The BMW i8 makes no excuses about its next-level styling and technology. Conceived in BMW’s Munich-based skunkworks, we’ve been following the story of BMW’s rolling plug-in hybrid phenomenon for some time now and seeing the results of those efforts (on the street no less) has been satisfying. It was obvious that the hype for the new BMW i8 was mounting back in summer 2014, when the first i8 Concours Edition sold at auction for a staggering $825,000! Since then, deliveries of the standard model have started and one fortunate Florida Panthers hockey player was able to have all of the right elements align to become one of the first people in the country to own a BMW i8.
It isn’t easy to get oneself into BMW i8 ownership. True, the actual MSRP of the i8 is a fairly attainable $136,500, but dealers have reportedly sold them with more than a $100,000 mark-up based on the vehicle’s extremely high demand. While only 1,741 units of the i8 were shipped worldwide last year, BMW was able to ship almost 10 times that for the more commuter-oriented BMW i3. The BMW i8, with its quantum leap in styling and technology, quickly became one of the most anticipated new cars last year and potential customers really had to be lucky to get one parked in their driveway.
This is where NHL hockey player Scottie Upshall had gained a rare opportunity to make his dream a reality. Upshall, a talented forward with the Florida Panthers and the team’s alternate captain, also happens to be a long-time BMW enthusiast. Upshall currently owns a rare BMW model, the Alpina B7, which is a high-performance version of the flagship 7 Series sedan. And considering Upshall has owned a number of impressive BMW models in the past, he decided he had to have the most important car that BMW (or any other OEM) has made in a while.
“I’ve been a BMW enthusiast for over 10 years now and made the decision about a year ago to try to buy the new i8,” Upshall admits. “But I wasn’t on any sort of list and turned to the people at AutoNation to see if they could help.”
Several months passed and a unique opportunity would happen for Upshall when he got a call one summer day.
“It was my contact at AutoNation calling me up saying that I lucked out and they would be able to get one for me closer to the end of the year,” Upshall says. “I immediately agreed to buy the car and we got the process rolling with a store in California and I didn’t even ask what the price was!”
Upshall was directed to BMW of Fremont store located in the Bay Area near San Francisco. BMW of Fremont was set to receive one of the few i8’s in existence, which was initially slated for delivery to another buyer. When the buyer changed his priorities, the i8 was promptly snapped up by Upshall and the BMW of Fremont team got to work on completing the sale.
“BMW of Fremont took really good care of me,” says Upshall. “They really earned high praise with great customer service, the car went direct to me and didn’t sit in their showroom for even a day.”
When the car was delivered at the end of 2014, Upshall was eager to get behind the wheel of his new i8. As events unfolded, Upshall was in the middle of the NHL hockey season but being on the injured reserved list gave him an opportunity to spend time with the car and show it off to the team here at AutoNationDrive.
“I really like the tech aspects of this car and it does everything you expect of it,” says Upshall. “It has way more features than my Alpina B7 with integrated: Spotify, Facebook, Twitter and it also offers Siri so I can communicate easily with the car and get what I need up on the LCD display.”
The futuristic appearance and next generation lighting on the BMW i8 is also a favorite of Upshall.
“The interior lighting of the i8 is fantastic,” Upshall states. “At night you hit the key fob and the way it lights up just looks super cool, it’s like having a dance party inside my car.”
Upshall was also particularly fond of how the i8 sounds. Many Hybrids and plug-in vehicles suffer from a lack of sound and diminished driver engagement — not so with the i8. The engine amplification system with the i8 in ‘Sport Mode’ sounds “not like an M-car but more like a jet airplane” Upshall claims.
Sure we had read many of the same reviews Upshall did about the i8 but we were eager to see how it drove on the real streets of South Florida. Our meeting location was the BB&T Center Arena where his team the Florida Panthers play. After some brief intro spins around the parking lot, it was time to hit local roads in this Bavarian-bred spacecraft.
The attention the BMW i8 commands on the streets is impressive. Sure we’ve driven everything from Bugatti Veyrons to street-legal race cars, but the i8 was certainly high-ranking in its ability to attract attention, especially for a sub-$150,000 car. The low-slung silhouette, along with features like piercing LED headlamps and OLED taillights, make the i8 appear like nothing else on the road. Finished in Sophohsito Grey with Frozen Blue accents, Upshall’s car might blend in a bit at first glance but every single motorist that we passed did a double — if not a triple-take at BMW’s vision of the future. Beyond all of the striking features on this car, it’s the fact that it’s made completely from carbon fiber, including the chassis, a technology that we will see in everyday cars with BMW investing billions to lead the charge.
With 357 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of combined power, the eco-friendly i8 delivers performance when provoked. The gas engine is a tuned-up 1.5L turbo motor spitting out 228 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels, and since the i8 is all-wheel drive the front wheels are powered by an electric motor with 129 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. For the most part, the i8 runs about town using the FWD electric motor for speeds up to 75 MPH resulting in a solid 20-mile electric range. However, when required, the rear wheels kick into gear using gas power and launch this 3,455-pound car to triple digit speeds in an instant.
All the while, the car remains quiet and composed as one would expect any BMW to behave. The familiar design elements inside the cabin, along with the civil ride quality makes you forget what you are actually driving; a next-generation car that truly holds its own when compared to exotics from around the world costing as much as 10 times the price.
“It’s my favorite BMW,” raves Upshall. “All of the technology packed into it, along with the advanced styling and fun driving experience really makes it for me.”
Considering the price, we couldn’t agree more. The i8 is the plug-in hybrid supercar that is going to shape the future of how the world gets around. BMW has positioned the i8 cleverly, so as to have the more affordable i3 as a practical alternative with all kinds of parallel appeal. Both of these cars are rolling design studies that astonishingly a regular buyer can own and operate while both cars integrate elements that BMW buyers will see widespread in the future. Just wait and see.