The true measure of a performance vehicle has long been based on three things: displacement, number of cylinders and horsepower. The higher each of those numbers, the more impressive the car. The 16-cylinder Veyron, the famous 12-cylinder Ferraris, the affordable power of American V8 engines… all offer varying degrees of sports-car greatness, not to mention an aural symphony of pleasure.
So a car with a 1.5-liter, 3-cylinder, 223-hp engine seems more appropriate for a developing market, not a world-leading supercar meant to challenge the existing notion of what a performance car should be.
The BMW i8 Concept Spyder uses every futuristic trick and exotic material currently known to man, along with some horsepower-shredding torque, to preview the Bavarians’ vision of the future of supercars.
The i8 Spyder features a perfect 50:50 weight distribution, an impressive feat considering BMW had to deal with the extra weight of the hybrid drivetrain. That was achieved by using lots of lightweight materials like carbon fiber and aluminum. Performance is a supercar-worthy 0-62 time of 5 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph.
The i8 Spyder is a bit smaller than the i8 Coupe concept that debuted last year. It’s a plug-in hybrid that produces a total of 354 horsepower, 223 from the small gas engine and 131 from a 96kW electric motor. The real source of its speed, though, can be attributed to its super-twisty 405 lb-ft of torque. On electricity alone, the i8 Spyder can travel about 19 miles before the gas engine turns on to recharge the batteries. BMW says the system is good for upwards of 78 miles per gallon on the EPA cycle.
In addition, the i8 Spyder’s drivetrain can be front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, depending on whether efficiency, performance or all-weather traction is needed.
Regular readers know that I love my big-displacement power and the roaring sound emanating from the pipes of supercars. I’m leery of cars like the i8. It seems, though, that BMW has figured out how to create a supercar experience combined with the efficiency of a small urban hybrid. If it can figure out the right sound, I could be sold.
BMW i8 Concept Spyder: Stud or dud?