2015 BMW i8

2015 BMW i8

Episode 3401
Auto Value and Bumper to BumperTire Rack "The Way Tire Buying Should Be"

In the more than three decades that MotorWeek has been on the air we’ve seen electric cars grow from homemade curiosities, to mass production icons. But, the public appetite for pure EVs remains stymied over range and cost. Both problems that plug-in hybrids are better able to solve. Still, most PHEVs haven’t been very exciting to drive. But what about this plug-in…the BMW i8… This futuristic concept car brought to life certainly looks exciting. So let’s see if it drives that way.

Looking like it just drove off the set of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, comes BMW’s first take on an integrated plug-in hybrid, the 2015 BMW i8. It looks like nothing you’ve seen, yet somehow appears exactly what you’d expect an advanced hybrid from BMW to look like. 

Like everything else you see, the hybrid hardware is BMW’s own design and has both front and rear axle power sources that work both separate and together. 

Driving the rear wheels is a 1.5-liter turbo-I3. Yes folks, it has come to that, a 3-cylinder engine in a supercar. And, yes again, it’s the same engine used in the new MINI Cooper. Placed forward, with power for the front wheels is a more expected 96-kW electric motor that draws from a water-cooled 5.0-kWh lithium-ion battery pack lying low in the chassis. 

Working in harmony, they produce 357-horsepower and 420 lb-ft. of torque. And much like a traditional hybrid, a high-voltage starter/generator attached to the gas engine does double duty by feeding power back into the batteries. BMW claims that when in Sport mode, every mile you drive adds one mile of EV-range. Talk about having your fun and economizing it too.

The battery can also be charged on 110 or 220-volt circuits. 

While the power distribution is constantly shuffled between the axles, you can plan on strictly EV operation only if you take it easy on the throttle at speeds up to 75 miles-per-hour. Step into it and you’ll hear the internal combustion party start behind you.

You can also manually engage EV-mode. The government rates the range at 15-miles. But much like the Chevrolet Volt, you’ve got about a 300 mile range on just gas after that. 

Amazingly, BMW was able to keep the i8 iLooking remarkably like the original concept car, even retaining the scissor-wing doors and Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic passenger cell. With that and extensive use of other lightweight materials like magnesium and aluminum, the i8 weighs in at 3,285 lbs. 

Because of those doors, getting in and out can be a bit of a challenge, like many supercars; and yet another reminder that this car is much cooler than we are.

Once in, some found the seats very comfy, others not so much. But all agree the seating position is very low. Shorter drivers could not see over the nose which made tight maneuvers scary.

Navigation and most expected high-tech comfort and safety amenities are standard, and we applaud the use of familiar controls right off the BMW parts shelf. And that even includes the iDrive central controller. Also on the console are a simple electronic shifter, Driving Experience Control, and eDrive switch. 

Looking cool is one thing, but driving down the road the i8 is very cool as well. There’s plenty of engine noise electronically pumped into the cabin and it certainly doesn’t sound like a 3-cylinder. Engage Sport Mode and you’ll get a whole new level of responsiveness, both from the throttle and throughout the chassis. 

Transitions between gas and electric drive are fairly smooth, though there are times when getting real aggressive on the throttle results in the car taking a second to process where to send the power. But other than that, it’s a mostly seamless affair. Brakes are very touchy in the usual electric-drive manner. 

As for acceleration, with launch control engaged, we hit 60 in 4.4-seconds. There’s instant torque off the line and shifts from the 6-speed automatic transmission came in a hurry. Those shifts are very firm and quick, and had us thanking BMW for not succumbing to a CVT as we worked our way to the end of the ¼-mile in 12.9-seconds at a thrilling 110 miles-per-hour.  

The suspension is also a mix of something old and something new. The design is double-wishbone front and 5-link rear, but dynamic damping control and electric power steering are standard. Combined, they keep the i8 flatter than Kansas through the corners. 

Combined Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 28 MPG for gas-only driving; that’s about 20% lower than the Volt, with 76 MPGe for i8 gas-electric operation. We drive mostly in Sport mode and recorded 33.5. Our Euro-spec model prevented proper plug-in charging so we think owners will likely double our test figures.

We’ve certainly entered a new era of supercars. Lightweight, small-engine, electric-assist wonders that aim for high fuel economy just as much low 0-60 and lap times. And while the i8 is far from being the ultimate straight-line performer, its $135,700 price tag is only a fraction of the price of most other high performance plug-ins. 

So after driving BMW’s view of the future, we can absolutely say that the 2015 i8 will forever change the way you think about plug-in hybrids. And with cars like this, it’s clear that gasoline, electric, and high performance, can smoothly live together as one.


  • Engine: 1.5-liter turbo-I3
  • Horsepower: 357
  • Torque: 420 lb-ft.
  • 0-60 mph: 4.4 seconds
  • 1/4 mile: 12.9 seconds @ 110 mph
2023 Mazda3

2023 Mazda3

Still The Same Mazda3, Just A Bit Better

Episode 4304
Auto Value and Bumper to BumperTire Rack "The Way Tire Buying Should Be"

When the fourth-gen Mazda3 arrived for 2019, it grew a little more stylish, a lot more upscale; and loads more practical too, adding all-wheel drive into the mix for the first time. How does it get better than that? Well, for ’23 the 3 adds an engine update that promises to deliver more power and better efficiency. Time to speak truth to this power.

The Mazda3 has always been a great compact car, big on both fun and value, and has earned numerous MotorWeek Drivers’ Choice Awards over the years. This current-gen has been on the road for 4-years now, and it gets even better for 2023.

Starting with the powertrain, the base 2.0-liter I4 has been eliminated leaving just 2 versions of the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, turbo and non-turbo. Base versions get a 5-horsepower bump to 191-horsepower, along with updates for its cylinder deactivation system. The 2.5 Turbo fits standard all-wheel drive and outputs the same 250-horsepower and 320 lb-ft. of torque as last year; provided you use Premium gas. Max ratings drop to 227-horsepower and 310 lb-ft. with Regular.

2023 Mazda3 6
2023 Mazda3 2
2023 Mazda3 5
2023 Mazda3 3
2023 Mazda3 4
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A 6-speed manual transmission remains available in front-wheel drive 3s, but AWDs come exclusively with a sport-tuned 6-speed automatic. We found it well-sorted and seemingly always on the same page as us whether we were shuffling through back roads or sitting in traffic. There is a softer overall feel compared to Mazda3s of old, which you’ll appreciate when encountering harsh pavement, but it still feels plenty agile when called upon.

That softer feel certainly carries over inside, where it has gotten much quieter, and quite nicely finished, consistent with Mazda’s Audi-like premium intentions. All 3s get an 8.8-inch center display, and all of the fingerprints on our test car’s screen signifies most people assume it’s a touchscreen. It’s not, however, as inputs are made with a rotary controller on the console. It’s not the most intuitive system, but once you’re past the learning curve, it’s tolerable.

The rear seat room doesn’t have the roomy feel of the Subaru Impreza, but space is certainly more than adequate compared to the rest of the compact set. Rear cargo space for this hatchback rates a good 20.1 cubic-ft. with trunk space in the sedan coming in at 13.2 cubic-ft. So yes, the Mazda3 remains available in both sedan and hatchback, but we still prefer the 5-door hatch both for its practicality and for its sporty looks. Top Turbo Premium Plus gets gloss black aero treatments including a roof spoiler and front air dam.

At the test track, power from the 2.5-turbo felt more than adequate off the line, using all-wheel-drive grip to bite into the pavement and get up and go to 60 in 6.0-seconds flat. There was virtually no turbo lag, and the engine felt nicely refined with its power delivery. Transmission operation was equally as smooth and kept the power flowing quite effectively throughout the ¼-mile, which ended in 14.5-seconds at 95 miles-per-hour. We really appreciate a well-tuned 6-speed in this world of overactive 8 and 10 speed automatics.

2023 Mazda3 1

While there was definitely some understeer to manage in our handling course, the 3 turned in quickly and provided real, sporting feedback through our cone course. I-Activ AWD features G-Vectoring Control Plus, which uses both engine torque vectoring as well as selective braking to minimize body roll, and preserve the lively feel we’ve come to expect from Mazda. In panic braking runs, the pedal was soft, but that kept ABS pulsing to a minimum; and the results were great, as we averaged a very short 106-feet from 60, with minimal nose dive and stable, straight stops.

Government Fuel Economy Ratings for an all-wheel drive Turbo are 23-City, 31-Highway, and 26-Combined; we averaged a good 28.4 miles-per-gallon of Regular.

Obviously by eliminating the previous base engine, prices have taken a jump for ’23, but so has everything else. Still they remain more than reasonable. The base S now starts at $26,855, with the top Turbo Premium Plus at $37,815, with many options in between. And sedan prices are even more sensible, starting at $23,715.

Like most brands, Mazda seems to be going all-in on SUVs; as the 3 is the last family sedan and hatchback in their lineup. And it would be a real shame if that were to change. As the 2023 Mazda3, the hatchback in particular, is just about the perfect car, offering utility vehicles levels of practicality along with better than average luxury, plus handling performance that few crossovers can match. So, long live the Mazda3!


As Tested

  • Engine: 2.5-liter Turbo-4
  • Horsepower: 227 | 250
  • 0-60 mph: 6.0 seconds
  • 60-0 Braking: 106 feet (avg)
  • MW Fuel Economy: 28.4 MPG (Regular)
  • Transmission: 6-speed auto
  • Torque: 310 lb-ft. | 320 lb-ft
  • 1/4 Mile: 14.5-seconds at 95 mph
  • EPA: 23-City / 31-Highway / 26-Combined