The BMW i8 is quite a looker and what we like most about it is the fact that it is distinctly a BMW car but smart, clean and futuristic to look at. This is a difficult balance to achieve and full credit to BMW for nailing it. At the front is the typical BMW kidney grille but its a nearly closed off, glossy unit that reflects the ethos of non-fossil fuel vehicles. Flanking the grille is a set of sharp looking headlamps and that includes the possibility of adding the optional laser equipped units.
At the front is the typical BMW kidney grille but its a nearly closed off, glossy unit that reflects the ethos of non-fossil fuel vehicles
In typical BMW fashion, there are aggressive wheel arches that accentuate the wide track and sportscar like muscular, powerful stance of the car. We like the idea of BMW going ahead and putting the idea of sustainability and of performance and enjoyable motoring in the same vehicle design. Similarly, the wing-like doors also add a certain cool quotient - BMW calls it 'intrigue' - into the styling package.
The aggressive wheel arches accentuate the wide track and sportscar like muscular, powerful stance of the car
The wing-like doors add a certain cool quotient into the styling package
The design itself is wildly different from the norm. BMW emphasizes their LifeDrive architecture in the design. Life in the name refers to the passenger module while the Drive module has the suspension and powertrain components. The involved surfacing also features a complex level of interaction, intermingling to produce a dramatic shape that clearly identifies the i8 as both unique and futuristic. For example, there is Stream Flow. BMW gives this name to the combination of the strong character line that rises in the door area dramatically to nearly meet the downward slope of the roof behind the passenger cabin. BMW says this detail is part of the extensive aerodynamics of the car - almost totally blanked off kidney grille, air flap control, Air Curtains in the front, sealed underbody, contoured side skirts and the air ducts between the rear lights and roof frame - making it one of the lowest drag coefficients in the production car world. The gap between the rising line and the sloping roof creates a channel for the wind to pass through and meet the rear lip spoiler. It's a cool detail. But the other side of the coin is that first time you look in the outside mirror, you keep thinking something isn't closed. It's more funny than annoying, though.
The strong character line that rises in the door area dramatically to nearly meet the downward slope of the roof behind the passenger cabin is part of the extensive aerodynamics of the car
The layers appear at various places in the car wearing BMW and M colours to great effect. The sporty character is further accentuated by the short overhangs and the way the standard 20-inch wheels fill the arches. The car does look a little odd from the front and the rear angles because the tyres look skinnier than you expect in proportion to the width of the car and its track. However, it seems that's our automotive future, cars with less rubber on the road but ones that can offer the same levels of grip as you expect, more or less.
The car does look a little odd from the front and the rear angles because the tyres look skinnier than you expect in proportion to the width of the car and its track
Another dramatic element that you don't immediately see is the missing B-pillar. The carbon fibre Drive module may be exceptionally light but it as also amazingly strong and this allows BMW to put in these massively long doors without losing any structural strength. This structure also permits the floating C-pillar that forms the sloping roofline.
All told, the i8 has a dramatic effect. Even in a place like LA where off Rodeo Drive we were inundated by passing Ferraris, Lamborghinis and other exotics, people slowed to take a second, third look and sometimes selfies with the car. We almost couldn't pass a Toyota Prius without the driver taking note and giving you a smile or a thumbs up. If the styling had one job to do in this project, we'd say it nailed it.