BMW's i brand had the first in its electric assault on Australia’s new vehicle market on display in Sydney yesterday with the preview of the small BMW i3 EV and the i8 plug-in hybrid performance coupe.
While the i3 will no doubt rewrite consumer expectations and acceptance of electric vehicles as day-to-day transport, and provide a top-end push to the technology, it is the i8 which is the jaw-dropper.
BMW Australia boss Phil Horton describes the stunning coupe as a "trailblazer for a new generation of sports car".
Trailblazer it is.
With an exceptionally light carbon-fibre-reinforced passenger cell, an aerodynamically-optimised body and a compact, turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine paired with BMW eDrive technology, the i8 can dispatch the 0-100km/h sprint in just 4.4 seconds.
On full song, that tiny engine produces no less than 170kW and 320Nm of torque driving through the rear wheels.
The extra urge, giving it supercar performance, comes from a 96kW electric motor driving the front wheels.
Together, in this super-lightweight body, there is a combined maximum output of 266kW and 570Nm of torque hitting the tarmac.
A plug-in hybrid, it can be driven on all-electric power alone with a range of 35km and a top speed of 120km/h in full EV mode.
Stylewise, the i8 is delectable. We saw it in Frankfurt last year where the new generation of electric vehicles on display stole the show.
The raking roof disappears into c-pillars that become aerodynamic flying buttresses, with the bodywork and roofline pinched in underneath like a faux boat-tail.
And beautifully trimmed – it will sit as the uber-premium model in the BMW stable – it marries race-car-like raw carbon-fibre surfaces with supple leather and an exquisite interior.
The i8’s green credentials are impeccable.
Besides the low emissions produced when driving, plastics throughout (interior and exterior) use 25 percent recycled or renewable materials and 80 percent of the aluminium used is either recycled or produced with renewable energy.
Seat trims are made of 100 percent recycled polyester (which includes 34 percent from recycled PET bottles) and a type of cotton, called Kenaf, is used for the door panelling and thermal layering.
The green credentials extend to the production of the carbon-fibre body structure which is produced in Moses Lake USA at a plant that is powered entirely by locally-generated hydroelectric power.
So, what price this guilt-free high performance motoring?
Well, BMW is sitting schtum at the moment, but the smart money here at TMR (Smart money? Smart arses, yes, money, no… -Ed) suggests that BMW will be looking at a $300k+ price of entry.
We will know closer to the launch date.
Such gaps in the information does not deter some. We witnessed an order being taken just 45 minutes after the covers came off at the Australian reveal.
If BMW’s intent in pulling the covers off yesterday was to whet the appetites of the press for this astonishing car, well, yes, it can consider them whetted. Dribbling even.
(We will all just have to work harder…)
BMW i8: Technical Details
- ICE: 1.5 litre three-cylinder petrol turbo: 170kW/320Nm
- Electric motor: 96kW/250Nm
- Combined system output: 266kW/570Nm
- Transmission: Six-speed auto to rear wheels/two-speed transmission (electric drive: front wheels)
- Top speed: 250km/h
- Top speed (electric-only): 120km/h
- Acceleration: 0-100km/h: 4.4 seconds.
- Range (electric-only): 35 kilometres (extended by up to 20km in ECO-PRO and ECO-PRO+ modes)
- Maximum range (hybrid mode): 500km+
- Fuel consumption: 2.5 l/100km
- Emissions: 59g/km
- Weight: 1490kg
BMW i Wallbox
3.7kW at 16 amps
1 hour 45 mins
2 hours 30 mins