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362-hp BMW i8 plug-in speeds closer to production on French test track

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August 8, 2013

BMW showed the latest prototype at a drive event in France

BMW showed the latest prototype at a drive event in France

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Last week BMW revealed the i3, the first car in its "i" brand of sustainable vehicles. While we enjoyed the look at BMW's $42K electric, the reveal really left us wondering when we'll see the sportier i8. As if in answer, BMW held an event at its Miramas test track in France, showing the latest prototype.

Like the production i3, the latest iteration of the i8 loses the glass doors of the concepts that preceded it. The doors continue to swing open toward the sky, however. Given that the rest of the body is cloaked in the usual camouflage, it's difficult to tell exactly what else has changed.

BMW's latest information concerns itself more with technology and performance than looks. The basic underpinnings of the squiggly-camo prototype remain the same as they were the last time we checked in with the i8, but the numbers are tweaked ever so slightly.

The rear-mounted 1.5-liter TwinPower Turbo 3-cylinder engine puts out 231 hp, a slight increase over the 220 hp we had last heard. That engine works through a 6-speed automatic transmission also mounted in the rear. Teaming with the 131-hp front electric unit and its two-stage automatic transmission, the combo offers both all-electric driving, for about 22 miles (35 km), and quick, sporty all-wheel driving. The system puts out up to 420 lb-ft (570 Nm) of torque.

The i8 uses a lightweight aluminum architecture

Previously BMW had said that the engine and electric motors could push the aluminum-chassised, CFRP-bodied i8 to 62 mph (100 km/h) in under five seconds, and now it estimates that its capabilities will be a full half-second under five seconds at 4.5 seconds. It can travel at speeds up to 75 mph (120 km/h) on pure electric power and 155 mph (250 km/h, electronically limited) under pure gasoline power. Like the i3, the i8 has a low center of gravity and near-perfect 50:50 weight ratio. Its curb weight is 3,285 lb (1,490 kg). BMW explains that the car's variable front-rear power splitting creates lively cornering by sending more power to the rear at the start of the corner and returning to the normal split to shoot the car out of the corner.

Like other upcoming sports cars – the Porsche 918 comes to mind – the i8 is a two-sided beast. One side is in the aforementioned sporty driving, and the second is in using its plug-in hybrid technology for a greater purpose. Like the latest performance specs, BMW's latest fuel economy estimate is a little higher than past figures: 95 mpg US (less than 2.5 L/100 km), with CO2 emissions at less than 59 g/km. The lithium-ion battery will take about 3.5 hours to charge from a 120-volt source and 1.5 hours with a 220-volt input.

BMW says that the i8 will become the first mass-produced vehicle outfitted with chemically hardened glass, commonly called Gorilla Glass. More common in smartphone screens, the glass will offer superior acoustic properties while saving weight in the rear window.

We're sure BMW will have plenty more details when it shows the production i8 at next month's Frankfurt Motor Show. The car will go on sale next year.

Source: BMW

About the Author
C.C. Weiss Upon graduating college with a poli sci degree, Chris toiled in the political world for several years. Realizing he was better off making cynical comments from afar than actually getting involved in all that mess, he turned away from matters of government and news to cover the things that really matter: outdoor recreation, cool cars, technology, wild gadgets and all forms of other toys. He's happily following the wisdom of his father who told him that if you find something you love to do, it won't really be work.   All articles by C.C. Weiss
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2 Comments

a flywheel, pneumatic, or hydraulic energy recovery system would cost far less, harvest energy faster, and do less damage to the environment but they are not subsidized.

Slowburn
8th August, 2013 @ 06:27 pm PDT

This arrangement of two powerful & efficient engines will succeed once applied in a SUV.

Imagine a SUV with such power, fuel effficiency and high driving position.

Big Bad John
12th August, 2013 @ 04:15 am PDT
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