When I was a kid, I used to try and imagine what kind of cars we would drive in the far-flung future year of Two Thousand Fourteen. Would they fly? Would they hit unfathomable speeds with amazing new technology? Would they look just like concept cars? I love the BMW i8 because it delivers on that promise.
The New York Auto Show is the first one I have been to where BMW is actually letting people sit in their new high-performance mid-engined hybrid. While some journalists, especially in Europe, have been lucky enough to drive the prototypes, I have been relegated to ogling it from afar.
Not so anymore. I may not have had the chance to fire up its 362 horsepower electric motor/three-cylinder gas engine combo, I can tell you that the car feels like the future. You know, the future we all imagined as kids when we thought about Two Thousand Fourteen.
Look at it! It's low and wide, with two-tone bodywork, exotic shapes and vertical rear accents that sort of float over the glass. When I see it I can barely believe it's really a production car. I think BMW deserves real credit for keeping the i8's concept-like looks. They didn't water it down, they kept it weird and fantastic and wonderful.
The specs are good too in case you need a refresher. 362 horsepower, 420 pound-feet of torque, a curb weight of just 3,285 pounds thanks in part to the lightweight carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic passenger cell, and zero to 60 mph in under 4.5 seconds. BMW also says the i8 will get 95 miles per gallon on the U.S. cycle, which is incredible if it's true.
Yes, it starts at about $135,000, which definitely isn't cheap. But it takes the same approach used on the Porsche 918 Spyder and McLaren P1 and puts them in a package that is, relative to those cars, vastly less expensive. It strikes me as a good deal for all you get.
On the inside, it's surprisingly... accessible. That's how I like to think of it. As futuristic as the i8 looks on the outside, it seems like a fairly typical modern BMW on the inside. It looks like something you could just get into, turn on, and drive away in.
All the controls seem to be where they ought to be, from the gear selector to the iDrive controller to the steering wheel. Heck, I'll even give it a pass for that "Just put it there, I guess" display screen plastered on the dash, because everything seems pretty intuitive. I like it that much.
I hope I get the chance to drive an i8 soon. In a 2014 where the car market is full of small crossovers and sloping-roof SUV "coupes," it's nice to know someone made a car that feels the way I hoped 2014 would feel.
Photos credit Brian Williams