The how and the what: An old friend of mine is an engineer at BMW R&D. He gets to drive to the Artic Circle and the South of France to test vehicles and the like. He called me out of the blue asking what I was doing and if I wanted to take a ride in an I8. Of course I said yes. As it happened to be my birthday, there was no way that he could keep me from even giving it a try myself.
The car is a pre-production test car which they are testing a new software update for the drivetrain on. (Or so I was told.) If you squint a little, you might be able to see that it says "Werkstestwagen" (factory test vehicle) on the back. I have to apologize for the blurry pictures, it was raining like hell, which will play a bigger role further on in this review.
As a pre-production car, it had some weird, loose wires on the inside, a plug on the outside for their diagnostics stuff and so on. It even had a cut-off switch from some piece of heavy machinery with a label saying "DSC Emergency Cut-Off" taped to the dash. I found that to be a little disconcerting, but he just said "Well, when we start out earlier in the development of a vehicle, we have like ten of these on the dash." So I am not reviewing the finished product, just the car that I was in. Keep that in mind.
Styling: You have to either like or hate the car. I like it. And it looks really nice in this colour. It hides the "giving birth to a 911" thing quite well, too. It had the black leather interiour with the brushed alloy dash inserts, which look nice but aren't much to write home about. If you've driven any new-ish BMW from the E60 up you will feel quite at home.
Handling and Powwaaaarrrrr: Dat instant punch! While in all-electric mode the car is downright slow, (My old Accord could probably outrun it.) the electric motor delivers enough of an initial punch to bridge any turbo lag or hesitation from the 1.5 three-pot whatsoever. You step on the gas and all hell breaks loose instantaneously. I have never experienced anything remotely close to that. There also is no way of telling which engine is doing what and when. You just hit it and the car aims for the horizon like there is no tomorrow.
The steering is nice. There I said it. It's electronic, it's modern, it does what it has to do.
I left the "throw it into the twisties" thing to my pal, as it was raining cats and dogs, and I didn't want to be THAT GUY who ruins everything, but from my own experience and from sitting in the passenger seat when he went ballistic, I have to say that this thing handles really well. It feels planted onto the road while taking up steering inputs quickly. It's just a blast to drive!
The body feels completely stiff with no twisting or movement of any kind at all, which obviously helps making it a BLAST TO DRIVE.
Some Impressions: Getting in and out isn't too easy. It's not a car for the elderly, but who cares that the sills are high and wide? Once you are in, it's a fantastic bit of kit.
The butterfly doors can be annoying in cramped parking spaces, but hey, it's an effing supercar!
I still have one axe to grind with it though! That artificial engine sound thingy! I know that BMW got a lot of flak for doing that with their M-cars, but please keep in mind that Audi, Merc, and all the others are doing it as well. Even the Megane RS, the favourite hot-hatch of all internet-'muricans, who love to complain about the fact that they can't get one stateside has artificial engine noise boosted into the cabin.
To be fair, he didn't know which version of the software was installed, so a customer car might sound completely different. This version though was too loud. Period.
A 1.5 three-pot probably doesn't sound like much, and giving it some aural viagra is fine by me, but this car sounded like a mix of a Porsche flat-six and a V8. Yep, a mix. Add in the knowledge that it is completely artificial anyway and it just sounds wrong. It's o.k.-ish when you are driving, it adds to the overall sensation, and helps with the feeling of driving an actual supercar. When you are in the passenger seat it's just annoying.
It's like the last N.E.R.D. album. Perfect when you first listen to it, but once you learn that it's all synthesizers and no actual drumstrings being pulled and no guitarhides being hit it just doesn't feel the same anymore.
I'd rather have some turbo spool and waste gate whistle, which the engine does nicely once you remove the cover and let it rip while stationary.
Edit: I was informed that the noise comes from microphones in the engine bay, not some computer chip. This might explain why I couldn't quite say what it was. High performance 3-pots are a thing we will have a learning curve with. Still no turbo noises and too much volume for my liking though.
The final Verdict: If this is the future of motoring, there is nothing to fear! The acceleration is just brutal, and you get 5-6 liters per 100 kms (around 40 mpg) maybe 7 with a mad man at the helm, but that's it. Saving the environment while zapping through the countryside at the speed of light? Cool!
Just fix that damn engine noise thingy! Apart from that, does anyone have a spare €125K to lend me? Yeah, it's that good! If I had the money, I'd be queueing up right now.