Like Acura’s NSX sports car coming soon, BMW is taking the hybrid route for their next halo car. And also taking a page from Acura’s show of its prototype last week in Ohio, BMW showed their new i8 hybrid prototype at their Mirimas, France test track today.

The new plug-in hybrid sports car will be nothing short of revolutionary from its performance to its construction, its engineering to its design dynamics. BMW is showing they take the new alternative fueled future more than seriously, but also making them Ultimate Driving Machines.

The drivetrain combines a turbocharged 1.5 liter three-cylinder engine mounted in the rear combined with an electric drive system up front. The electric motor is powered by a lithium-ion battery mounted in the central tunnel.

The 231 hp gasoline engine powers exclusively the rear wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission, while the 131 hp electric motor drives the front wheels through a two-stage automatic transmission. The computer can disconnect and turn off the gasoline engine for all-electric driving up to 22 miles with a top speed of about 75 mph.

When both power sources are combined you get all-wheel-drive performance that is delivered with dynamic torque vectoring. Because the more powerful of the two power sources drives the rear wheels, the i8 will still have that rear biased feel we expect from BMW.

2015-bmw-i8-2BMW says that the car will be able to achieve up to 95 mpg with a full charge to start with, and acceleration of 0-60 in as little as 4.5 seconds. This performance on only 362 horsepower is enabled by a very lightweight body structure.

The passenger cell is made entirely of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) just as the new i3 which was introduced last week All powertrain reinforcement sub-structures are made of aluminum as are the majority of suspension components.

BMW says its CFRP passenger cell offers excellent crash performance with weight savings of 50 percent over steel and around 30 percent over aluminum. These savings offset the additional weight of the electric motor and the high-voltage battery, giving the BMW i8 a curb weight of less than 3,285 lbs.

Despite all the room the powertrain, fuel tank and battery take up, this sports car remains a dedicated 2+2 in function. Storage isn’t likely to be a strong suit however. The good news is that its layout affords it a perfect 50:50 weight balance.

The i8 is low and compact. It is 184.6” long, 76.5” wide and a scant 50.9” tall. While its full design has yet to be revealed, it has shades of a 6-Series silhouette but much slimmer all around. Also, expect some futuristic styling forays similar to those found in the i3.

The upward opening doors you see also have a CFRP inner structure with an aluminum skin. Inside is a genuine naturally tanned leather instead of the synthetic material many green cars have gone with. The glass between the passenger compartment and boot of the BMW i8 consists of two .7mm layers of chemically hardened glass with acoustic sheeting sandwiched between, saving even more weight.

The production BMW i8 will make its world debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show and arrive in BMW showrooms in 2014 as a 2015 model. Pricing has not been announced, but expect it to be in excess of $100,000.

Jeff
grabl@mail.ru

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