This vision of the future cost £115k new. Today? From £37k
What you’re looking at could feasibly be seen as a concept car for the future, yet it’s actually a design that’s six years old. The BMW i8, which in fact has already gone out of production, uses a mixture of lightweight materials, extensive aerodynamics and hybrid technology to create a more ethical sports car that can crack 0-60mph in 4.5sec.
Rather than a large petrol engine as per rivals like the Porsche 911 and Audi R8, the i8 uses a 228bhp 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo, which is mounted behind the cabin and drives the rear wheels. It is joined by a 129bhp electric motor that powers the front axle.
Extensive use of carbonfibre makes the i8 light, so it can go hard all the way to the 155mph limiter. Throw in a surprisingly meaty soundtrack from the three-cylinder engine and the i8 is genuinely exciting to drive. It handles well, too, although the lack of feedback through the steering wheel stops it from being as much fun as its Porsche and Audi contemporaries.
The ride is also firmer than a 911’s or R8’s and there’s a fair bit of road noise, but the i8 counters by being able to run silently on electric power for around 20 miles between charges. Indeed, choose one of the updated cars from 2018 onwards and its range rises to 34 miles. Being a plug-in hybrid, it can run in electric-only mode or with the petrol engine and electric motor working together (or even with the petrol engine acting as a generator to charge the battery) for potentially tiny running costs.
Like the 911, it also has a 2+2 seating layout. However, the two rear seats are tiny and very difficult to access, so don’t expect anybody other than kids to want to use them. The front seats are also fairly difficult to get into because of the car’s low roof, butterfly doors and wide sills, but once you’re in, the i8 feels pretty special, with swooping panels in chrome, leather and high-quality plastics, two large digital screens for the speedo and infotainment, and terrific ambient lighting. There aren’t any differing trim levels, but all i8s have climate control, a DAB radio, sat-nav, head-up display, heated electric front seats and parking sensors. Various options include a driving assistance package with a surround-view camera, keyless entry and an upgraded Harman Kardon sound system.
Prices for early i8s start from £37,000 for a 2015 car with around 50,000 miles on the clock and a full service history. Up the ante to £40,000-£45,000 for more 2015 and 2016 examples with a lower mileage or bought from a franchised dealer. Expect to spend £45,000 to £55,000 on a good 2017 or 2018 car, and about £60,000 to £65,000 on a 2019 or 2020 one. That’s quite a saving given they started at around £115,000 when new.
Need to know Even though the more realistic WLTP fuel economy test pegs the i8 at a combined figure of 128.4mpg, you’re more likely to achieve 40mpg in daily use. There have been four recalls, relating to issues with airbags, steering, a faulty electronic circuit board and a fuel leak. Speak to BMW to find out if your car has had all recall work rectified. It takes about three hours from a domestic socket or two hours from a dedicated BMW wallbox to charge an i8 from flat to 80% capacity. Rapid charging isn’t possible. Make sure the charging cable is present and in good nick before you buy because it’s expensive to replace.
Early models: As much as we like the facelifted cars with greater range, the best-value i8s are the early ones. There are no major differences between the two when it comes to driving. You just end up saving a huge wodge of cash.
Roadster: For the ultimate wind-in-the-hair experience, it has to be the Roadster. These models have the bigger battery pack as standard, so you can waft around town with the roof down in near total silence.
Ones we found
2016 1.5 7.1kWh Coupé, 82,000 miles, £38,999
2017 1.5 7.1kWh Coupé, 19,500 miles, £50,000
2018 1.5 11.6kWh Roadster, 4300 miles, £63,500
2019 1.5 11.6kWh Coupé, 4000 miles, £62,995