There was plenty of stuff I didn’t care for: the road noise on concrete surfaces, headlights that were no more than adequate for a car of this performance, the small boot, the spidery lettering on the instruments and its snobbish aversion to non-original iPod cables. But the doors were the only element of the design
I thought mistaken. They look amazing, no car has ever been quicker or easier to fall into and it’s not notably more difficult or less dignified to exit than a 911. But if someone parks too close, it makes access impossible. I was so careful to find spaces at the end of rows that I got blocked in only once, when some moron parked in a prohibited area next to it at Silverstone, but I had to wait until I could get the offending vehicle towed before I was mobile again.
But there’s a bigger picture here. This car is a revolution and I think more people should understand that. This is not just a car made a different way from different materials, but it’s doing a different job, too. In its balance between long-distance touring ability and sporting aspiration, it’s the closest thing to a replacement for the Porsche 928 we’ve yet seen. Yet it does all that in a way that is so relentlessly forward-looking that it makes even other hybrid supercars look backward. Does a Honda NSX have a carbon tub, can you charge it from a wall socket and will it run for extended periods on electricity alone? No, no, and no again.
I, for one, would never seek to deny the i8’s flaws, but nor will I let them obscure what really matters, which is that it provides the first truly convincing template for the supercar of the future we have seen while proving an eminently usable, delightfully engaging everyday companion. Spending time with one has been a rare and special pleasure.
HYBRID DRIVE - This plug-in hybrid has the power, fuel consumption and ease of use to slip effortlessly into your life. BUILD QUALITY - Not the slightest thing went wrong on this technologically pioneering car in 15,000 hard-driven miles. STRIKING LOOKS - Its sleek, lithe shape was capable of brightening up the most miserable of Monday mornings.
IMPRACTICAL DOORS - Yes, they look really cool but you have to find a space at the end of a row when you use a public car park. LACKLUSTRE INTERIOR - Actually, I don’t loathe, but I do wish it was a little more commensurate with the car’s six-figure price.
What do a McLaren 650S and a BMW i8 have in common? Other than somewhat rakish appearances, it would seem not much. One is a four-wheel-drive 2+2 hybrid GT with 357bhp, the other a rear-drive, strictly two-seat supercar with 641bhp. One has a measly 1.5-litre three cylinder motor, the other a mighty 3.8-litre V8
No, I’m not going to tell you that, contrary to all expectations, the i8 will actually keep up with the 650S on a decent road, or is more fun to drive, or better to listen to or even look at. Sonorous and stylish though it is, it is none of these things.
And yet somehow they seem to share something: it’s a sense of engineering integrity, of innate strength, of, for want of a less excruciating word, specialness. And I can only put it down to the one aspect of their designs that they do share and which sets them apart from the vast majority of other cars, including most expensive sports, GT and supercars: carbonfibre.