cars these days are quicker still.
The i8 can seem clumsy in city traffic because of its grabby brakes and noticeable transition from electric to gasoline engine power. It’s just not a particularly smooth car to drive. Out on the open road, the i8 is more fun to drive. The car’s handling limits are easily approachable, even if they are a bit modest.
From the outside, the i8’s sleek styling might make you think it’s a car that will take quite the commitment to put up with. The seats, too, look uncomfortable. But looks can be deceiving since the i8 offers comfortable seating (for two, anyway) and, at least as performance cars go, a reasonably compliant and smooth ride quality.
There’s not much wind noise, but the road noise more than makes up for it. It’s constant, especially on the highway. To drown it out, you’ll have to crank up the sound system. We do like the climate control system. The A/C is strong, and there are plenty of air vents.
The simplicity of the i8’s interior can, at first, be underappreciated. BMW has kept the controls basic, and anyone who has spent any time in a BMW over the past 10 years will immediately be comfortable interacting with the i8. The interior is not as space-age as the exterior, but that’s just fine by us. You can just concentrate on the fun part: driving. The driving position is excellent and caters to a variety of body types. Forward visibility is excellent.
Getting in and out is something you’ll either look forward to or dread. The upward-opening doors are easy to open and close. But getting in requires a bit of a slide down, and climbing out can’t really be done gracefully. But if you just think the doors look cool, it’s probably worth the effort.
No one’s going to accuse the i8 of being overly practical, but it can function as a daily driver thanks to its efficient use of cargo space. Three grocery bags can fit in its 4.7 cubic feet of trunk space. That’s less than what you get from an Audi R8 or Mercedes AMG GT but more than the Acura NSX.
The i8 benefits from having back seats no matter how impractical they might be. They do double duty as an interior storage shelf for larger items such as backpacks and jackets. There’s even a bit of storage in the center console — just don’t expect it to hold more than a phone, charging cables and some sunglasses.
The i8’s older iDrive system might not offer the flash of a newer competitor’s interface, but it certainly gets the job done. Navigation is quick to use and easy to read on the road, and the audio system does a good job of getting loud while maintaining clarity and balance.
The i8 falls short on other fronts, especially in this price range. Android Auto isn’t supported, and even Apple CarPlay requires a subscription after a free one-year trial. The i8 is also lacking in some now nearly ubiquitous driver aids such as adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and high-speed emergency braking. You do get forward collision warning and low-speed emergency braking. Thankfully, both of those systems are not overly sensitive.
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