BMW’s inimitable i8 has once again shown the motoring world the magic it can produce from just a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder gasoline engine when it is combined with electric power.
Taking top honours in this category last year, BMW’s hybrid powertrain surged ahead in voting this year, with judges awarding the title to the German auto maker for the fourth time since this futuristic feat of engineering was introduced in 2014.
Revamped for 2018 with the launch of the new i8 Roadster and Coupé models, BMW’s latest eDrive technology has boosted system output as a result of increased gross energy capacity of the lithium-ion battery from 7.1kWh to 11.6kWh, which squeezes an extra 12ps from the electric motor’s peak output.
The result is a total of 374ps, peak torque of 320Nm and performance that knocks on the door of supercar status, reaching 0-100km/h (0-62mph) in an impressive 4.4 seconds in Coupé form (4.6 for the Roadster).
All this is down to the spectacular synchronisation of 231ps from the turbocharged engine sent to the rear wheels and 143ps from the electric motor delivered to the front, which is intelligently used when needed to help save energy.
With all this power comes great efficiency. Combined consumption (for the Coupé) is a staggering 156mpg (1.5 l/100km), with CO2 output of 42g/km and a pure e-mode range in the EU test cycle clocked at 54km (34 miles), 50% greater than before.
With the i8’s hybrid powertrain continuing to defy convention, it’s little wonder that judges heaped praise on the world’s highest-selling PHEV sports car and crowned it king of the 1.4-litre to 1.8-litre category.
Marc Lachappelle, from Canada’s Guide de l’auto, described its “thrilling performance with the added attraction of pure electric drive”, while Nikos Kounitis, an automotive journalist from Greece, believes the 1,499cc hybrid is “the future of internal combustion engines”.