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BMW reveals i8 hybrid supercar

True blue: Distinctive blue-rimmed kidney grille will make it to production, but can be delete-optioned.

Design chief promises eye-catching BMW supercar will stay true to concept

1 Aug 2011


THE stunning BMW i8 supercar concept – revealed in Frankfurt last week – is not far away from the 2013 production car, according to chief designer Adrian van Hooydonk.

The design of the i8 concept is bold, with swooping lines, an aggressive stance and tall but extremely narrow wheels. It would be easy to dismiss it as a fanciful concept, but Mr van Hooydonk is confident it will not change much when it goes into production.

“It is not far away,” he said. “What you see is 90 per cent what you will see in production. All the ideas and themes will be there.”

BMW revealed the two-door i8 will be an extreme plug-in hybrid that will be quite a different beast to the more practical i3 five door hatchback it plans to launch at the same time.

The company said the two vehicles will book-end its green car sub-brand range and that there are plenty of numbers in between them for new and different models.

BMW disclosed that the i8, which is expected to cost as much as $300,000, will use both an electric motor and petrol engine to deliver M3-like acceleration by blasting from 0-100km/h in less than five seconds.

All the while, it will be able to deliver an official average consumption of less than 3.0 litres per 100km, though BMW says real-world economy figures of 5.0 to 7.0L/100km are likely when driven hard.

14 center imageThe i8 uses the same electric motor as the i3 city-car – which delivers 125kW of power and 250Nm of torque – but is mounted over the front axle instead of the rear.

This motor drives the front wheels and is assisted by a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine generating 164kW and 300Nm that is mounted at the rear and drives the rear wheels.

Unlike the i3, which has a large rectangular battery pack that forms the floor of the passenger cell, the i8 runs a long and thin rectangular battery pack that sits between the driver and passenger much like a traditional driveshaft tunnel, allowing the seats to sit closer to the road.

While the i3 will have an all-electric range of around 150km, the i8 will have fewer lithium-ion batteries and be able to travel only 35km in electric-only mode, which BMW says will be enough for most city trips.

When the driver wants to accelerate hard, the i8 uses both the electric motor and the petrol powerplant while a third mode enables the electric motor to shut off for Autobahn cruising on the petrol engine alone.

The two-plus-two i8 features an aluminum platform and a carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic body that will help keep the weight pegged below 1500kg.

The interior has a real cockpit feel with the dashboard and centre console designed to wrap around and focus on the driver.

With the exterior shape, BMW designers say they spent a lot of time in the wind-tunnel to ensure the exterior themes they came up with were aerodynamically sound. There are several inlets or gaps in the bodywork that give the i8 a futuristic look and also reduce drag.

The long doors are hinged to the A-pillar, but open up and away from the body.

BMW presented the concept car with 19-inch wheels that are extremely narrow, especially for a supercar. It says customers can expect to see these in production, which will pose a challenge for chassis engineers given the traction restrictions from such a small contact patch.

One design element that will be specific to the i-car range is the blue-ringed kidney grille.

Mr van Hooydonk confirmed that the grille surround, which shares the same blue as the BMW badge, will feature on the production car, but said customers would also be able to choose a regular grille.

The i8 already has one serious fan in Australasia, with a New Zealand customer placing an order for the production car, more than two years before it is expected to go on sale there.

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