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.

Specifications

  • 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
2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata 1

2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Still A Miata, And That’s A Great Thing

Episode 4340
Auto Value and Bumper to BumperTire Rack "The Way Tire Buying Should Be"

When the cool little Mazda MX-5 Miata arrived for 1990, it immediately triggered a host of imitators and sparked a genuine global roadster revival. While that fad has faded, America’s love affair with the MX-5 has stayed strong. And, we’re pretty sure we know why!

The 2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata is probably one of the most recognizable cars on the road, and it has a way of putting a smile on our face every time we see one, not to mention any time we get a chance to hop behind the wheel. The Miata concept really hasn’t changed drastically over the last three decades, proof that Mazda got the formula right from the beginning.

Rear-wheel drive, minimal weight, tight suspension, willing engine, superb manual shifter, simple folding top, and just enough creature comforts to make long drives as pleasant as carving up backroad twisties.
An overload of power has never been part of that equation, and many may still decry the lack of horsepower, but just a reminder, this car was meant to rekindle the spirit of British roadsters from the 1960s that were a pure joy to drive, and had engines half as powerful as what the Miata works with today, which is a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter I4 with 181 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque.

2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata 3/4 Front
2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata Profile
2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata 3/4 Rear
2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata Front Detail
2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata Rear Detail
2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata 3/4 Front2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata Profile2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata 3/4 Rear2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata Front Detail2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata Rear Detail

A six-speed manual transmission remains the standard; you must upgrade to top Grand Touring trim to even get the available six-speed automatic. And it all works together to deliver a joyful driving experience that few other vehicles can match.

The exterior design has gotten more purposeful and less cartoonish over the years; new for this year is updated lighting which now incorporates the LED DRLs into the headlight assembly, as well as a more cohesive design for the full LED taillights, plus some fresh wheel choices.

Continual upgrades under the skin too, with a new asymmetric limited-slip differential for all manual-equipped Miatas. Its purpose is to minimize oversteer, and if you think that means it’s less fun, you’d be wrong.

The perfect feel and action of the shifter keeps you looking for reasons to shift gears.

It was still a blast to dart through the handling course at our Mason Dixon test track and on the autocross circuit at Summit Point Motorsports Park. Minimal body roll and perfectly neutral handling had us scooting through the turns with ease. Kinematic Posture Control was added back in ’22, using selective braking to tighten up cornering. Adding to it for ’24 is a new steering rack and updated software for the Electric Power Assisted Steering that provides better on-center feel and more precise control.

7.0 seconds to 60 mph won’t exactly get your blood pumping, but it’s plenty adequate for the Miata’s mission and the engine sounds great for a four-cylinder. The perfect feel and action of the shifter keeps you looking for reasons to shift gears. But keep those engine revs above 6,000 for the most power. We did and our best quarter-mile was 15.4 at 92 mph.

Our average braking distance of 118 feet from 60 mph may have been a little longer than we’re accustomed to from a performance car these days, but their predictable and fade-free nature will give you plenty of confidence at your next track day.

2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata Dashboard
2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata Seats
2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata Instrument Cluster
2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata Central Display
2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata Shifter
2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata Trunk
2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata Engine
2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata Dashboard2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata Seats2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata Instrument Cluster2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata Central Display2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata Shifter2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata Trunk2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata Engine

Things remain all business in the cockpit, with everything falling readily to hand, and comfortable seats locking you in place. The most notable change in here for ’24 is a bigger infotainment screen, growing from 7.0 to 8.8 inches.

Government Fuel Economy Ratings with the manual are 26 City, 34 Highway, and 29 Combined. That’s a slightly better than average Energy Impact Score of 10.3 barrels of annual oil use, with 5.0 tons of CO2 emissions.
Starting price is only $30,170; top Grand Touring goes for $35,470.

It’s true that the Mazda MX-5 Miata has barely evolved over the years; but fortunately for all of us, virtually all of the ways that it has changed have been for the better, yet even in 2024, it remains incredibly affordable. It has been such a constant presence and passion for so many of our MotorWeek staffers over the years it seems like it has been around for a lot longer than just three decades, and thankfully, it looks like there’s no slowing the Miata down.

Specifications

As Tested

  • Engine: 2.0-liter I4
  • Transmission: 6-speed manual
  • Horsepower: 181
  • Torque: 151 lb-ft
  • 0-60 mph: 7.0 seconds
  • 1/4 Mile: 15.4 seconds at 92 mph
  • 60-0 Braking: 118 feet (avg)
  • EPA: 26 City | 34 Highway | 29 Combined