BMW's i8 gas-electric hybrid coupe is arriving at dealerships this spring with one of the most unconventional powertrains ever offered.
An electric motor drives the front wheels while a three-cylinder gasoline engine spins the rear wheels. The plug-in hybrid's body is constructed from carbon fiber to keep weight down. BMW invited auto writers to France to test drive a prototype. Some first impressions:
"The system net horsepower is 357 hp -- modest by modern standards -- but the coordinated torque of the turbocharged gas engine and e-motor (totaling 420 pounds-feet) accelerates the car like a thrown javelin."
-- Wall Street Journal
"We thought maybe the i8's high-tech driveline and ancillary components would be too complex, too heavy and skewed too much toward efficiency to make it fun. After driving the engineering mule, we're confident the production version will live up to its billing as a sports car."
"From a pure performance-per-dollar perspective, the i8 won't be able to touch a C7 Corvette Stingray or even a Porsche 911. But it will look more exotic than either, it will sport more technology than both put together, and -- if anyone spending $100,000-plus really cares -- it will be more fuel-efficient."
-- Car and Driver
"The side glass is amazing. It's the same stuff as smartphone screens, very thin and light, but strong and actually flexible. There's clever stuff like that all over the i8."