Is this the most important car of 2014? Paul Horrell reports from Venice Beach and beyond.
Surely Venice Beach – California’s longtime centre of the humous-fed and the countercultural – shouldn’t go quite so big on a £100,000 German sports car. But by 8am, as the place blinks itself awake, the i8 is already driving people berserk. “Woo, that’s sick, man,” offers an early-rising surfer. “Is it a 2014 or a 2015? It’s a hybrid? Runs on energy an’ all that? Tesla ain’t got s**t on this, man.” OK, he might not be entirely up to speed on the physics of the topic, but round here alternative-propulsion cars are hot, and one that looks like the i8 is hot squared.
Which is all very fine if you commute on a skateboard, but Venice Beach can’t expose whether the i8 passes muster to the Top Gear mindset. We need to be clear of traffic and onlookers. Twenty miles away, the Santa Monica mountains rise from the coast. So I fold myself inelegantly up, scramble over the i8’s high sill, pull down the wing door, strap in and touch the e-drive button. Silently the i8 glides off in the direction of some of California’s best roads. [x]
We’ve seen the concept and if you’ve seen Mission Impossible 4, you’ve seen the coupe. Now, here’s the BMW i8 Spyder:
It’ll be unveiled at this year’s Beijing auto show later this month and is, as you’d imagine, a pretty good sign that Munich’s going to give us a drop-top to join the i8 coupe. For those hard of memory, that’s the 155mph, 100mpg sportster due to land in showrooms come 2014.
BMW has kept the swan doors, which swivel up like the wings of a, umm, swan… They’re retained thanks to the amount of carbon that’s used in the i8’s super-stiff passenger ‘Life’ cell, which is made from carbonfibre reinforced plastic (CFRP).
Underneath, there’s an aluminium chassis with a lithium-ion battery buttered along its length, keeping the centre of gravity nice and low and achieving a 50:50 weight distribution. It’s got the same plug-in powertrain as the coupe, too; a petro-electro melange of 129bhp electric motor driving the front wheels and three-cylinder turbo petrol engine sending 220bhp to the rears (that’s 349bhp in all).
All together, it makes 406lb ft of torque, which gets it from 0-62mph in 5.0 seconds and a tethered top speed of 155mph. And it’s claimed it can do 20 miles of FWD on the battery alone.