The BMW i8 never really caught on but that doesn’t mean it’s not an important step in automotive history. It had an uphill battle, though.
It was too slow to be called a supercar but too expensive to be seen as “normal”. It was as quick as an M4 but cost twice as much. It felt big on the outside but small on the inside, the styling could be a point of heated discussion, and the doors could be a nightmare in the wrong situation. The engine is a turbocharged inline-3 cylinder that sounded like an old Honda motorcycle; not exactly exotic.
Hybrids and EVs were still auditioning for the public’s respect. Keep in mind that when the i8 debuted, in 2014, the Tesla Model S was only 2 years old. The idea of an electrified performance car caused many people to laugh. Egg on face, etc.
In 2014, when the i8 debuted, if you wanted a hybrid performance car you had to shop at McLaren, Ferrari, or Porsche, and carry a million dollars in your pocket. The i8 wasn’t as exciting as the P1 or LaFerrari or 918, but how could it be? To compare them is unfair, for that was never the i8’s purpose. It was a test bed for BMW’s carbon fiber construction process and plug-in technology. Despite being overshadowed by the aforementioned hypercars, the i8 handled well enough and still looks like its from the future despite being six years old.
How it will be remembered is still uncertain. That fate will likely be determined by what BMW does in in the future with carbon and electrification. For now we should appreciate that BMW took a swing at hybridization.