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Man Maths: BMW i8

3 months ago

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Andrew Frankel | Ti co-founder


20 April 2024

It was always going to be a 911. Of course it was. On the day this racket finally has enough of me, I’d buy myself the best example I could afford of the best sports car there has ever been and spend whatever time that remained to me being propelled towards oblivion by a rear-mounted, flat-six motor.

Except there’s a problem. This would be my daily driver, so it would need to be relatively modern and not have clocked up a bazillion miles. And the kind of car I’d really want – something like a rear-drive, manual second-gen 991 Carrera S or T coupé – is just too pricey. You’re looking at £55,000 at the very least and probably quite a lot more if you’re picky about spec and mileage.

Man Maths: BMW i8

But there is another I covet almost as much, one I could buy for £20,000 less for the same age and miles. A while back I ran one of these for a year, back to back with a 991.2 Carrera S, so I know of what I speak. The car is a BMW i8.

The fact you can buy one today for around £30,000 – less than the price of the cheapest new electric Peugeot 208 – slightly boils my brain. True, that will be a car with maybe 70,000 miles on the clock, but set your limit at £35,000 to £40,000 and you can buy an ‘approved used’ car with less than half that mileage from a BMW dealer.

But why? Why get excited about something powered by a three-cylinder motor out of an old Mini? Because it’s not the means, but the ends that count. For a start, just look at it. I reckon you could launch that shape today and we’d all still swoon at how brilliantly it combined beauty and modernity.

Then there is the way it is built: an aluminium body (with plastic panels in places) on a carbon tub. You can’t buy a Ferrari today with one of those. So it’s light too, at just over 1500kg. A current M2, like the one Dan has been running, weighs 1800kg. So its 357bhp goes far further than you’d think. Indeed it’s only a touch heavier and a little less powerful than a current Porsche 911 Carrera. But unlike the Porsche you can drive about a dozen miles in blissful EV silence and because the motor is only a 1.5-litre three-pot, return 40mpg almost all the time.

Man Maths: BMW i8

There are those who say it understeers on the limit. They’re right. But that limit is pretty damn high which means it’s a minor inconvenience to really good drivers and bugger all to everyone else. They say its throaty snarl is ‘synthesised’ and therefore inauthentic. Right again, just like the engine sound of near enough every other interesting car on sale.

This is a brilliant car, victim only to having a premium rather than a luxury badge on its nose and snob value about not having a proper engine. I really couldn’t care less. For £35,000 an i8 is a rare and special bargain and all I hope is that no one else has twigged this by the time this business discovers it’s been harbouring an imposter for all these years and slings me out on my ear. Which is why I’m beginning to wish I hadn’t written this.