BMW i8 set to speed off into the sunset
As the adage goes, all good things must come to an end. That now includes BMW's i8.
The sleek, sophisticated sports car was launched in 2014 and its model life will end in April. Its introduction marked the i8 as BMW's flagship two-door performer, joining the ranks of predecessors such as the 507, M1 and Z8.
Upon its debut, the i8 was unlike anything seen on the road before. Sculptured exterior styling was stunning and cutting edge. Breaking from BMW's norm, the vehicle's set of doors dramatically opened up and away.
More daring design was seen in the sharply creased rear quarter panel, which came up to nearly meet an overhanging C-pillar. Together, they formed a channel to guide air, producing enough downforce to forego any kind of added spoiler.
Black and colored accents around the vehicle further segmented the bodywork, having the i8 appear more star than highway cruiser.
Despite the radical and ravishing looks, the biggest surprise was how docile it was to drive. The i8 wasn't rowdy or roaring. No thundering, massive displacement engine was shoved under the hood -- but rather BMW's first plug-in hybrid system. It included a 3-cylinder, 1.5-liter gas engine and an electric motor.
Initially, this setup offered drivers 22 miles of all-electric range, which was bumped in recent years to 33 miles. After that, you could get another 300 or so miles with the gas engine kicking in, depending on what drive mode you selected.
A battery pack mounted low, coupled with instant electric torque, gave the performance-oriented i8 a tight, road-hugging drive. While it never was enough to push the car to be a serious track star, it certainly made it an agile, head-turning cruiser.
The i8 was the brand's first plug-in hybrid and over its six-year run, the model became the most successful sports car with an electric drive system, boasting more than 20,000 sales.
Besides performance, BMW also placed a large emphasis on using sustainable materials. Leather used on the seats and dash were tanned with an extract of olive tree leaves. Much of the aluminum used in the car's construction was obtained either by recycling or produced it using regenerative energy. It was a new way to think of exotic motoring.
Another big deal when the car launched was its first application of laser headlights, which added to the i8's forward-thinking nature. Besides the stirring name, they're brighter and more intense than LEDs but use less energy.
In 2017, things got even more exciting when BMW released a roadster version of the i8. Several special colors have showed up along the way, leading to a final limited Ultimate Sophisto Edition for 2020. Just 200 of those are being built, each featuring accents finished in a hue called E-Copper, clear taillights and bicolor wheels. It's a fitting tribute to such a tech-charged motoring maverick.
While soon gone from showrooms and skyways, BMW's iconic i8, like the rest of its rolling legends, won't be forgotten anytime soon.
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