By on February 19, 2018

Image: BMW Group

When it went on sale in the latter part of 2014, BMW’s i8 was something of a sensation, though the enthusiasm had as much to do with the car’s jarring design as its technology. I seem to recall Tom Cruise tooling around Dubai in one, possibly in one of the 87 Mission Impossible films.

Boasting scissor type doors, a plug-in hybrid powertrain, a backseat you’d never want to find yourself in, and a sticker price well north of 100 grand, the i8’s time as a media darling wasn’t long-lived. Like a child’s new toy, interest quickly fell away.

There’s two i8s arriving this spring; one a refreshed coupe, the other offering an al fresco motoring experience, sans backseat. Perhaps more importantly, there’s been an effort to fix a serious deficiency in the i8’s green halo: its incredibly limited electric range. Pricing, now released, shows a considerable markup for the drop-top. Can a double-duty lineup, beefed-up eco credentials, and an extra shot of power gild the i8 once again?

Considering the i8’s status as the electrified i sub-brand’s flagship, Bimmer certainly hopes so.

For 2018, the i8 hits the juice bar, swapping its 7.1 kWh battery pack for an 11.6 kWh unit. The electric motor spinning the front wheels grows in power from 129 horsepower to 143 hp, affording the i8 speeds of up to 60 mph when operating in hybrid mode. Fully electric driving range grows from a paltry 15 miles to 34 miles — making gas-free commuting possible, at least in some cases.

When combined with the turbocharged 1.5-liter inline-three driving the rear wheels, the electric motor brings total system output to 374 hp, up from 357. Torque stands at 420 lb-ft.

Image: BMW Group

One thing not staying put is price, as the i8 Coupe’s MSRP grows from $144,395 after delivery to $148,495. Going topless adds a $16k premium, for an out-the door price of $164,296. Naturally, there’s no shortage of add-ons capable of bumping that sticker even higher. Together, Coupe and Roadster will embark on a charm offensive designed to reverse the model’s sales trajectory.

In its first full year on sale in the U.S., BMW moved 2,264 i8s. Hardly Camry volume, but the i8 is hardly a people’s car. The following year, 2016, saw i8 sales slip to 1,594 units, with 2017 taking volume to new depths. Some 488 buyers took home an i8 last year. In January, 32 Americans said, “I think the i8 is right for me.”

Whether or not the changes coming for 2018 rekindle interest in the model, BMW’s electrified fortunes aren’t dependent on it. With 25 electric or hybrid models in the pipeline, it’s the public’s reaction to i-branded crossovers and sedans that will make or break Bimmer’s product strategy.

[Image: BMW Group]

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18 Comments on “I Think i8 Can: Will a Refresh and Extra Range Give BMW’s Fading Eco Supercar a Boost?...”

  • avatar

    What if it wasn’t a 3-cyl hybrid compliance car, and what if it came with a manual?

  • avatar

    It’s crazy how fast this thing came and went. But who is surprised? $145K for a 1.6L 3 banger? At least make it a V6 and claim it’s “F1 inspired”. The i3 has more cylinders.

    What BMW needs to do is scrap this and make a new one… same engine… half the price. If they can make a $40K 2 cylinder i3 they can make a $60k 3 cylinder i….6s? $20K per cylinder. Make the next i8 a sedan.

  • avatar

    The mistake everyone’s making is calling this a compliance car. It isn’t one. It’s actually damn quick. I think what they were going for here was something like “super high tech / small engine hybrid sports car that runs a little slower than a 911.” Unfortunately, there isn’t much of a market for that (somewhere at Acura, someone on the NSX program is nodding his head).

    So, no, it’s not an eco-mobile, but it (and the NSX) would have probably have been better without the hybrid stuff.

  • avatar

    It’s only an opinion, but to me this vehicle epitomizes the navel gazing the vehicle manufacturers are presently caught up in. They know better than their customers what is needed. And Ford and GM are getting into the mobility game as well. Woo hoo. Hey, wow! Man, that’s advanced tech right there!

    I want a 3 cylinder engine from a MINI plus hybrid supercar said few wealthy people anywhere. But BMW rammed the idea onto the market anyway. Along with a misshapen blob of an I3 ecofreakmobile sporting a 2 cylinder lawnmower engine carrying an almost two whole gallon gas tank as a range extender. A Volt with airs and less ability.

    Oh yeah! I’ll take a couple said the thronging crowds of worshippers. I needs me some serious carbon fiber said an opinion leader, eyes glazed over in rhapsody.

    Which is why they have to give these jokes away. BMW, like Honda, never admits mistakes and prefers to double down instead, like a little kid blushing, hiding a stolen cookie from the jar behind its back and denying all knowledge of the theft to its bemused parents, over and over again.

    The new NSX has this thing beat by a country mile, if you, unlike millions of others lining up to buy a RAV4 or a Rogue with 360 degree camera, pant over the offerings at the cheap end of supercardom.

    The puny marketing brainpower behind this i8 thing astounds me.

  • avatar

    I admire the engineering in the i8 and i3, and I love the styling of the i8, but the “i” division has been a total black hole in terms of profits for BMW. I guess they have to hope it has been a worthwhile “learning” experience in carbon fiber and hybrid developing and manufacturing.

    • 0 avatar

      BMW has over a billion dollars invested in their supply chain (which stretches to Washington state) for carbon fiber parts. I’ve said before that the i program is more about dropping the cost of CFRP parts than about electric propulsion.

      • 0 avatar

        If BMW is developing carbon fiber technology to “save energy” or “reduce emissions”, I wonder how much of the “savings” is lost when their carbon fiber supply chain goes halfway around the world?

        • 0 avatar

          The benefits will come when they can produce CFRP parts in volume for one or more key places in the standard model lineup. Think “high trim X5” and you are headed in the right direction.

  • avatar

    If these ever depreciate a hundred grand or so, I might get one just to stare at it in my driveway – it’s gorgeous. I’m not holding my breath, though. Unfortunately, from what I’ve read, it doesn’t even have enough storage capacity for me to use it to go food shopping.

  • avatar

    The i8 is a lost cause. It gets 28mpg in gasoline mode. The car is designed for an AWD system using a three-cylinder turbocharged engine to power the rear wheels and electric motors to power the front wheels. Batteries sit midship where a transmission tunnel would ordinarily be.

    The i8 needs about 400hp and a sub-3000lb curb weight because it would make many 911 owners pause, especially if the Bimmer was named M1. Unfortunately, BMW can’t get that sort of power from anything that fits in the small transverse engine bay, and stripping the batteries, motors, and cooling would wreck weight distribution. Furthermore, the wheel wells are not designed to fit rear tires than can handle 400hp.

    Totally FUBAR. The only course of action is to leave it in the lineup, and pray for an oil price shock or a giant leap forward in batter technology. BMW has invested too much financial capital and social capital to scrap it.

    BMW i8 is a beautiful car cursed with the sort of rotgut powerplant only an eco-terrorist could love.

  • avatar

    I’ve seen one of these in person – at the local grocery store! – and it is an eye catcher of a car.

  • avatar

    I love that Bmw’s model car. thanks for sharing.

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