Electric cars. Since the birth of Tesla, it seems that every brand is hopping on board with their own rendition of the environmentally friendly car. However, BMW did something a bit more exciting with their take on the electric car.
The i8 is has been a controversial car for me to talk about… so let’s just clear the air right here.
I don’t like this car.
I do not, I did not, I will not. It’s just not for me.
However, hundreds and hundreds of members have asked me to do this buyer’s guide and I think it’s time to set my interests aside and deliver you the straight-up facts.
The i8 was released ready-for-market at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show after years of prototype and concept design. The i8 captured attention right away, being a plug-in electric car with butterfly doors and it’s revolutionary laser headlights that reach further and shine brighter & clearer than LED lights.
Being mainly electric, the car only has only a top speed of 155mph in Sport mode and 75mph in Eco mode. The lithium-ion battery that powers the i8 gives it a total driving range of 330 miles, which give or take is what a normal car (like a Honda Civic or Kia Forte would get on a good day).
The i8 is an electric hybrid car, with a tremendous fuel economy at 76 MPG. Mind you even when the electric component is drained and you’re full-on gas-powered, the fuel economy is still pretty good at, 29 MPG. Why am I mentioning this? Well, the only real reason for buying a car like this is because you are deeply concerned about the environment.
The design looks like something that looks like it belongs on the streets of a futuristic utopia. With its large butterfly doors, low angular body, crisply defined lines and squared-off rear portion.
I can see why many would be attracted to it, and with the low dollar that the first gens are going for on the market, it seems like a very sensible hack.
But it really isn’t. Let me tell you why.
First, the exhaust note comes through the freakin speaker.
I know that is a bizarre way to start off this section of the buyer’s guide, but it is true. Since the car is electric with a small gasoline engine, there would be no exhaust if it wasn’t also electronic.
So BMW, wanting to keep their drivers engaged and excited, decided to have three “tones” of exhaust notes be audible both in and out of the car. These different tones are played through a series of os speakers placed around the i8 and vary based on if the car is in Comfort, Sport, or Eco Mode.
The aforementioned modes drive exactly as they are labeled.
Eco Pro- Slow to start and laggy response due to the vehicle being tuned to only produce the lowest possible emissions. This uses mainly the electrical battery life and only switches to gasoline engine when the battery dies.
Comfort- Think of this mode as the one you should be in on your commute to work on a day where you aren’t running 20 minutes late. The electric mode kicks in the stopping and starting at traffic lights, and stays on until a higher speed of about 40 MPH is reached (that’s when the gas-powered motor has to switch over to carry through the demands.)
Sport- Is all motor, but with the added excitement of the electric (zero throttle delay). The suspension loses up a bit from the regular rigidness that you find to be evident in the first two modes. The gear shifting paddles also become usable in this mode, but truthfully, what is so exciting about changing the settings on a vacuum cleaner?
The ride inside the i8 isn’t that pleasant either, the drive is set up in a cramped space, though it does look like you are in the cockpit of a space ship. With the center console basically coming up and encircling the driver, creating a more powerful independent driving experience. The interface is the same iDrive we are used to seeing in all BMW models, complete with the pop-up LCD screen, air and music controls below, Start/Stop button and a PRNDL gear shifter.
The dash screen is pretty cool though as it is fully electronic, showing all gauges and interface through a small LCD screen seated right behind the steering wheel, making visuals crisp and clear.
Though if you are tall, we need to have a talk. Because you aren’t going to be able to fit in the i8. Unless you splurge for the Roadster, but once again… for the price…I can name about 20 better cars.
BMW I8 Common Problems
Strangely enough, the BMW 8 doesn’t really have many common problems. I was joking with my team while writing this, that really the only problems with the i8 is the entire car itself.
If you haven’t gathered my thoughts on the car thus far, let me be clear: I. DO. NOT. LIKE. THIS. CAR.
However, my personal opinions aside, there aren’t too many issues to speak of with the i8. Only a few notable faults to list, just in case you decide to go against my advice and purchase this vacuum cleaner for yourself.
The flaps for front intake are faulty and can come loose, with the potential to fly off while driving at higher speeds.
The charging cable has also had reports of becoming loose and not latching properly into the port.
A few recalls are also out for this car, so I will list them below:
- Air Bags: (Recall # 16V914000)
BMW issued a recall on certain 2016 i8 models. The affected vehicles have seat-mounted side airbag inflator initiators that may fail to ignite during a crash. If the airbag inflator initiator fails to ignite, the seat-mounted airbag will not deploy, increasing the risk of injury.
- Electronic Stability Control: (Recall # 15V882000)
BMW issued a recall on certain model year 2015 i8’s manufactured from 5/29/15 to 6/5/15. Improperly drilled holes within the Dynamic Stability Control unit may restict one or more pistons imparting the DSC functions, which include braking.
- Fuel System, Gasoline: Storage: (Recall #14V674000)
BMW issued a recall on certain model year 2014 i8 vehicle manufactured from 5/16/2014 to 9/16/14. A bolt used to attach a ground cable between the tank and vehicle chassis may not have been properly welded during manufacturing.
- Equipment: Electrical: (Recall # 18V652000)
BMW issued a recall on certain 2019 i8 models. Capacitors within the TurboCord Portable Chargers may fail, possibly resulting in a shock hazard or a fire.
BMW I8 Cost of Ownership/Maintenance
BMW i8’s come with a 4 year/50,000 mile basic/powertrain warranty. Only last year did the i8’s fall out of warranty. But during that time, all maintenance was free for the owners. However, oil changes on these cars, like most BMW’s can be done by non-affiliated BMW shops. But before doing any work to your car, be sure the shop you are using know how to work on the specific model of the i8, with it being all-electric, it’s one big computer and with one glitch comes many after.
The standard cost for an oil change for a BMW should be no more than $120, labor and all. But some of the other parts of the i8 that can get costly to replace after warranty should scare you away from buying one altogether.
If for any reason your battery goes, you will be shelling out around $5,000-$7,000 for one to go into your car. Alternators are also around $1,000, but don’t worry, you will get $100 off if you choose to recycle your old one… LOL.
If you are looking into getting the i8 and the dealer tries to pitch you an extended warranty, disregard it. Though it sounds like a great thing, the amount you will pay for it over the next three years isn’t worth the loss.
BMW I8 Model Year Changes
The i8 was released back in 2014, and until recently hadn’t had any updates made to it. But with 2018 came a facelift to the hybrid doors up flagship car.
It’s “mid-cycle refresh” increased the electric car’s battery capacity from 7.1 to 11.7 kilowatt-hours, improving the all-electric range from 15-18 miles. The motor also received an upgrade, putting out 12 more horsepower, giving it a whopping 141 count, making it’s total combined output 369 horsepower, 7 points up from the first-gen.
The most notable release is the Roadster model, which ditches the backseats and adds a soft top, making the doors frameless with a new opening angle, much like the McLaren 720S Spiders. The Roadster too was also made with all the same dynamics of the coupe, with the same suspension, drivetrain, tune, and steering.
BMW I8 Options
BWM’s are famous for having packaged options rather than single options, more of an ale carte type deal. We see that with the M powers as well. The i8, however, doesn’t have the Executive package of the Competition package. It instead has the World Packages: Giga, Tera, and Pure Impulse. These varying packages go into the type/color of materials used in the car’s interior, wheels, headlights, and more.
Best BMW I8 To Buy
Though, like I have said now, numerous times. I would never buy an i8…. and if I were recommending a car for students of ECH to buy it would be quite literally any other car but this one. But if you are still willing to go against my judgment and advice, then the year you will want to go for is the 2015 model year.
Because the 2014 was a revolutionary car for its time, there are of course going to be first-year bugs that plague the car in that manufacturing time frame. By 2015 those defects should be dead and gone. Also, the 2015’s have depreciated enough with the release of the 2019 models earlier this year, to be a safe hack.
But, truthfully, you are better off owning any other exotic in this price range.
Overall, the I8 is not a car I would ever personally own and not one I would ever consider a hack. I am not a fan of electric cars, the idea of plugging into my car into an outlet every night just rubs me the wrong way. There is zero excitement factor to me when talking about the i8, sure the design is cool and futuristic, but that’s about it. However, this car is the answer to some new-age car fan’s prayers, it is both environmentally friendly and attention-getting. But to me, it still always has been, and always will be… a vacuum cleaner on wheels.