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by Tim Beissmann

Development of the BMW i8 plug-in hybrid is progressing overseas, with our spy photographers capturing the innovative German sports car undergoing hot-weather testing in southern Europe.

The spy shots give us our most intimate look yet at BMW’s latest i8 prototype, including a peek inside the cabin, which appears set to be toned down significantly from earlier concept vehicles.

Unlike the BMW Concept Vision EfficientDynamics from the 2009 Frankfurt motor show and the BMW i8 concept car from the 2011 edition of the show, the i8 prototype in these spy images features a conventional four-binnacle instrument cluster rather than a high-tech digital display.

The centre console layout is also more conservative and less stylised with simpler air vents, buttons and dials, reminiscent of BMW’s current passenger vehicle line-up.

While the cabin looks set to be softened, the i8’s exterior will remain faithful to the concepts, sporting a long, low bonnet, aggressive aero wings and panels, large glass door panels and piercing LED tail-lights (the round fixtures on the back of the prototype will not feature on the production car).

The BMW i8 is scheduled to reach production in late 2014, around 12 months after launch of BMW’s first ‘i’ car, the city-sized electric i3 hatchback.

The showroom version is expected to feature a powertrain similar to that found in the i8 and i8 Spyder concepts, comprising a 164kW/300Nm petrol engine and a 96kW/250Nm electric motor, which combine for a total output of 260kW and 550Nm.

BMW predicts the i8 will be capable of a 0-100km/h sprint time of 4.6 seconds while returning a combined cycle fuel consumption figure of 2.7 litres per 100km.

Late last month, Bloomberg reported BMW plans to sell the i3 and i8 over the internet as it attempts to reach more buyers around the world and reduce the risk of investing heavily in a dealer network that would initially be selling very low numbers of vehicles.




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