BMW i8

Technically speaking, this isn’t my i8, but it did live with me for the better part of six months, which is enough to consider it an extended houseguest. As my British mother always remarks about houseguests, it is lovely to see them come and lovely to see them go. While I am excited that the i8 is off to its new home, its departure is bittersweet.

There is nothing quite like the i8, and this one deserves a proper send-off.

This was an early i8, a 2015 model, with an odometer reading in the high teens. It came to me from a friend and BMW CCA member who had also owned an original E31 8 Series. Over the months I’ve spent a lot of time staring at this car, and like a fluid sculpture, it never left me bored.

The i8 was one of the most heavily developed cars in BMW’s history. BMW teased us for years before finally releasing a production version, but when they did, the actual i8 was true to the prototype’s form.

The production i8 was a true representation of the concept, right down to the gullwing doors.

In a word, that form is fluid. There is always motion in the layered lines of the i8, even when the car is parked—or more appropriately, when its kinetic motion has been suspended. Its design was revolutionary when released and remains so some two years after its production has ceased—a feat few cars have been able to achieve.

Hidden within its swooping lines are layers highlighted with colors and functional lighting elements.

Look a little deeper into those layers, and carbon-fiber abounds. There are decorative pieces that line the interior folds and finished pieces that form the roof, but the best is the raw and exposed carbon that the life cell of the passenger module is made of. You can see the individual strands of material as they were laid up and joined together in overlapping folds, all permanently frozen under the matte finish of the final layer of resin. It is industrial artisanry that BMW was wise to leave exposed.

Raw carbon-fiber forms the inner structures and is a visual reminder of how special that structure is.

The i8 was ahead of its time, yet also behind it. It caught the wave of vehicular electrification a little too soon to get the best wave of the technological set, but helped define the segment for those that followed. Big-wave surfer Jeff Clark surfed Mavericks for a decade and a half before the world caught on, and when it finally did, there were those who surfed it better—but nobody did it quite like Clark. That’s how I will remember the i8, and my instinct is that the future is going to be very kind to it.

If I were to keep this one, I would make a bumper sticker that reads One Less Tesla!Alex McCulloch

[Photos courtesy Peter Thompson.]

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