BMW's (NASDAQOTH:BAMXF) all-new i8 may look like just an exotic sports car, but it's got one major distinctive feature: Instead of the snarling V8 or V12 engine that you'd expect in a car that looks like this, it has a three-cylinder turbo -- and an electric motor.
Yes, the i8 is a plug-in hybrid -- but it's not at all like most of the other hybrids on the market. With a price tag of $136,000, it's even more expensive than Tesla Motors' acclaimed Model S.
We -- the Fool's John Rosevear and Rex Moore -- recently had the opportunity to spend a few hours test-driving a brand-new 2015 BMW i8, and we captured all of the highlights on video for you.
Our impressions? First and foremost, the i8 delivers on its looks. While it doesn't have exotic-car top speeds (it's electronically limited to a maximum of 155 mph), it has the acceleration and handling you'd expect of a sports car in this price class. BMW claims a 0-60 mph time of 4.2 seconds for the i8; we didn't have access to a track to confirm it, but it felt plausible in our on-road testing. And to our surprise, the little three-cylinder's exhaust note was convincingly sporty -- much more exotic than you'd expect from the little engine's specifications.
Inside, it's as you'd expect from a BMW, with some high-tech twists. The seats are firm and supportive, the steering wheel grippy and well-positioned, and the controls all make sense. As you'll see in the video, the i8's dash and some of its controls are decidedly futuristic. But we didn't find them at all hard to use; the experience of driving the i8 was familiar and comfortable.
A Porsche 911 owner won't be disappointed by either the i8's performance (at least at highway speeds) or its interior trim. And they definitely won't be disappointed by the car's fuel economy: The i8 is EPA-rated at 76 "MPGe," the miles-per-gallon equivalent standard used for plug-in vehicles. In real-world driving, without charging the i8 up beforehand, we think that over 40 miles per gallon is possible, or about double the 911's mileage.
Long story short? It's a good sports car that happens to be a plug-in hybrid. Check out our video to take a closer look at -- and listen to -- BMW's latest twist on the sports-car theme.