What you’re looking at right now is the BMW i8 Spyder concept, slated for its world introduction at the Beijing Auto Show at the end of April. But what BMW wants you to see is that despite tightening fuel economy regulations, high gas prices, and an uncertain future for our energy needs, what you expect from the famed German automaker isn’t going away anytime soon. Fun isn’t dead. It’s just changing, adapting to the times.
The BMW i8 Spyder follows the i8 hardtop concept that starred in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and the BMW i3 city car concept. It’s similar to the hardtop i8 but lacks the two small seats in the rear. In fact, it’s minutely shorter overall in both wheelbase and overall length than the hardtop. What it also shows are two filled-in, doors that swing up and out diagonally rather than the glass-filled units found in the first concept. It’s all the better for it, as BMW has a mission of its own to make the i8 a feasible production car by 2014—the year when it’s scheduled to go on sale at a price expected to exceed $100,000. The transparent doors wouldn’t have cut it.
The body, called a LifeDrive module in BMW speak, is made mostly of aluminum and lightweight carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP). The Spyder concept is powered by a 131-horsepower electric motor over the front axle and 223-horsepower, turbocharged three-cylinder engine used in the first i8 concept, combining for a peak 354 horsepower. With 3,600 pounds to motivate, the i8 Spyder can accelerate to 62 mph from standstill in 5.0 seconds and return as much as 78 mpg. Fully charged, it can even run 19 miles purely on electric power. And if the engine is producing power it doesn’t need during operation, the i8 will channel that energy back into the car’s battery system, using the engine as an on-board generator.
Unique to the BMW i8 Spyder concept are a transparent trunk lid cover that exposes a pair of scooters that add “another layer to the car’s recreational appeal.” It also has an interior that more closely resembles what will likely be seen in the production version of this car.
Not all of the car is purely concept fantasy, however. The BMW i8 Spyder concept features a camera-based collision warning system, parking assistant, and traffic jam assistant, as well as Eco Pro and Sport selectable drive modes that are seen on 2012 BMW production cars. The car’s diagnostic information is displayed on a three-dimensional interface that changes from a blue color in more relaxed driving to an orange hue in more aggressive situations.
Although the BMW i8 Spyder is a concept vehicle, it also stands as a philosophy of just where BMW is going. Over the next few years, BMW plans to make “green” just as synonymous with its identity as the blue and white roundel that adorns each car’s hood. Its Leipzig plant plans to reduce water use 70 percent and energy consumption 50 percent over the next few years. And its energy sources will come from renewable sources, says the automaker.
The BMW i8 Spyder will make its rounds throughout the world for some time, foreshadowing what will become the flagship of the automaker’s electric “i” sub-brand. We’ll likely get our first look at it on our shores at November’s Los Angeles Auto Show.