A car that has seemingly be in development forever, the BMW i8 will eventually come to market as a plug-in hybrid with a hint of performance. But there were also rumors that the i8 could also get a gas-only drivetrain for serious horsepower enthusiasts. Those plans have been canned, and the BMW i8 will remain a clean performance car…for now.
Plans were long rumored to be in the works for a V8 or V10 gas-powered M variant of the BMW i8. It first burst on the scene in 2009 as the Vision Efficient Dynamics Concept, and it initially debuted as a diesel-powered hybrid supercar. There was still some skepticism that a hybrid supercar could work in today’s market, so the idea of a V8 or V10 version probably soothed some worries.
But those dreams of a V8 or V10 BMW i8 are now gone. Now the BMW i8 has a gas-powered turbocharged three-cylinder working in conjunction with a 129 horsepower electric motor that power the front wheels in all-electric mode for up to 22 miles, or 35 kilometers. The 1.5 liter three-cylinder engine will put around 220 horsepower and 220 ft-lbs of torque to the rear wheels, allowing the i8 to also operate in rear-wheel or all-wheel drive modes. Combined output is a very respectable 349 horsepower. Not as much as a BMW V10 might deliver, but that isn’t the point right now.
There are a few ways to take this news. On one hand, maybe BMW executives think the market for yet another gas-powered supercar is just too saturated for the BMW i8 to make a mark. If you’re a well-heeled car enthusiast, there are literally hundreds of options for cars that cost $100,000 or more, most of them powered by high-dollar gas engine. Keeping the i8 as a plug-in hybrid certainly sets it apart from the other V8 and V10 supercars.
The other way to look at this is that BMW is fully committing to the i sub-brand as its own version of the Toyota Prius. What I mean is that rather than dilute the yet-to-launch i8 with a gas-only drivetrain, BMW is keeping with its original mission to deliver a sexy-looking, low-emissions sports car. With a 0-60 mph time of under 5 seconds and a 160 mph top speed, the BMW i8 is still faster than 95% of the cars on the road. With the i8 operating as the flagship of the new green BMW brand, perhaps BMW is hoping the cultivate an image as a green car leader along with the new i3 city car, which will come in pure electric and plug-in hybrid flavors.
Of course, there is always the notion that new emissions laws will make developing and selling a new V8 or V10 supercar impractical or too costly. Definitely a possibility as well.
With a price tag estimated to be in the $120,000 range, the BMW i8 is still a car that only the wealthiest 1% can even think about owning. What sets it apart from other supercars will be its unique plug-in hybrid drivetrain. But will BMW eventually cave to pressure and deliver a V8 or V10 drivetrain? Maserati is reportedly considering a new turbodiesel V8, and other automakers are looking into fuel-saving technologies that will allow bigger engines to survive harsher emissions laws.
What is your take on this news? Is BMW committing to the i-brand, is the supercar market over-saturated or is Bimmer just trying to build a car that meets new emissions laws?
Source: CAR Magazine