Auto Week Gets Behind the Wheel of BMW i8 Electric Hybrid
BMW's i8 coupe, the second model from the German automaker's i brand, is scheduled to be on sale here next April. We jumped at the chance to get behind the wheel of a prototype.
The i8's styling has evolved during its four-year development, though the basic shape is the same (a roadster is coming in 2015). There's a lot of carbon fiber and aluminum to offset the heavy driveline. Suspension is double wishbones up front and five-link rear—the latter is mounted directly to the aluminum subframe that supports the combustion engine and the rear electric motor.
A turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder gasoline engine (228 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque) provides primary propulsion, driving the rear wheels via a six-speed automatic gearbox. The front electric motor (129 hp and 184 lb-ft) is mounted in the front axle assembly and drives the front wheels through a two-speed automatic gearbox. A smaller rear electric motor (13 hp and 81 lb-ft) provides additional drive to the rear wheels but mostly acts as a generator to top off the battery and as an alternator to collect kinetic energy during braking and trailing throttle. BMW quotes a combined 357 hp and a 420 lb-ft combined torque peak. The car can be recharged in two hours on high voltage.
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