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The eye-catching hybrid supercar was way ahead of its rivals when it launched four years ago, but can it still retain its magic and appeal to the business fleet?
It seems incredible that the BMW i8 hybrid supercar was introduced four years ago, in summer 2014. It's a testament to just how far ahead of its rivals it was that, even now, there's still no other car on the market like it.
One of a kind
Then again, fortune doesn't always favour the brave and BMW has sold just 13,500 i8s during that time. By comparison, Porsche sold over 32,000 911s last year alone. If that seems a surprise when the i8 still boasts traffic-stopping good looks and a huge advance in technology compared with rivals, perhaps it's only now that the market is coming towards the i8 as public acceptance of plug-in hybrids grows.
The go-faster BMW certainly deserves better recognition, that's for sure, though its very nature has meant that it hasn't been without interest from business buyers - half of all i8s sold have been corporate sales. Then again, with 46g/km emissions it has historically enjoyed low BIK rates, although since April that has now jumped from 9 to 13% and will do so again to 16% for 2019-20.
While the idea of a sports car with a 1.5-litre petrol engine might seem a little incongruous, its combination with the 105kW electric motor helps to boost that to the equivalent of 374hp. A minimal 60kg difference between this and its coupe counterpart means it remains swift, too, with a 0-60mph time of 4.6 seconds and 155mph top speed.
On paper, at least, it boasts 134.5mpg average fuel economy, although, as always for a plug-in hybrid, that needs to be taken with a handful of salt. It can run solely on electric mode for up to 34 miles, while an e-drive button can keep it on that mode for as long as possible if desired, too.
Surge of power
On the road, that usual immediate surge of electric power is enough to take your breath away, with the lovely off-beat three-cylinder engine noise joining it when you're pressing on. There's not a huge amount of feedback, however, about what the car is doing beneath you and it perhaps doesn't quite engage the driver in the same manner as, say, a Porsche 911 might.
The refinement levels are excellent though and the roof folds into a Z-shape behind the two front seats. The small rear windscreen has three positions, with a halfway point that BMW's engineers claim keeps any in-cabin turbulence to a minimum, and it works well. Beneath that is a handily box-shaped cubby for soft bags with two helpful clip-up dividers to stop them from sliding around. We'd still like some more storage that's accessible on the move, as there's space for your mobile phone, but not much else. There's a knack to climbing over the wide and high carbon-fibre sills, too.
If you're after a truly involving supercar, then this BMW i8 Roadster possibly isn't for you, but if you want a car that's still enjoyable with a good turn of speed, and one that can turn heads better than rivals twice the price, then it should definitely be on your shopping list. Make no mistake, the BMW i8 Roadster still ensures that the future of supercars is brighter than ever.
BMW i8 Roadster 1.5 PHEV 374hp Auto6 4WD
On sale May
Residual value 34.1%
Fuel consumption 134.5mpg
CO2 (BIK band)46g/km (13%)
BIK 20/40% a month £270/ £540
Boot space 100 litres
Engine size/power1,499cc + 116kWh electric motor/ 374hp