The 2019 BMW i8 has all the exotic car looks, but not all of the performance. Its hybrid powertrain and turbo-3 combo are more powerful this year and can fling the coupe or roadster to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds. That’s thrilling stuff, but it’s also a tick slower than the M2, which costs one-third as much as the i8 Roadster.
That doesn’t ruin our grin in the i8 anyway. We give it an 8 for performance. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
This year, the i8’s electric motor was upgraded for more power, which bumps up the overall output to 369 hp, up 12 hp from 2017, the last year the i8 was available. The electric motor contributes 141 hp and 184 lb-ft to the overall output, while the small 1.5-liter turbo-3 adds 228 hp and 236 lb-ft.
The electric motor can power the front wheels alone for up to 18 miles, according to the EPA. Planted between the driver and passenger, the electric motor shifts its power through a 2-speed transmission that provides thrust all the way up to the car’s 135 mph top speed. Driven in the most efficient “Max e-Mode,” the i8 accelerates leisurely up to 75 mph in its limited range, although a steep pedal jab past a detent can engage the internal combustion engine for more acceleration.
Once the battery is depleted, the i8 switches to “Comfort” mode, which is its default setting, and the BMW operates like a traditional hybrid. Normally, the i8 accelerates from a stop under electric power alone and switches on its busy turbo-3 when more oomph is necessary.
Opting for “Sport” mode asks for the most from the turbo-3 and electric powertrain combination, although its performance falls short of similarly priced peers from Porsche, Audi, or Mercedes-Benz. Sport mode also uses engine overrun and regenerative braking to replenish the electric battery—it’s possible to recharge the i8 by driving it with zeal, which is a nice perk for our lead feet.
Driven like a sports car, the i8 keeps pace with other sport coupes, although it may get lost behind hot-shoed drivers in 911s, R8s, or GT-Rs.
The i8’s secret is that it’s more of a grand tourer with an advanced powertrain, anyway.
Braking, steering, and the i8’s relatively soft suspension setup, speak to that grand-touring focus anyway, and the car’s lightweight carbon-fiber construction offsets the heavy batteries.
BMW has done a good job with the brutally complicated programming task of managing all the potential combinations of driving conditions, power demand, braking, sensor inputs, and the rest. It may be shuffling power being around the chassis, but the i8 provides pleasantly neutral handling. The electric power steering is precise, and there’s decent (simulated) feedback through the wheel.
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