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First Drive

First Drive: BMW i8 Coupe

The story:
BMW’s mid-life refresh for its plug-in i8 Coupe brings slightly increased power and range, as well as a new Roadster sibling coming to join this hard-top model.
Category:Upper Medium
Key rival:Audi R8
BMW i8 Coupe
On sale:Now

Somehow, the striking BMW i8 has already been on sale for four years, so the brand has revised its coupe alongside the new Roadster model that’s due to be launched imminently.

BMW has increased the battery cell capacity of its plug-in hybrid model, which means range rises from 23 to 34 miles, as well as a slight performance boost equating to another 12hp. That combines with the unchanged 374hp 1.5-litre engine that sounds and goes like a much bigger powerplant. The BMW i8 can hit 65mph on electric-only power; this rises to 75mph with the ‘e’ button pressed.

BMW i8 Coupe - 2018 - Image 4The interior gets a freshen-up, with the intention of making the switchgear look and feel more premium, while head-up display and LED lights are now standard and there are eight new colour options. On the outside, the only real clues are that the standard alloys have changed, and there are new air vents on the bonnet.

The BMW i8 is still among the biggest head-turners on the road, but the 42g/km emissions figure offers some serious benefits to the running costs over regular petrol-powered sports cars such as the Audi R8. And the BMW i8 is a great-handling, fast and memorable car to drive, with an interior that feels special. Don’t expect to fit any actual people in the tiny rear seats though, and the looks, combined with the upwardly opening dihedral doors, mean there’s no such thing as a low-key arrival.


paul barker

The verdict

Improved range and performance are both welcome, but the car’s biggest selling points are still the stunning styling and the financial benefits offered by the plug-in powertrain.