By Anandarup Dutta
Over the past few years the luxury car market in India has become a level playing field with numerous European and American brands making forays into this vast untapped market. However, Audi, BMW andMercedes still remain leviathans in this arena. In an aggressive effort to recapture its best selling status in the luxury car segment, BMW has planned on launching nine new models this year, to achieve a more concentrated and focussed penetration into the Indian psyche. Five of the said models have already been launched, and four more are to come, notably the hybrid i8 and the M3 sedan, not to mention the facelift version of the X3 SUV.
Set to hit Indian roads in grand fashion this December, BMW’s i8 is expected to bring about a ‘revolution’, being the first sports carwith the emission and consumption values of a compact. BMW had managed to make headlines in 2011 when it had announced the launch of its ‘i’ division for its electric and hybrid segment, the first of its kind in the luxury car section. The 2014 auto expo sawSachin Tendulkar, a self confessed automobile enthusiast, unveil the i8 plug in hybrid and the industry will, no doubt keenly watch the progress made by this fascinating new model.
The sleek, yet bold, with a low slung body, an expansive hood and a chunky back, brings to mind the 8 series of the late 1980s and early 1990s. However, make no mistake, none of these flashbacks take away from the fact that this one is still exceedingly futuristic in its looks and appeal. It retains the iconic BMW twin kidney grille with a delightful splash of colour bordering it, accentuating the sharp lines of the long headlamps. The low slung windshield, the long highlighted bonnet, all add to the low slung, sleek look of the car. But what really makes this a sports car are the spectacular scissor doors that swing upward when open; combined with strategically placed aerodynamic creases below the bumper, around the hood and some really “jazzy” alloy wheels, it can take on the Merc Gullwing at any given occasion.
The rear end adds to the surprise element with a very modern adaptation of the current tail lights, which are a staple in most of BMW’s models. Replete with rudimentary spoilers and wide bumpers, this car appears muscular and exudes confidence.
The interiors too, have incorporated only subtle changes keeping the BMW standards in mind. The facelift features would be a ten inch display that interacts with the i-drive system and an array of digital gauges.The centre console is furnished with chrome plastics while the two seats inside the coupe are covered with leather. In case the designing of i8 appears plain to most Indian customers, please be informed that this car in expected to meet European standards of quality and performance rather than flamboyance.
Enough said about the looks, we shall focus on what makes this car worth the hype it has generated. Let us take a peek into the ‘heart’. It boasts of a 1.5 litre, three cylinder twin scroll turbo engine producing 231 BHP and 320 Nm of torque. The front wheels are connected to an electric motor through a twin stage AT box. This motor produces 131 BHP and is mated to a 5 kWh lithium ion battery. This combination takes the total output to 362bhp and 570Nm of torque allowing the i8 to do 0-100kmph in 4.4 seconds. This setup also gives the i8 a very impressive 39.9kmpl according to European testing standards. Offering far more than just athleticism, this car seems to be very different from the run of the mill sports car. This is because the powerful plug-in hybrid system with the combination of BMW eDrive technology coupled with the engine of course, brings together the benefits of an electric motor and a petrol engine to produce an outstanding driving experience.
The crowning feature of this car might just be the BMW e-drive system. The full torque of the agile electric motor is available from a standing start and makes for unrivalled driving pleasure and an innovative cooling system keeps the high-voltage batteries at their optimum operating temperature, which increases performance and service life. It must be mentioned that the idea behind this – minimum consumption and maximum performance – is not generally a forte of sports cars.
So how much will this hunk of a car set you back by? BMW is estimated to price the car in the range ofRs1.5 crores to Rs2.2 crores. BMW boasts of the distinct advantage of being the first one to launch such a car in India. Whether this car will capture the imagination of the Indian populace, is something we will known by December this year. Keep a weather eye out for the i8. Expectations are running high indeed.