I hate driving.
One of the happiest moments of my life was when I sold my old Honda CR-V after moving to New York almost seven years ago. New York has a great public transportation system plus plenty of taxis and Ubers to get you around. Why bother with the hassle of owning a car?
But at the Consumer Electronics Show this year I saw a bunch of people tweeting about BMW’s new hybrid sports car, the i8. They were drooling over this thing. It also looked pretty cool, like an updated Delorean from “Back To The Future,” complete with suicide doors. At dinner Wednesday night, a friend of mine told me about her test drive and said it blew her mind.
I had to try it.
BMW made it simple too. You just send the company a tweet with your location and a crew drives to you with a shiny i8. Demand was pretty high, so it took a little over an hour for them to show up.
And then (holy smokes!) I saw this thing pull into the parking lot of my hotel.
BMW also brought along a camera crew to follow me in a separate car and film me driving through the streets of Las Vegas. There was also a GoPro mounted inside the windshield. So look for me in a future car commercial, I guess.
But before I could even get behind the wheel I had to sign a waiver. I have no idea what this thing said. I didn’t read it. I assume I signed my life away in case something nasty happened during my drive. I didn’t care. I wanted to drive this thing so badly I would have signed away my firstborn.
Getting in was tough. The i8 sits really low to the ground, so you have to kind of slide in butt-first. I’m over six feet tall, so this was pretty difficult. But once I was inside, I was totally comfortable. The interior was much roomier than it looks from the outside.
There’s a lot of tech in this car too, so I had to familiarise myself with all the gizmos before I could start the ignition. My favourite: The heads up display that projects your console screen onto the windshield so you don’t have to take your eyes off the road to look at the GPS, XM radio, incoming calls, etc.
Then my BMW guide, who sat in the passenger seat, hit the ignition button. It seemed like nothing happened. No noise. No rumble and roar of the engine. Just silence. Since the i8 is a hybrid, it can also run in an electric-only mode, so you can’t feel the engine. It’s a little jarring at first if you’re used to driving regular cars.
The i8 can go a little over 75 miles on battery power alone. After that, you’ll need to use the gas-powered engine. The car can also switch automatically between electric and gas based on your speed, acceleration patterns, and a bunch of other factors.
I pulled out of the SLS hotel lot and onto Joe W Brown Drive. I was overly cautious at first, afraid to taint the car with even a grease spot. I’ve never sat behind the wheel of a vehicle like this. Pedestrians and other drivers were gawking at me. I felt like I was driving a car designed for Tony Stark. Eventually, I started feeling more confident. Then my guide switched the i8 to sport mode, which turns on the gas engine, and told me to turn down an empty side street.
The speed limit was 35 miles per hour. I didn’t see any cops or people or other cars.
“F— it,” I thought, and floored it.
The interior was silent, but I had the windows down so I could hear the engine roar and echo off the buildings lining the street. The g-forces pressed my head against the back of my seat. I took the i8 up to a symbolic 88 miles per hour before slowing down again so I didn’t run the red light at the end of the road. Breaking one traffic law was enough for me.
By the way, the model I drove costs $US150,000.
I tooled around the city a bit more before arriving at BMW’s booth outside the Las Vegas Convention Center. I parked the car, and did a quick interview for the BMW camera crew.
Hours after my test drive, I was still thinking about the i8. If I could, I’d buy one in a heartbeat. And this is coming from a dude who hates driving.
If you have an extra $US150,000, I highly recommend buying the BMW i8.
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