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BMW i8

2017 BMW i8 review

It’s sleek and sexy with a touch of badass. The BMW i8 hasn’t changed much since it arrived on U.S. shores in August 2014. Could it stand a few updates? Sure, but the plug-in electric hybrid i8 is still is solid vehicle that’s a lot of fun to drive.

2017 BMW i8 exterior

BMW i8

The exterior of the i8 shares very few characteristics with the rest of the BMW lineup aside from its kidney grille. When it was a brand-new model, it was unique with sides that showed off a wave-like dynamism that makes occupants of the cars you pass look twice. Over the past few years, however, the design has become more mainstream with automakers including Nissan adding high gloss black accents to their cars. Still, the i8 looks good.

The model I received for review from BMW had a number of smudges, fingerprints, and scrapes in the paint, below the clear coat, on the front end and sides. The issues were pointed out to me by the concierge service when it was dropped off. The vehicle wasn’t pre-production. If I had just plunked down over $150,000 for this car and was expected to take delivery of it like that, I would be very unhappy. During my week with the car, it served as an annoyance whenever it would catch my eye.

2017 BMW i8 performance

BMW i8

What the BMW i8 does best is drive. The gasoline powered engine achieves 228 horsepower and 236 lb.-ft. of torque, which combines with the 129 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque you get out of the electric motor to create a driving experience indicative of the i8’s exterior aesthetics. That’s a total output of 357-hp and 420-lb-ft torque for those of you not wanting to do the math.

You’ll hit 80 or 90 mph with the pedal down before you know it thanks to the power of an AC electric motor; 7.1 kWh high voltage lithium-ion battery, and a twin turbo 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine. It can get from zero to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds with buttery smooth acceleration thanks to a six-speed automatic transmission mated to the gasoline engine and a two-speed automatic transmission linked to the electric motor.

The car’s drive dynamics and handling are about what you’d expect from a BMW. In Normal mode, the car easily steers where you want it to go offering an engaging drive with steering that allows a small amount of play in the wheel. Comfort and EcoPro modes do their usual duty but wouldn’t be my first choice for everyday driving situations. The car has automatic start-start engine functionality

I did find that the car got more than its EPA-estimated 14 all-electric miles with regen coming quickly. Its brakes weren’t grabby. The car offers an EPA-estimated 330 miles of range. I plugged in the car each night and during my week of going about my usual activities, I did not exhaust the car’s fuel supply.

2017 BMW i8 interior

BMW i8

The cabin of the BMW i8 is well appointed and designed in line with what you’ll find in other BMW models. Filled with high-end materials including leather and wood, the i8 reeks of sophistication of the German variety. Seats are comfortable for front row occupants while the back two bucket seats are best left for storage or small children.

The i8’s Ingress and egress is abysmal. Remember when Shaq used to brag about fitting into a Buick? I’d pay good money to watch him attempt to get in and out of a BMW i8. A high ledge over the frame means that the best means of getting into the car is a combination sit/slide wherein you hope no one near you is looking. If you have anything in your hands you better place it in the car ahead of time. Egress is just as bad and results in an actual climb out of the seat. Both driver and front seat passenger have the same predicament.

I cannot imagine asking anyone over the age of four to get into the back seat of the i8. Preschoolers would love jumping onto the ledge then hopping in the back seat to buckle in. You could place a baby back there. Your elementary schooler will ask you to bring your SUV or van the next time you pick them up.

The car’s infotainment system is one part screen, one part round controller near the shifter.  They work in tandem to create a user-friendly, intuitive infotainment experience. Climate controls are just as intuitive and easy to use.

2017 BMW i8 cargo

Despite what you’d think from looking at it on the outside, the i8 has a decent cargo area. I got two kids backpacks in there with four bags of groceries. You probably won’t want to take the i8 for your Costco run but making use of the back seat does make larger luggage transport possible.

The biggest disappointment in terms of cargo is that the trunk wouldn’t open with the fob or manually. The only way I could get it to open was by turning on the car and using the button for the trunk located on the interior on the driver’s side. A quick search of online forums reveals that I wasn’t the only one with this problem.

2017 BMW i8 safety

The BMW i8 doesn’t come wading deep in advanced safety features. It’s refreshing. The model is equipped with an anti-theft alarm system, numerous camera views, airbags, and safety belts. The Giga World package adds Park Distance Control, which I found helpful.

2017 BMW i8 pricing

For this review, I drove the 2017 BMW i8, equipped with the Giga World package ($2,000), which adds a number of safety technologies and convenience features. The base MSRP is $143,400. Total MSRP for the test model was $152,695 including a $995 destination and delivery charge.

2017 BMW i8

Exterior
Interior
Infotainment
Performance
Fuel Economy

$152,695

I loved driving the 2017 BMW i8. It was fun for a week. It would make a great weekend car.

2017 BMW i8 final thoughts

The BMW i8 is fun to drive and a beauty to look at. It lacks much of the practicality that would make it a great car. The Giga World package enhances the i8 in ways you would already expect it to be good given its $140,000+ base price. Things like heated front seats, a navigation system, and electric seat adjustment are standard on many vehicles at a quarter of the listed price of the i8.

I loved driving the 2017 BMW i8. It was fun for a week. It would make a great weekend car. But, its price tag either needs to come down or options and all-electric range need a big boost to make it a car I’d recommend. I’d spend the $10,000 more and get an Acura NSX.

The manufacturer provided the vehicle, including insurance and a full tank of fuel, for the purpose of this review. Our opinions are our own.

About Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

Eileen is the writer of the nationally syndicated column Automotive Minute in The Business Journals, which explores the automotive industry focusing on news, reviews, and interviews. She loves finding out about the business strategy, design, and drivability of vehicles. Eileen is a contributor to U.S. News & World Report Best Cars.

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