Exotic cars: defined loosely as low-slung sports cars with stunningly good looks, outlandish styling that makes it highly recognizable, with breathtaking performance on the tarmac. So, with this in mind, the question of whether the BMW i8 is a true exotic car begs to be answered.
Originally launched in the USA in 2014, the i8 Coupe debuted as the plug-in hybrid sports car in the lineup of BMW models, and a Roadster version was released to the market in 2018. Despite its popularity, it would seem the novelty has worn off a little, and production ended in 2020. A special limited Ultimate Sophisto edition, of which there were only 200 vehicles made globally, was used to mark the end of the road for the Bimmer. With its sci-fi-like styling and futuristic tech, is this enough to label it as a genuine member of the exotic hypercar fraternity?
The i8’s design was quite groundbreaking six or seven years ago when it was a new release, sitting low to the ground and boasting butterfly doors and magnificent lines that were beautifully highlighted with two-tone paintwork. The chassis comprises generous use of carbon fiber and lightweight aluminum to keep curb weight low, which is quite typical in the segment at around 3,500 pounds. It stands at only 50.8 inches in height and has a wide, assertive stance that hints at what is under the hood. It also features a gorgeous cabin with seats in a 2+2 configuration. It certainly looks the part, and is lovely to behold, even in 2021.
With power outputs of 369 horsepower and 420 lb-ft, the i8’s engine is a turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder unit paired to an electric motor, which is quite contrary to the traditional sports cars of yore. With power channeled to all four wheels, it can manage to do the 0-60 mph sprint in just over four seconds. While this is impressive, in comparison to a Porsche 911 Carrera, the Porker is quicker off the line, and costs a lot less. But, if we’re talking other mid-engined exotics from the likes of Lamborghini, McLaren, or Ferrari, the i8 can’t really compete with their sprint times or output figures.
Wanted by the masses
One of the defining characteristics of the exotics segment is the extent to which gearheads and enthusiasts alike find the vehicle desirable. Many of us grew up with posters of supercars on our bedroom walls, and the question remains whether the i8 falls into this category. With its arresting good looks, it’s certainly been popular in films and TV including Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, The Punisher, and Crazy Rich Asians, and is still considered a status symbol, especially in an increasingly eco-conscious society. But, while the hybrid was a shock to the system at its birth, the market is now filled with more EVs and hybrids than before, with legendary brands like Lamborghini offering hypercars like the Sian. And, while the i8 is not cheap for the average Joe with an MSRP upwards of $147,5k, exotic hypercars like the Sian have a price tag in the 3,7-million dollar mark.
Is it, or is it not?
Over its lifespan, the i8 has proven itself to be many things - a beautiful mid-engined sports car with innovative styling, sleek lines, and futuristic tech. It’s fast, feels great to drive, and will cost you a pretty penny. But, while we do believe it earns the title of ‘exotic’ car, it’s inability to truly compete with high-performance rivals that put out hp figures reaching into four digits means it’s no hypercar. And, as 2020 marked its final production year, we’re hoping that whatever BMW comes up with hereafter will be able to merge the two concepts much better.