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BMW i8: Ten things you need to know

BMW i8 is just around the corner and to say we’ve been following its development is a bit like saying the pope is vaguely familiar with the works of Jesus. We’re fiending for this thing like kids in candy shops, and have been studying its every facet in the run-up to its late 2013 launch. As a consequence of this nerdiness, we’ve put together a list of ten facts you may not have known about BMW’s lean, green speed machine. We present them here for your delectation. You’re welcome.

1. It’s made of old iPhones

The windscreen and windows in the BMW i8 are made from ordinary glass, but the rear window is made of the same chemically hardened glass that smartphones are made from. It’s stronger than ordinary glass, so it can be made thinner (hence lighter) and it offers better sound-proofing from the rear-mounted petrol engine.

2. It has laser freakin’ headlights

Screw LEDs, the i8’s packing lasers, so the next time you get stuck in traffic, you can blast other motorists to oblivion. OK, that last bit’s not strictly true. As standard, the BMW i8 comes with nifty LEDs, but BMW also offers lasers as an optional extra. These, it says are 1,000 times brighter than LED headlights but use half the power, reducing electrical draw on the batteries and engine. Now if only they could make a version you could use to cut cyclists in half with. We wouldn’t use it for that of course, but it’d be an interesting technical achievement we think you’ll agree.

3. It’s a 4×4

BMW doesn’t recommend you go greenlaning in it, but the i8 is driven by all four wheels. It uses a 1.5-litre turbocharged engine and six-speed automatic gearbox to drive the rear axle, but also has a 131hp, 250Nm electric motor driving the front wheels. Suck on that, Land Rover.

4. It may be electric, but it’s incredibly light

Hybrids and electric cars are meant to be heavy, which is the last thing you want in a sports car. Luckily, BMW has worked hard on keeping the i8’s kerb weight to a bare minimum. It tips the scales at a very respectable 1,490kg, which on a par with, and in some cases lighter than many sports cars. The Ferrari 458 Italia, for reference, has a kerb weight of 1,485kg. The Aston Martin V12 Vantage, meanwhile, is comparably lardy at 1,680kg. The i8 is even a par with many ordinary petrol and diesel hatchbacks. The Ford Focus, which is no lardarse, weighs between 1,270kg and 1,471kg depending on spec.

5. It’s flippin’ fast

With the motor and engine working in tandem, the i8 has access to a sizeable 362bhp and 570Nm of torque. The Aston Martin V8 Vantage has more power and less torque (420bhp and 470Nm) but the BMW i8 will do 0-62mph in 4.4 seconds – 0.3 seconds faster than the Aston. AWD should help it corner and grip better, too. Top speed is a very respectable 160mph.

6. It makes the Prius look thirsty

BMW claims the i8 can return 113mpg. An ordinary Toyota Prius is good for a paltry 72mpg. What’s more, the i8 can be driven for 22 miles on electric power alone at speeds of up to 75mph, and when you’re done you can plug it in and recharge the thing in 3 hours from an ordinary plug socket. Obviously, you don’t have to use electricity all the time. Fill the tank with dinosaur juice from your local Shell and it’ll travel for 310 miles without stopping.

7. It has bicycle wheels

Not really. But it does have optional carbon wheels, which some high-end bicycles use. These save an impressive 3kg each over the standard, already lightweight, alloy wheels. If you’re desperate to eek out a bit more performance, extend your driving range or just fancy splashing a bit more cash, these are a no-brainer.

8. It’ll call you an ambulance if you crash it

The BMW i8 is fitted with more tech than you’ll know what to do with. Automatic wipers with rain sensors, cameras all around the bodywork to help you park without scuffing the paintwork, pedestrian recognition with automatic braking. It’ll even call the emergency services if special accelerometers in the chassis detect a crash.

9. It comes with its own credit card

This one’s a lie. But it does come with a ChargeNow card that you can use to pay for electricity without handing any cash over. That’s like a credit card, isn’t it? Sort of?

10. It’s the only car you’ll ever need.

The BMW i8 has a price tag of 100,000. That’s expensive compared to, say a Ford Fiesta, but it’s bloody good value compared to cars that offer similar performance. Sports cars like the V8 Vantage will set you back in the region of £85,000, but then you’ll have to splash out on a more sensible car to prevent their running costs making you bankrupt. The BMW i8 on the other hand, offers similar performance to its sports car peers and costs next to nothing to drive. What’s not to like?

11. Except the convertible version

Bonus thing! Yup, BMW’s also working on a drop top i8, and we want that version even more.

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