BMW i8 review - ride and handling
Can BMW's performance hybrid deliver conventional sports car thrills?
BMW makes a great deal of noise about the i8’s ecological credentials, so it almost comes as a surprise to learn that it’s genuinely fun and engaging to drive quickly. It has better body control over a cresting, undulating road than any of BMW’s high performance M cars and it feels agile, darty and poised in corners. The hybrid drivetrain also gives it serious straight line performance – enough to keep up with a Porsche 911 Carrera S until 100mph.
Its dynamic weaknesses are the steering, which feels remote and lifeless, and the ultimate lack of grip across the front axle. You’d need to be pushing hard on the road to provoke that understeer, but it’s very prominent on the circuit. Both of those things mean that the i8 falls a little way short of conventional rivals such as the Porsche 911 and Mercedes-AMG GT for outright thrills – but it is better to drive than we imagined it would be.
That being said, we do have issues with the brake pedal feel. The i8 uses regenerative braking to help recharge the batteries. This means that the car switches between its two brake systems during a braking manoeuvre, which gives an inconsistent pedal feel.
In everyday driving, the i8 is refined, it rides comfortably for a car of such performance and there are no histrionics from the complex drivetrain around town. When in electric-only mode it has enough straight-line performance to dismiss most traffic away from the lights, all without making anything more than a distant hum.
‘The i8’s batteries are located low in the chassis and within the wheelbase, which gives it perfect natural balance. It also has better body control over a tricky road than any of BMW’s high-performance M cars. In fact, there is so much untapped potential here that an M version would surely be something very special indeed.
‘As it is, the i8 is let down slightly by its vague steering and low rolling resistance tyres, but that’s only in extreme cornering. For the most part the i8 is a very convincing machine that augers well for the future of the sports car.’ Dan Prosser, road test editor