By Keith Buglewicz
A halo car is one that shines its goodness throughout a brand, and they usually have huge exotic styling, massive performance and huge engines. At first glance, the 2016 BMW i8 looks like that kind of car, but there's a catch: Under its next-next-generation styling, there's a small 3-cylinder engine, an electric motor and a whole lot of batteries. It makes good on the promises of its styling, but in a way that minimizes fuel consumption. Unlike the massive powerplants in the Audi R8 or Mercedes-Benz AMG GT, the BMW i8 uses a lightweight carbon-fiber-and-aluminum structure paired with an electric-and-gasoline combination good for 357 horsepower. With a price of about $140,000, think Porsche Panamera Hybrid, not Toyota Prius or Cadillac ELR.
The 2016 BMW i8 is the perfect car for those who want to flaunt it without ruining the planet at the same time. Its styling is old-school exotic, but its low-impact drivetrain and 100-percent renewable-energy construction make it a 21st- century fashion statement.
While cool and fast, we understand if you need the rumble and roar of a V8, V10 or V12 gasoline engine in your exotic car. In that case, you can get a nice Corvette Z06, Porsche 911 or Audi R8 and spend less doing so.
Optional on the 2016 BMW i8 are laser headlights. Yes, you heard it: laser headlights. No word if they make "Pew! Pew!" noises. Also new is membership to the new BMW Impulse concierge program.
There's nothing quite like the BMW i8. In its E-drive mode, it cruises up to 15 miles solely on electric power, at speeds up to 75 mph. Maybe we're just...
... used to noisy exotics, but the cabin is eerily quiet for a car with this kind of performance; it's perfect for enjoying the excellent harman/kardon audio system. Jam on the throttle and the 3-cylinder turbocharged engine breaks the silence. With a 0-60-mph time of 4.2 seconds the 2016 i8 will impress most critics, but it's not just the numbers but the unrelenting way the i8 delivers its power that is truly breathtaking. As for handling, the i8 delivers the kind of composure and balance befitting its light weight and BMW heritage. We even like the electrically assisted power steering, which is so effortless and responsive we dare say we prefer it over a hydraulic setup. You heard right.
CARBON-FIBER-REINFORCED PLASTIC BODY
The body of the 2016 BMW i8 is a lightweight carbon-composite. It's just as strong as steel but it weighs nearly half as much, giving the i8 a crashworthy and stiff platform that simultaneously offsets the added weight from the battery pack.
UNIQUE ALL-WHEEL-DRIVE SYSTEM
The i8 is all-wheel drive, using a sophisticated system that routes all power to the rear wheels, front wheels, or anywhere in between depending on traction needs.
Despite the outlandish styling, the 2016 BMW i8 is surprisingly familiar inside, using the current BMW aesthetic, albeit in a swoopier manner than we're used to. Many of the materials are reusable, and blue accents and clear contrasts add to the futuristic motif. The front seats are comfortable, but don't offer much in the way of adjustability to help cut down on weight. The rear seats are kids-only, at best. The i ConnectedDrive service uses topography and traffic information to choose the most efficient navigation route, and a smartphone app offers remote control of air conditioning, door locks, and other functions.
The BMW i8 has styling unlike anything else on the road. The front and rear end treatments stretch supercar wide and low, conveying speed and performance. It's further emphasized by stylized LED or laser headlights, and a black translucent V-shaped element that extends back from the grille to the windshield. There is no B-pillar; instead the scissor-type doors open wide to access the low-slung cockpit. But there's a method to the madness. For instance, the hood vent works to promote cooling, while the split-rear wing and front-apron vents aid high-speed stability.
The lightweight 2016 BMW i8 comes loaded. Standard features include navigation, leather-wrapped interior panels and upholstery, high-efficiency LED headlights, a fully digital instrument cluster, rain-sensing windshield wipers, front and rear parking sensors, and adaptive cruise control that maintains a preset distance behind the vehicle ahead. On the safety side, you get six airbags, BMW Assist with 24/7 emergency services, and a carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic passenger cell that could very well survive an anti-tank missile (don't test this, please).
As a low-volume exotic, there aren't a lot of options besides colors. New this year are laser-beam headlights, which are worth the $6,300 price tag just so your inner Dr. Evil can brag about frikkin' lasers. Otherwise there's a full-color head-up display, a 360-degree camera system that provides a bird’s-eye view of the vehicle’s surroundings, and a pre-collision system. High-rollers can also order a set of custom-crafted Louis Vuitton luggage for the door-buster price of just $26,000, or the price of a fully loaded Honda Civic, for those keeping score.
There are two parts to the 2016 BMW i8 drive system. First is the gasoline engine, a 1.5-liter turbocharged 3-cylinder that by itself puts out an impressive 228 horsepower. It's paired with an electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack that, when combined with the gas engine, result in peak power of 357 horsepower. Recharging is quick, too. A standard 110-volt household current can recharge it in only 3.5 hours, while a faster 220v charger can do it in about 1.5 hours.
AC synchronous electric motor/generator
5 kWh lithium-ion battery pack
1.5-liter turbocharged inline-3
357 net horsepower
420 net lb-ft of torque
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 28/29 mpg; 76 mpge combined city/highway
Range with full charge (electric-only): 15 miles
Range with full charge (electric + gasoline): 330 miles
This is an exotic, and it carries an exotic price tag. The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for a 2016 BMW i8 is about $141,700 including the $995 destination charge. Options can add more, so don't be surprised if your dream i8 crosses the $160,000 barrier. Don't expect a lot of dickering at the dealer either, since limited production and a high level of exclusivity mean you can expect to pay full price for your BMW i8. As for alternatives, there are the all-electric Tesla Model S and the Cadillac ELR plug-in hybrid. On the far end, a comparably equipped Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid is $128,000 along with the $120,000 Audi R8 and Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe. Like its electrified rivals, the BMW i8 qualifies for state and federal tax credits. Check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for the i8.