Over the past quarter century, BMW has used the number “8” three times in its nomenclature with the E31-codenamed 8-Series, the E52 Z8 and now, with the i8.
Three very different cars from three very different times, but each one is considered BMW’s halo coupe in their respective eras, so when we learned from a friend (who wishes to remain anonymous) that he had a chance to photograph the new i8 and his manual-gearbox 850Ci together, we asked for permission to share these photos with you and well, here we are.
The i8 has been widely lauded for its technological advancements, including a lightweight carbonfibre construction and a sophisticated plug-in hybrid driveline that pairs a 1.5-liter three-cylinder turbo to two electric motors offering the capability to run in pure-electric front-wheel drive or gasoline-electric all-wheel drive modes.
While it’s not a true enthusiasts sports car (it was never meant to be), it’s, if not the, one of the most futuristic vehicles in the market today, regardless of cost and category.
As far as first impressions go, the 8-Series made quite a splash itself when BMW introduced the coupe at the 1989 Frankfurt Motor Show with its exotic, yet timeless appearance that included pop-up headlamps and a pillarless design. It still looks fresh and sleek inside and out 25 years later, and that’s a testament to the work of BMW designer Klaus Kapitza.
It was fairly advanced for its time, being the first production car to pair a 6-speed manual to a V12 engine; it had a multi-link rear axle and an electronic “drive-by-wire” throttle, among other headline features.
However, it fell short on driving dynamics, being more of a fast but relatively bulky Autobahn cruiser than a true automotive athlete, which disappointed many hardcore BMW fans. To be fair, the BMW Motorsport-developed, but limited production, 850CSi cured some of the E31’s issues in this department, albeit at a cost – it started at $98,500 in 1994, which according to this site with a US Inflation calculator, comes out to around $156,000 in today’s money. The i8 starts from $136,500.