By David Love
You know how it is when you’re in the pub, conversation soon turns to the topic of cars and so it was for me the other week. I was leaning on the bar talking to Stephen the landlord when I asked him how his new car was going, “Great! It’s comfortable, fast and economical. I did 300 miles down country and it only cost me £40 to fill up. My last car would have cost double that!’ With that he put his hand in his pocket and pulled out a key fob. “Here give it a hurl and see what you think”. I grabbed the fob before he had time to come to his senses and change his mind. I know what you’re thinking ‘Who would let someone drinking in their pub loose in their new car?’ I wasn’t drinking in there, I was working, hard to believe I know! Okay, I also know what else you’re thinking now “Who would let David loose in their new car?’ “It’s keyless start so just press the start button and you’re good to go” said Stephen. With that Ben, who was working with me, and I shot out the door and into the car park.
There was our prey, the sun glinting off the immaculate silver body, ‘I hope it’s still immaculate when I get back’ was my first thought. My second thought was ‘Where the hell is the door handle?’
Ben, the mind reader, said ‘The handle’s hidden under the back edge of the door’. He was correct, a quick pull on the handle and the door rose majestically, ‘Cool’. Next problem, how to get in? The seat was the same height as the very wide sill, I tried left leg first but that made my eyes water so it was, sit on the sill, push back, drop into the seat then pull my legs in. Not very elegant but at least I was in. I would like to see a leggy super model get in. Boy, would I like to see that! I pressed the Start button and a blue rev counter and speedometer appeared on the LCD screen behind the steering wheel, ‘Cool’. Just then my phone rang, it was Stephen, “ Have you got it started?” ‘I think so but I can’t hear anything!’ “Is the Start button glowing blue?” ‘Yes’ “Then it’s started, when you get on a decent bit of road push the gear lever to the left, that’s Sports mode and the engine and the electric motor work together” ‘Cool’
We pulled out of the car park to the sound of the tyres crunching on the gravel, very disconcerting. A quick glance at the screen in the centre of the dashboard, it was showing a birds-eye view of the car. Wow, that parked car is getting close, time to look through the windscreen. Then I had a worrying thought “What if I scuff it or worse, how could Ben tell Stephen his pride and joy wasn’t pristine anymore”. Time to concentrate. What’s that floating above the bonnet? It was a Head-Up-Display of the speed. Cool! You can stay legal without looking at the instrument panel; it even shows who is calling you on your iPhone. You guessed it! Cool!
At last we cleared the 30 MPH limit, time for a little acceleration. Nice pick up of speed as the petrol engine took over, nice sound as well. The acceleration was brisk considering the engine was 1.5 litres and 3 cylinders but it did have twin turbochargers and was putting out over 220 BHP, not bad for a Mini engine. Considering we were on a B road the ride was quite supple but I was keeping a sharp eye out for potholes. You could probably buy a decent hatchback for the price of one of the wheels. Time for Sports mode, flick the lever to the left and the instruments changed colour from cool blue to danger red. Floor the throttle and the car took off faster than Usain Bolt, the instant torque from the electric motor made a big difference to acceleration and we hit licence losing speed in what seemed a very short distance. Even the engine note got more aggressive which puzzled me until I read that it was acoustically enhanced through the sound system. Sport mode produced 357 BHP and 570Nm torque, which equals 4.4 seconds to 62 MPH. All too soon we reached the M74, should we have a blast along it and check out its top speed. No! Let’s head back along the B road in Sport mode and flatten the batteries.
Auto Express felt that the acceleration of the BMW i8 was on a par with the Audi R8 and I would agree with them having driven Stephen’s previous car, which was an R8. The R8 was definitely sportier and handled better and the roar from the engine behind your head encouraged you to press on. The BMW is more of a very fast touring car that does handle well if you want to press on but is quite relaxing if you don’t. Thankfully I returned the car unscathed; the only embarrassment came as I tried to crawl out of the drivers seat.
I am eternally grateful to Stephen Ceates of The Shed, Annan’s Inn place, for trusting me with his 2 weeks old £100,000 BMW i8. The drive was short but sweet!