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2015 BMW i8 Hybrid to Debut in Frankfurt

By: Jeff Youngs, 8/12/2013
BMW is introducing the production version of its new 2015 i8 sports car at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show, but has divulged advance details about the new car's structure and BMW eDrive plug-in hybrid powertrain.

Extensive use of aluminum combined with a carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic passenger cell help to keep the BMW i8's weight down to 3,275 pounds. The lightweight body is equipped with gull-wing doors, and the windows are made of chemically hardened glass, like that of a smartphone or tablet computer, in order to save weight. BMW reports that the i8 boasts a near 50:50 front-to-rear weight distribution, that it has the lowest center of gravity of any BMW in history, and that it slips through the atmosphere with a 0.26 coefficient of drag.

Due to its powertrain layout, the BMW i8 is equipped with all-wheel drive. A mid-mounted, turbocharged, 1.5-liter 3-cylinder engine delivers 231 horsepower to the rear wheels through a 6-speed automatic transmission. Up front, an electric motor powered by a Lithium-ion battery produces 131 horsepower and powers the front wheels. The result is a combined 362 horsepower and 420 lb.-ft. of torque, and BMW says the i8 will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds while topping out at a governed 155 mph.

As a plug-in hybrid, the BMW i8 offers pure electric mobility via the Driving Experience Control system. Switch from the Comfort setting to the Eco Pro setting to engage the car's EV driving mode, and the i8 can travel a distance of up to 22 miles at speeds up to 75 mph using nothing but the juice stored in the Lithium-ion battery pack, according to BMW. Thanks to this capability, BMW estimates that the new i8 will achieve a 95 MPGe rating in the U.S. market. To recharge the car, allow 3.5 hours when connected to a standard household power outlet. With an extra-cost Level 2 charger, it takes 90 minutes to recharge the battery.

While the BMW i8 is designed to provide clean, emissions-free driving for short distances, the company characterizes it as a sports car. As such, the combined power split between the front and rear wheels can vary based on steering angle and driving conditions, and the i8 is equipped with dynamic torque-vectoring technology. A set of 20-inch forged aluminum wheels is standard.

BMW also allows the i8's driver to tailor powertrain and suspension settings. A Sport mode givers the driver manual control over gear selection, and both sharpens and maximizes powertrain response, the automaker says. Sport mode also activates maximum energy recuperation when decelerating or braking, and stiffens the standard Dynamic Damper Control suspension system. Additionally, the BMW i8 is equipped with electromechanical steering, Dynamic Traction Control, Dynamic Stability Control, and a braking system that includes Cornering Brake Control, Dynamic Brake Control, Brake Assist, Brake Stand-by, Brake Fading Compensation, Brake Drying, and Start Off Assistant technologies.

For now, with regard to the i8's interior and equipment, BMW has announced that its new 2+2 plug-in hybrid sports car adheres to the BMW i "Next-premium" philosophy and that the i8 will have naturally tanned leather upholstery. The automaker will announce complete details about the 2015 BMW i8 closer to the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show, and says the car will go on sale in 2014.

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