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Welcome to the Wonderland

by internationalbanker

By Joseph Moss – joseph.moss@internationalbanker.com

Following the trend set up by the Japanese, European car manufacturers started to develop various hybrid systems using somewhat different approaches in comparison to ones from the Far East. BMW showed they are by far the most active in this field when they revealed a whole new brand called BMWi (it’s not an Apple product, don’t worry) devoted to researching new possibilities in the field of electric and hybrid propulsion. Under the influence of the whole motoring world, BMW started the development of two cars – i3 and i8; the latter is a real head-turner with the pedigree of a real sports car. 

Based on a lightweight chassis made almost entirely out of aluminum, i8 features an advanced hybrid system made out of one electric motor placed over the front axle and a petrol engine placed in the back, just in front of the rear axle. As both engines are small, BMW created a quite comfy cabin, even retaining the 2+2 seat configuration. However, we have to acknowledge this car is as advanced as the cars recently presented by McLaren (P1), Porsche (918 Spyder) and Ferrari (LaFerrari). BMW i8 represents a bit (actually, a lot) cheaper version of the advanced vehicles powered by extremely powerful hybrid systems. In this vehicle, the driver has at his disposal an electric engine developing 130 HP (and 250 Nm of torque) and 1,5 liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine developing 231 HP. It is not as much as you would expect from a car looking like i8, but estimated combined power output of 362 HP can clear the picture a bit. Thanks to a lightweight design and external panels formed out of composite materials, the overall weight of the i8 is just under 3,285 lbs. Weighing as much as a compact sedan, i8 is loaded with technology developed in the recent years. 

As it is formed as a plug-in hybrid, this car is admired even by the environmentalists. Using only an electric motor, i8 can travel over 22 miles only on electricity. Thanks to a 7,2 kW lithium ion battery pack placed in the central tunnel, the electric engine can feed the wheels with enough power for achieving a maximum speed of up to 75 mph. It is not bad, considering this is a car that meets its habitable zones in city centers. However, i8 has its other, darker side as well. If we look at it from the front side, we can notice the familiar BMW face garnished with modern aerodynamic elements and fully adjustable front grill. Thanks to these measures, i8 features an aerodynamically optimized body that adjusts itself during driving. Therefore, the power produced by the hybrid system is fully usable, allowing the car to hit 60 mph in just 4,5 seconds. Remember, this is not a small car, but the speed that i8 can achieve can be compared with the speed, of, let’s say, Audi R8, or even with the speed of the new Jag F-type V8. Nonetheless, the real advantage of the whole hybrid system is the fuel consumption. With estimated fuel consumption of just 94 mpg (US mpg), i8 is probably the most economical sports car that ever walked the earth. Fuel consumption is really remarkable, mainly because this car can really show its teeth on any road. As the two engines are placed above the front and rear axles – technically speaking – i8 becomes a four-wheel-drive car.

Choosing different drive modes on the fully integrated iDrive system can enable the car to use all of the power available. The effects are astonishing. Reaching 60 mph in just 4,5 seconds is just one part of this story. The other, much more interesting, is the pleasure of driving this hi-tech Beemer. It seems i8 grips the road as the best sports cars, and the large 20-inch wheels help place all of that power to the ground. Even though this car is not designed to smash any Nurburgring records, it is pretty spectacular and close to real M cars when we consider its driving performance. The sports car able to achieve 94 mpg and drive like an M3 cannot disappoint. This is the car BMW wanted to produce since the introduction of Audi R8. It is true that these two cars are very different, but in the end the driving is all that really matters, and BMW did its magic once again. 

However, this is not a cheap car. High end technology followed by CFRP exterior panels, a hybrid power plant and luxurious 2+2 interior, is priced at 135,000 US dollars in the USA. You get a pretty remarkable car for the money, but the question remains – do you really want to buy a BMW i8 while, for the same money, you can buy two similarly fast Jaguars F-Types? You will not get two V8 versions, though. With a price tag of 99,000 US dollars, Jaguar F-Type V8 S is probably one of the most beautiful sport cars that ever left British soil. 

Though the i8 cannot be directly compared to F-Type V8, we can find a few similar touches. First of all, Jag F-Type and BMW i8 represent the new breed of sport cars. One represents high-end technology with sophisticated drivetrain and eco-friendliness, while the other retains that old-school effect, incorporating a big V8 engine under the elongated hood. Which is better? Due to different clients that Jag and Beemer target, this question will never be answered. We have to admit, the i8 looks and feels like a spaceship in comparison with the F-Type. However, the kitten can purr much more powerfully and loudly than the Bimmer. 

Still, let’s start from the beginning – from the chassis. The all-aluminium chassis, featuring special reinforcement points, provides a fabulous base for a car that should be the successor of the famous E-Type. That said, the F-Type has to be able to look at the eyes of the cars such as Porsche 911 Carrera or Carrera S, and surpass the smaller Porsches like Boxter or even Cayman. Turbocharged versions are good enough, but the real deal is the one with the mighty V8 under its bonnet. Almost 500 HP promises the excitement of a Ferrari, while the sheer look of the formidable car injects so much emotion in every piece of the body, that the technology standing behind this marvel simply becomes irrelevant. Yes, it is that beautiful, especially looking at it from the back side (well, everyone will eventually look at its back side and no one will be disappointed). This is probably the first car everyone will be happy to be overtaken by. We can’t wait to see the SUV that Jaguar is planning to produce using the similarly-styled rear lights. 

Let’s get back to the F-Type 

jag_f-type_firesand_281112_11 (4)It is possible the big engine on the front will be too heavy for hard cornering, but the double wishbone setup on all four corners and mechanical rear differential inject confidence. This is a real sports machine heavily garnished with technology such as adjustable dampers, advanced stability control system with different modes commanded from the cabin and with optionally available CCM brakes. All of this stuff is really cool and it additionally improves the driving capabilities of the F-Type. When compared to hi-tech BMW i8, the Jag F-Type lacks one crucial ingredient – a four-wheel drive. Though this causes a bit slower acceleration time, the V8 model is able to hit 60 in just over 4 seconds. It is not as fast as 458 Italia, or Nissan’s Godzilla, but it is 99,000 US dollars fast – and that is fast enough. Lack of the four-wheel drive means the Jag F-Type is a bit wilder than the computer-operated i8. Burning rubber with a ‘happy tail’ has never been easier since overpowered American muscle cars. There is one more thing that is as impressive as those old muscle cars. Eight cylinders working in harmony produce the most astonishing sound you have ever heard. A ‘blurp’ while changing the gear on an eight-speed Quickshift auto gearbox is deliberately enhanced, so the driver and all other nearby drivers must be on alert at all times. This is as close as a car can get to the spirit of a cat (of course, a wild cat). 

We have to admit that Jag F-Type V8 looks fantastic inside and out. Aluminium chassis with powerful engines and high-end mechanical components provide a thrilling sensation while driving or just listening to it; however, Jag F-Type cannot be compared with Aston Martins, Ferraris or even Porsches. This one is somewhere in the middle – in the same way as BMW i8 is somewhere in the middle of this crazy modern sports car world. Priced competitively, made astonishingly and incredibly fast, these vehicles represent a window to the future of motoring where more drivers will be able to afford beautifully styled cars with technology normally available solely on the much more expensive cars. 


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