It might have made its debut nigh-on five years ago but BMW’s i8 is still as dramatic and arresting today as it was at launch – and is now an excellent used buy. Its swooping, futuristic styling still elicits thoughts that it’s just teleported in from a science fiction movie and if you decide to take the plunge you better get used to lots of attention from passersby.
It’s not just the looks of the BMW i8 that are futuristic though, as its mechanical makeup is similarly forward thinking. For starters the i8’s monocoque is constructed from lightweight carbon-fibre and within its woven structure you’ll find a front-mounted electric motor that develops 129bhp and 184lb ft of torque. This is combined with a rear-mounted 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine with an impressive – for its size – 228bhp and 235lb ft of torque. The combined system output is 357bhp.
WHAT’S IT LIKE INSIDE?
You sit low in the i8 and feel cocooned by a leather clad interior that still feels completely modern. There’s satnav via an 8.8-inch central display and the instrument cluster is fully digital, changing colour depending on the drive mode selected. A head-up display is standard as is more or less everything else – Bluetooth, air conditioning, cruise control, LED headlights, heated seats and electronically adjustable suspension. There weren’t many options to choose from, but the reversing camera is worth having as rearward visibility isn’t the best, while audiophiles might have opted for the Harman Kardon speaker upgrade.
With a low kerb weight of just 1,485kg the i8’s quite a performer with 0-62mph taking just 4.4 seconds, yet its official economy and emissions figures are just as impressive – 134.5mpg and 49g/km. Of course, unless you only do short journeys with a fully charged battery you’re unlikely to come anywhere close to those figures but plenty of owners report 45-50mpg in real world mixed driving conditions, which is still astonishing considering the performance on offer.
DRIVING A BMW i8
The BMW 8 is entertaining to drive, too. It has four main driving modes – Comfort, Eco Pro, Sport and all-electric – and each mode has a different character. Comfort is effectively a full hybrid mode, making use of both the electric motor and petrol engine while Eco Pro ekes out the best possible economy. The alchemy involved in the seamless operation of this complicated powertrain is considerable and the i8 shuffles between its different power sources with nigh-on imperceptible smoothness.
All-electric drive can be saved for driving in urban areas for reduced tailpipe emissions while Sport mode offers the maximum performance from its two power sources. In Sport the engine note is surprisingly urgent as befitting a supercar and while the i8 is ultimately not as involving to drive as, say, a Porsche 911, it’s still a very rewarding steer.
USED BMW i8 PRICE AND RUNNING COSTS
One of the financial considerations to take into account when buying an i8 is that cars registered up to March 31 2017 qualify for zero rate VED (that’s Vehicle Excise Duty, or road tax). Changes to the VED system from April 2017 mean that models registered after this date will cost £455 per year to tax. In either instance, if you venture into London’s congestion charge zone the i8 is exempt from the daily charge.
There aren’t too many downsides to running a BMW i8 although luggage capacity – or lack of it – is one of them. The boot offers just 154 litres of space which is less than in a Volkswagen Up city car, and there’s not a huge amount of stowage space for oddments in the cockpit either. The rear seats are strictly for children or additional luggage carrying capacity. The i8 is also a very low car and thanks to the dihedral door openings getting in and out can be an ungainly affair, especially in car parks if another car has parked close to it.
Some have also complained about the i8’s restricted colour palette – effectively white, black, grey and blue – although in 2016 BMW did release some models in BMW Individual colours. These are quite eye-popping with names such as Java Green, Speed Yellow, Solar Orange and Protonic Red but commanded a £5,495 premium so remain relatively uncommon.
Thanks to the ravages of hefty initial depreciation a used i8 can currently be bagged from around the £45,000 mark, although that’s for a 2014 car with nigh-on 80,000 miles. You’ll have a much greater choice of cars if your budget can stretch to £50,000. When we looked we found a 2015 example in white with 25,000 miles for £49,000, or how about a 2016 example with just 16,000 miles for £50,467? If you fancy a more arresting colour we found a limited edition 2016 Protonic Red model with just 18,000 miles for £55,000 – that’s half what it cost when new.
Given the i8’s complexity you might prefer to buy from a BMW franchised dealership to take advantage of BMW’s Approved Used Warranty for peace of mind. Having said this the i8 has proved to be very reliable with few owners complaining of common problems. When buying try to twist the dealer’s arm and have a second years’ worth of warranty added too. When the warranty expires it can be further extended at a cost of £1,078 which includes BMW Emergency Service cover. If you do buy from outside of the BMW dealer network a BMW warranty can still be added, but it costs a hefty £1,625.
AN EXCLUSIVE CLUB
The i8 is a unique proposition thanks to its jaw-dropping looks, excellent performance and low running costs. Buying one will also make you part of a very exclusive club as BMW has sold just 2,756 i8s in the UK since it was launched in 2014.
Still unconvinced? Put it this way: would you rather have a lightly used i8 parked on your drive or a well specced new BMW 4 Series Coupe? Yes, though so.
Three More Great BMW Used Buys
BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo
Less loved than the normal 3 Series saloon, the Gran Turismo (2013 to 2019) can be viewed as a far more practical proposition thanks to a longer wheelbase that results in better interior accommodation than a BMW 5 Series and a huge boot. Pick of the range for a blend of performance and economy is the 320d.
Search for a BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo on CarGurus
The 2011-2016 BMW M5 features a 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 and can accelerate from 0-62mph in just 4.4 seconds. Yet at the same time it’s wrapped up in a four-door, five-seater saloon package that’s as practical as it is fast. Prices start at around £20,000, which should buy a 2012 model with around 70,000 miles on the clock. Make sure any prospective purchase has a full service history.
Search for a used BMW M5 on CarGurus
The 2001-2006 generation of M3, known as the E46, had a sublime naturally aspirated straight-six engine and has delighted enthusiasts with its responses ever since it was launched. It’s now becoming coveted by aficionados of the marque and today represents a depreciation proof purchase. You’ll need upwards of £7,500 for a high-mileage example, but £15,000 should secure one with lower mileage. A specialist inspection before purchase will help you to bag a good one.
Search for a used BMW M3 on CarGurus
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