Seven years and 20,000 units sold later, the i8 plug-in hybrid sports car bows out with no replacement in sight (for now)
It’s difficult to believe, given how current it still looks, but it’s been 11 years since the BMW Vision EfficientDynamics, the precursor to the i8, made its debut at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show.
For that matter, how relevant the design of the production car, the i8, still looks, seven years after its production debut in 2014. Or, for that matter, its plug-in hybrid all-wheel-drive powertrain featuring a 1.5-litre turbocharged engine driving the rear wheels and electric motoring powering the front axle.
That’s not even mentioning its carbon fibre chassis and thermoplastic body panels, with the former on prominent display in the door sills once the dramatic beetle-wing doors are lifted open.
And while the concept car’s promise of a three-cylinder turbodiesel, thumping 850Nm torque output and 0.22 drag coefficient never really crystallised on the production i8 (the reality was a three-cylinder turbo petrol engine, 570Nm and 0.26 drag coefficient), let’s not forget that the car was truly groundbreaking when it made its debut.
In addition to its carbon fibre construction and hybrid nature, the i8 would also herald the return of the 8-badged BMW at the head of the Bavarian carmaker’s sports car lineup after a hiatus of a decade-and-a-half. This would be followed a little while later with a ‘proper’ 8 Series in 2018, a lineup that has now expanded to include a soft-top convertible and a four-door coupe.
At any rate, for all the i8 has done for the BMW brand, it’s time for it to say goodbye. Because from next month the i8 will be no more, once the last of the 200 Ultimate Sophisto Edition cars roll off the assembly line at BMW’s Leipzig plant.
At the moment, there are no plans for replacing the i8, though there is at least some clue as to what it could be. The upcoming i8 successor could take the form of the Vision M Next concept shown in the middle of last year.
If the concept is to be believed, the upcoming i8 successor could be badged an M car, the first M-badged model to have hybrid power. And this is purely speculation on our part, but the next time you see the i8, it could very well be called the M1.
The press materials for the concept mention that its rear louvres and stylised taillights shaped to look like the BMW roundel are modern homages to Munich’s first – and only to date – supercar.
Even if it does materialise, it won’t be for a few more years yet, until after the launch of more mainstream models like production versions of the Vision iNext SUV and Vision Next 100 full-sized saloon.
Whatever the case may be, we’re sure you’ll enjoy the gallery above of the i8 and its journey from concept to production car… and beyond.