Hybrid sports cars are increasingly common thanks to electricity’s performance-enhancing qualities, but the 2021 BMW i8 is more about looking fast than going fast. Still, the BMW provides a show-stopping entrance regardless of whether its dihedral doors open on the hardtop coupe or convertible roadster. While its plug-in powertrain is respectably powerful—and quicker than lesser hybrids—you’re more likely to see one tear around a Whole Foods parking lot than your local racetrack. A user-friendly ride and comfortable front seats make the 2021 i8 usable every day; however, its limited storage space and compromised cabin access might cross it off most people’s list.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
BMW offers a single powertrain in the i8. It mates a turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder gas engine with an 11.6-kWh battery pack and two electric motors. The trio of power sources combines for a total of 369 horsepower, capable of driving all four wheels. However, it’s not the fastest supercar on the block: The 2019 i8 roadster we tested sprinted from zero to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds. The i8 suffers from the same light steering that we’ve criticized in many current BMWs. We’d prefer more feedback, especially in a vehicle with sporting intentions. The ride is surprisingly civil and bumps in the road are felt, but never harshly.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The i8’s EPA fuel-economy ratings are unimpressive among hybrids but still better than most sports cars. During our 200-mile highway fuel-economy test, the roadster delivered 35 MPGe and went for 22 miles on electricity alone.
Interior, Comfort , and Cargo
Despite the i8’s focus on design versus practicality, front-seat occupants won’t feel cramped. The i8 roadster has seating for only two passengers, with the folding top taking up the space that is occupied by a pair of jump seats in the coupe. Standard interior features include heated power seats and touches of leather. Cooled seats, a power-adjustable steering wheel, and passenger-seat lumbar support are not available—even as options. As you might expect, the i8 has a negligible amount of room for luggage and minimal cubby space for the trinkets of modern life. The i8’s rear cargo area is long but shallow—unlike some mid-engined sports cars, there’s no storage in a front trunk—and we managed to fit only a single carry-on suitcase inside.
Infotainment and Connectivity
The i8’s infotainment system will be familiar to owners of less exotic BMWs. The system is largely intuitive and displays on a sharp-looking 8.8-inch touchscreen situated atop the dashboard. Apple CarPlay capability is standard, but Android Auto isn’t offered on any i8 model.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The 2021 i8 hasn’t been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). While it has some standard driver-assistance technology, many common assists such as blind-spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control are absent.