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A Hybrid Sports Car with Class

Science fiction becomes reality with BMW’s i8

When BMW design honcho Benoit Jacob says that the i8, the brand’s new plug-in hybrid sports car, was designed “by the wind,” he means it both literally and figuratively. “We don’t believe we can convince people to go for sustainable if it’s not sexy,” he says. “If it’s not convincing or emotional.” The i8’s layered aerodynamic ducting that runs from end to end of its carbon fiber body—a culmination of extensive wind-tunnel testing—is meant to reduce drag and maximize stability. In more poetic terms, however, the flowing form of the “sustainability-focused” sports car is, like a sailboat, about harmony and the ability to mesh with its environment.

What makes the i8 remarkable, though, is that it represents a nuanced answer to the ongoing dilemma of eco-efficiency versus performance. Around town, the car can rely on its regenerative-braking-powered electric drive, but when it’s time to hit the open road, the gas-powered hybrid system takes the worry out of staying within reach of the nearest charging station. And while the i8 handles with trademark BMW precision, it does so in near silence, although—with an MSRP starting at $135,700 and optional matching Louis Vuitton luggage—certainly not without making a statement, as the first wave of do-gooders taking delivery of their i8s this summer undoubtedly already know.