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PHOTO CAPTION: BMW i8 electric hybrid sport coupe. Photo: BMW

Auto Week Gets Behind the Wheel of BMW i8 Electric Hybrid

Greg Kable takes the i8 for run around BMW's Miramas test track in France and concludes, 'the production version will live up to its billing as a sports car.'

Published: 04-Jan-2014

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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