2017 BMW i8 Review: Bimmer’s Plug-In Pioneer Holds the Line – The Drive

When BMW announced in 2016 that its i Division—which also builds the electric i3 city car in Leipzig, Germany—would shift resources to autonomous cars, it appeared the company was scaling back its electric ambitions. BMW’s Plucinsky said that’s not the case, and that the i8 continues to play a pioneering role.

“(The i8) has been a huge technical tour de force for us,” Plucinsky says. “It’s brought design elements to the market, and new technology to our lineup.”

The i8, he says, has helped spawn plug-in hybrid versions of the 3, 5 and 7 Series sedans, the X5 SUV, and now the Mini Countryman—the latter something of an i8 AWD system in reverse, with its transverse-mounted gas engine in front and electric motor at the rear. BMW is on pace to sell a record 100,000 electrified vehicles around the world in 2017, less than three percent of its total, but still steady growth. Next up are full-EV versions of the Mini in 2019, the X3 in 2020, and the semi-autonomous iNext in 2021.  

I hate to refer to the i8 in the past tense, with the 2018 i8 Roadster on the near horizon. But ultimately (no pun intended), the BMW did was it was intended to do, delivering a solid dose of Ultimate Driving Machine while anticipating the dictates of our sports-car future. Like it or not, that balance of selfish desire with a more sophisticated, long-range sense of social responsibility is rapidly becoming the template for all performance cars.

The BMW’s hybrid sports car successors already include the Porsche 918 Spyder and Acura NSX. But I sense that it won’t be long before virtually every new Ferrari, Porsche, BMW, Audi, or Mercedes uses electricity to go faster, consume slower, and emit less pollution. At that point, even noble holdouts and traditionalists—Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Corvette, even Detroit muscle cars—will be compelled to follow.


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