2014 BMW i8 Preproduction – First Drive


I’m driving between road courses at BMW’s test facility in the South of France. The preproduction i8 is almost silent, a small whine through the front-mounted electric drivetrain can make it into the cabin. The engineers’ attempts at willing the automobile into good behavior are nearly as loud and much more perceptible. Even though the i8 represents a significant technological leap for BMW, I can’t get my first experience with an e36 M3 out of my head. The e30, BMW’s first M3, was a raucous car. The lightweight special was nothing more than a racecar with power windows. The e36 was different. It had been more, faster and bigger showed and advancedis the opposite bookend to the storied M. And to develop new materials, processes and technology that will eventually trickle toward the center of the shelf, although both brands exist not just in offer cars too extreme to be main-stream BMW products. Without a doubt, some of the weight-saving improvements i-Division found need to find a direct and incrediblyLifeDrive, the and sections Life module. The LifeDrive contains the rear gasoline powertrain and the front electric powertrain, both mounted to aluminum sub-frames. The mid-mounted battery pack is contained in another aluminum structure that also functions to connect both the power sub-frames. The Life module is a carbon fiber cell containing the cockpit and gives the main structure of the vehicle.

BMW not merely builds the composite structure, but has gone as far as to regulate the process of making its own carbon fibers. It has partnered with composites firm SGL to build a fresh facility in Washington State to take polyacrilonitrile fibers imported from Japan and convert — by burning them — into carbon fibers. The spools of carbon fiber are sent to Germany, where these are woven into fabric. The material is then cut to shape, placed into molds and turned into structural CFRP (carbon fiber reinforced plastic) panels using an RTM (resin transfer molding) process. The panels are then stuck together using a high-tech adhesive to makethe life module reveals a structure not unlike a conventional unibody made of stamped steel panels welded together. Since composite panels must distribute forces over a greater area to optimize fiber strength, greater overlap is necessary than with steel or aluminum. The front and back sub-frames both are glued and bolted to the Life module. The bolts serve two main purposes. First, is positioning during construction and to avoid peel separation. The adhesive used to hold the two pieces together acts like Velcro. Within the entire surface it’s strong, but it might be pulled apart if attacked at a small corner and worked apart a little at any given time.As the uni-body, like the pillars and roof, are carbon fiber, the body panels, with the exception of the front and rear bumpers, are aluminum. The door panels are built using a carbon fiber structure within bonded aluminum skin. Even though diagonal-wing hinged doors are larger than average, they are half the weight of traditional car doors. That seems to be an important theme from the 3300 lb 2 2. While most car companies pat themselves in the back when planning on taking 12% of the mass out of a component, BMW engineers list part after part that’s tipping the scale to thewith the rear of the i8 is definitely the main power unit. A transverse,228 hp, 1.5 liter, turbocharged, inline-3 cylinder. The engine is mated to your traditional 6-speed automatic. This may ring a bell when we start speaking about the next generation of Mini Cooper. A tiny electric motor is mounted towards the ancillary side of the engine. It’s used as a starter motor, generator to charge the batteries and to supplement engine power when the turbo isn’t producing boost. In the front, a 129 hp motor unit is mated to a 2-speed transmission. The lower gear is only used in full electric mode, while the taller gear is commonly used during mixed power operation. An engineer happened to say the electric motor has a 40 hp reserve that could be used later. The existing output of the electrical motor was chosen to optimize the grip available at the front tires.

The car might be driven in one of three modes. In E-mode, the car runs entirely on the 6. kWh lithium-ion battery and electric motor. BMW claims a range of 22 miles with a top speed of 75 mph. In comfort mode, both power-trains are being used and the battery is able to drop to 20% capacity prior to the gas engine is used for recharging. In comfort mode, BMW is claiming 95 mpg. This is in the European test-cycle and includes the mileage gained from the plug-in hybrid system. In sport mode, both powertrains are constantly used. The generator is utilized to keep battery at 80% capacity as much as possible to optimize performance. The suspension and steering are both tuned for sporty driving and BMW claims a -60 mph time of lower thanOther Stuff

The i8’s interior is nothing shocking if you’ve been in a BMW lately. The seating position is low and my 6-foot-2 self had a good amount of head room. The seats are supportive and the controlsstreak and flash all over the display on a regular basis. So, much information is being displayed that I ignored the whole thing after just a few minutes. I’d reveal to you what I mean, but BMW wouldn’t we will take any pictures of your interior. The rear seats are unusable for anyone but children even though big doors make access easier than in most coupes.

The suspension components for that i8 are sourced from other BMW models. The weight-saving attempts are again obvious as unnecessary material is drilled or machined out. While the suspension components are the same as other cars, the i8 advantages of a lower center of gravity and lower polar moment of inertia. The battery pack is mounted only possible and centralized which is a perfect start, additionally the front and back power units are almost entirely between the axles. The designthe car I drove was still camouflaged, the job that has gone into aerodynamics is obvious. Engineers have spent hours and hours on BMW’s rolling-road wind tunnel to optimize flow. Small intakes in the front bumper pull air in from the high-pressure area next to the main inlet, direct it around a channel in the bumper and blow it out with the edge of the wheel well in front of the tire. Apparently the front wheel wells can are the cause of as much as 25 % of a car’s drag, and others air curtains, as BMW calls them, have made a drastic reduction on that number. Air brought in throughout the front intake is redirected over the top of the car with the hood extractor, and flow over the top of the the rear fender is pulled behind the vehicle with the buttresses running on the C-pillar. Ahead of the rear wheel wells, more intakes are visible behind the rocker panels that feed cooling air towards the engine, while two more intakes inside the car’s flat undercarriage provide more air. One intake cools the rear exhaust silencer. All of this adds up toInside The Driver’s Seat

Pushing the beginning button doesn’t give the shake and rumble I expect from a sports vehicle. Instead the button returns a chime that isn’t nearly as satisfying. But at the very least you know it’s awake. The i8 uses BMW’s joystick gear selector and it seems right in your own home in this car. I started out in comfort mode, and tipping into the throttle seems normal. The car takes off like every other BMW, just without the noise. In most-electric mode, it feels just like a 328 automatic, in a good way.

At lower speeds, you won’t get the gas engine to kick on unless you push the throttle past a clear detent. To tell the truth, driving around in comfort and e-mode, the car felt perfectly adequate. I can imagine commuting without needing to fire in the engine if you reside within roughly 20 miles of work. Around the normal roads of BMW’s test facility, the i8 is comfortable and easy to drive. The steering has good on-center feel using a decent heft. Also comfortable, even though the ride is firm. The car features a planted feel but still is like it wishes tois always running and it also sounds great. It doesn’t sound just the thing for an I-3, it legitimately sounds great. The engineers swear that all it’s doing is amplifying certain frequencies; it isn’t creating anything that isn’t there, though inside the car, you are hearing the engine plus a sound symposer. Whatever it’s doing, it fools you into thinking a race tuned I-6 is sitting behind you. With both gas and electric motivation, the i8 feels quick, if not fast. Keep in mind BMW rates the current M6 at 4.2 second -60 mph and have stated this car will probably be at less than 4.5 seconds.

Off the line, there is certainly zero torque steer. Gear shifts are smooth but quick, and i also can’t say I really missed having a dual-clutch transmission. This power-train feels perfectly normal. So does the brake pedal. Apparently it’s very hard to have a hybrid brake pedal not to feel like you’re pushing by using an air-cylinder for your first part — the regenerative part — in the travel. It isn’t noticeable here. It just feels like a brake pedal that gets progressively stiffer with more applied force.

The greatest surprise could possibly be the handling. As previously mentioned, the weight of the car is low and centralized. Because the center of gravity is low, our bodies barely rolls in corners, even though even in sport mode, the suspension isn’t overly stiff. The auto is eager to turn and is also predictable, with understeer being the 1st reaction at the limit. While driving hard, the steering is still linear and predictable. It isn’t exactly overflowing with feedback, but is what I’ve come to expect from most electrically assisted racks. The i8 rides on relatively narrow tires: my tester was equipped with the optional sport package, which has the wider tires, and it merely has a 215/45-20 up front in comparison to the 195/50-20 on the standard car. It doesn’t help that along with being narrow, the tires can also be optimized for low rolling resistance instead of performance.