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by Tim Beissmann

The BMW i8 will be quicker than the current-generation M3 when it arrives in Australia in the second half of 2014.

BMW says its all-new i8 plug-in hybrid sports car will accelerate from 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds or less, undercutting the V8-powered M3 coupe by at least one-tenth.

The production version of the BMW i8 – set to debut at next month’s Frankfurt motor show – features a completely new petrol-electric propulsion system.

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The i8 teams a turbocharged 170kW/320Nm 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine teams with a 96kW/250Nm electric motor for a combined system output of 266kW of power and 570Nm of torque.

The electric motor is mounted on the front axle while a six-speed automatic transmission sends drive from the combustion engine to the rear wheels.

Power is sent to all four wheels in hybrid mode, which facilitates an electronically limited 250km/h top speed, claimed combined cycle fuel consumption of 2.5 litres per 100km or better, and a driving range in excess of 500km.

BMW says the i8 has a range of 35km and a 120km/h top speed in pure electric mode, and claims recharging the battery from empty takes less than three hours from a standard household power socket and less than two hours using a specially designed BMW i Wallbox.

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At 4689mm long, 1942mm wide, 1293mm tall and riding on a 2800mm wheelbase, the BMW i8 is slightly larger than the Audi R8 in all directions, but with a kerb weight of less than 1490kg, is more than 230kg lighter than its German supercar rival thanks to its widespread use of carbonfibre and aluminium.

Designed from the ground up as a plug-in hybrid sports car, the i8’s ‘LifeDrive’ architecture comprises a lightweight carbonfibre-reinforced plastic passenger cell dubbed the ‘Life’ module and an aluminium ‘Drive’ module incorporating the engine, electric motor, lithium-ion battery, power electronics and chassis components. BMW claims the architecture gives the i8 a “very low” centre of gravity and a near-perfect 50:50 weight distribution.

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The BMW i8 adopts the Driving Experience Control switch familiar from the latest BMW models as well as an eDrive button that is exclusive to the new model.

Comfort mode is the i8’s default setting, offering a balance of performance and economy and access to all convenience functions, while Eco Pro mode supports an efficiency-optimised driving style.

Drivers can also choose between Drive and Sport modes using the gear selector. Sport mode offers manual gear selection and switches the suspension to a more performance-oriented set-up. The engine and electric motor deliver sharper performance, the accelerator response is quicker and the power boost from the electric motor is maximised. Gear changes are shortened, the Dynamic Damper Control is adjusted to its sportiest setting, and the customisable instrument cluster switches to feature a tachometer display.

Full details of the BMW i8 will be revealed at the Frankfurt motor show, which kicks off on September 10.




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