Turner BMW i8 Project Car** Updated 08/28/2015 **
"EVERYONE WHO SEES THE i8 ASSUMES IT IS, IN FACT, FROM THE FUTURE"
- Chris Harris
- Chris Harris
The BMW i8, or BMW Concept Vision Efficient Dynamics as it was first introduced in 2009, is the first BMW since the iconic late-Seventies M1 sports car with a "mid-engine" design. Using conventional terminology, this is a 357hp 3,275lb sports car employing all-wheel drive and 2+2 seating. But any comparisons to the typical mid-engine car of the last 50 years would be in error. Because in addition to the fossil-burning mid-mounted 1.5-liter turbocharged internal combustion engine producing 228hp, the i8 features a front-mounted 98kW (129hp) electric motor powered by a 7.1kWh lithium ion battery pack and delivering power to the front wheels. The technology and engineering behind the project puts BMW in the same league as the current crop of hypercar manufacturers with million-dollar price tags - McLaren (P1), Ferrari (LaFerrari), and Porsche (918). It was unveiled in 2009 as a concept for the future. The production i8 is evidence that the future is now.
What does all of this mean? This is more than a gimic for BMW to tout as its halo sports car. If all BMW wanted was to reaffirm their sports car credentials they could have dropped an S65 V8 or S55 twin-turbo I6 into an attractive design. But BMW management was more forward thinking. This is BMW mounting fresh attacks on two automotive fronts: efficiency and driving enjoyment. BMW is the first among the volume manufacturers to enter the hybrid sports car arena. Sure McLaren, Ferrari, and Porsche all arrived at the same time. That's pretty good company to keep. But instead of ultra-limited production and million dollar price tags, the i8 is a serious effort at selling the hybrid sports car. BMW set their goals beyond making a splash and owning headline space. The i8 had to be a winner as a regular car, albeit a fast and sexy one. Put your 458, 911, and Corvette toys away until the weekend. Park the Tesla until you need the extra rows of seats. The i8 delivers large portions of enviro-friendly fun with a price point on par with the traditional two-seat sports cars.
Since the i8 was debuted it was a car that we needed to get our hands on. We loved the sexy form and were cheering for BMW to make the technology work. We participated in their ActiveE full-electric trial and came away impressed that BMW could evolve and take on this new technology yet still remain true to their roots. So we were confident that if the i8 drove as well as it looked then BMW could score this as a grand slam. And we wanted it badly.
The i8 rides and sounds fantastic! You heard right - it SOUNDS fantastic. The usual 20 minute drive back from the dealer ballooned into an hour or more as we peeled back the i8's many layers. You would never guess a 1.5-liter 3-cylinder lies under the rear deck. It rumbles and rips and sounds more like a V8 than the actual N63 V8 found in the F10 550i. The i8's handling is agile and the steering is sharp. Lightweight construction or not, the i8 is still on the heavy side (more than an E36 M3 for example). There must have been many late nights at the chassis engineering department because the i8 changes directions like a surfboard. The brakes are very good and the overall ride on the stock 20" tires is impressive.
When you first walk up to the futuristic supercar you are instantly enamored by the sleek and slippery body lines of the i8. The shapes of the thermoplastic body panels draped over the carbon-fiber tub are something you would expect to find only from watching Jetsons cartoons. There is no common body line contour to follow from nose to tail. Instead your concentration weaves its way through every portal and contour. There's a lot to take in but one thing stands out: there are no appended scoops or ducts (very un-supercar like). Intake and cooling ducts are blended into the body panels and through the floor. Sans protrusions the body achieves a slick .26 drag coefficient.
One of the first things we noticed in person is the presence of the i8. Going only by photos the car seemed somewhat small and compact. But in the real world the size alone makes a statement of substance. It has a wide stance and the tall beltline/compact greenhouse amplify the girth. The carbon door opens with little to no effort as the tuned spring/damper helps push it up and open. Now you're presented with a challenge - climbing into the front seat. Whether you are 5 5 or 6 6, getting in and out of the i8 with any grace is next to impossible. The unusually long but extremely narrow opening hinders entry. A cutout in the roof, GT40-style, would allow you to put your shoulders in line with the seat and drop down.
Once past the obstacle of entry you find yourself surrounded by leather, lights and crisp digital displays. Analog instrument clusters are a thing of the past. The i8 features a fully digital, high-contrast TFT cluster with displays that shift from blue to red depending on what driving mode is selected. After pushing the gear selector into sport mode, the cluster illuminates red and all 357 horsepower is at your command. The sound of the 1.5L turbo-charged engine fills the cabin (or noise pipped in through the stereo) and you're off. The instant torque of the electric motor combined with the added power from the gasoline engine creates such a smooth sensation when accelerating, regardless of speed. Traction off the line is excellent. And did we mention the sound? It's intoxicating.
Despite everything that is great about the i8, we still feel the desire to get more out of it. BMW did an outstanding job engineering the i8 but there's always something that could improve. Whether its more acceleration, better handling, more stopping power and the list goes on. It's in our DNA and what makes Turner what it is today. We are always striving to push the envelope to improve performance, aesthetics and the overall driving experience of any and all BMWs. The i8 is no different, thus the Turner Project i8.
First Things First: Suspension.
Since suspension tuning is our specialty, we wanted to make sure that our i8 handled as good as it looks. To start we contacted our friends over at H&R springs to get some sport springs for the i8 to lower the center of gravity and slightly increase the spring rate without negatively impacting the fantastic ride.
During our spring measuring and research we noticed the front camber was pretty neutral. With a little more front negative camber we can get more front grip and less understeer. The i8 has near perfect weight distribution so we didn't have to worry about rear-biased oversteer. Still, too much understeer is never a good thing so we went searching for ways to increase negative camber. These BMW A-arms from the F10 5-series are a bit shorter than the standard i8 arms. This pulls the front hub inwards and adds 0.5* of camber. The "pushy-ness" of the stock setup is gone. The car now handles better and we're able to take corners at higher speeds. It feels better with quicker steering response too. It's a blast on every corner. Moving the A-arm further in also gave us more space for a wider tire which we'll explain in our next update.
Update 2: Wheels
The stock 20" wheels look good and mirror the flow of the body well. But they're not very wide and having a wider wheel and tire will give the car more grip in the corners. We talked with Forgeline, a supplier to our sports car racing team, about some lightweight forged alloy wheels. Forgeline is well known in racing circles but also in the hot rod, muscle car, and Porsche markets and often with custom colors. They do all of their own powdercoating in-house. From their catalog we selected the AR1 monoblock wheel design. The AR1 is machined from a block of 6061-T6 aluminum with I-beam spokes, angled split spokes, chamfered machining details, and a concave profile. We went up one inch in diameter (to 21") and increases in width as well. We went as wide as the enveloping bodywork tight packaging allowed - 9.0" in the front and 10.0" in the rear. Custom offsets ensure there is no rubbing. Forgeline came up with a matte transparent blue finish especially for our project.
The front wheel well does not offer a broad range of sizes and offsets. The clearance to the suspension and outer bodywork was very tight. Adding the negative camber pulled the suspension away from the wheel rim and that allowed more clearance. Of course, the beauty of custom wheels is that you can build them any way you want. You can even replicate the factory size and offset to get a factory fitment with a new look. We'd like to see other Forgeline designs on this car, such as the DE3C or CF3C.
Forgeline AR1 Gallery:
Update 3: Exhaust
The i8's small displacement, 3-cylinder turbocharged engine certainly makes enough power when combined with the electric motors to propel the i8 down the road. However, many turbocharged cars suffer from a lack of exhaust noise, and the i8 is no exception. It's widely known that a large amount of the exhaust "noise" you hear in the interior cabin isn't produced by the engine and exhaust, but rather is piped-in through the speakers.
Installation requires removal of the various protective undertrays and heat shields that cover the area around the bottom of the engine and the exhaust. Once these are removed the stock exhaust is removed from the three factory hangers that hold the unit in place. The factory hanger that sits directly behind the middle of the rear bumper can remain in place, while the other two on the sides of the exhaust need to be removed and installed on the Arqray exhaust.
Once the factory hangers are on the Arqray exhaust, you will need to attach some additional short sections of exhaust that allow it to connect with the section of the stock exhaust directly behind the catalytic converter. After the entire exhaust is ready to be installed it is relatively easy to put the Arqray exhaust into place.
The Arqray Titanium Exhaust provides plenty of added noise and driving enjoyment over the stock exhaust. It makes lots of satisfying pops and burbles after letting off the accelerator during full throttle accelerations. In addition to the added driving enjoyment thanks to the added sound, the Arqray Titanium Exhaust is 50% lighter than the stock exhaust, with the Arqray exhaust weighing in at 18.0 lbs and the stock unit at 36.0 lbs.
Turner i8 In-Detail:
It's obvious to even non-enthusiasts that the BMW i8 is a special automobile. It gathers a tremendous amount of attention and interest anywhere it goes, and for good reason. While other high-end manufacturers such as Lamborghini, Ferrari and McLaren have car that make you turn your head and take a second look, the i8 does it in a different kind of way. While many in the general public know a Ferrari or Lamborghini are expensive, fast and exclusive cars, they are traditional in the sense they have conventional gasoline-powered engines that produce a lot of horsepower and torque.
However, when people see the i8 they are genuinely interested in the overall make-up of the car. They ask everything from "how large is the engine?" or "how much power does this thing have?." Many are suprised to learn the vehicle is a hybrid powered by the combination of a very small displacement engine and an electric battery. The same goes with the interior and exterior body lines.
The i8 is beautiful, not because it's the fastest, most powerful or most expensive car on the road but rather because it's different. BMW has accomplished what they intended when they embarked on the "BMW Concept Vision Efficient Dynamics" project back in 2009. They have pushed the envelope of automotive technology, design and engineering and in the process have opened people's eyes to what a 21st century automobile truly is.
BMW i8 Performance Parts:
Titanium Exhaust System for i8
This fully titanium system is 50% lighter than the stock steel exhaust! It produces more power and a more robust exhaust note for increased driving pleasure. Manufactured in Japan, this system offers the highest quality construction and fitment in keeping with the i8 character. Performance is optimized through the use of larger diameter tubing and reduced back pressure muffler. Each exhaust is also tuned to free up the engine's sound while still letting the engine's characteristics shine through.
Stock Exhaust - 36.0 lbs
Titanium Exhaust - 18.0 lbs
Click here to order.
H&R Springs for i8
Direct from Germany, H&R Springs are the highest quality sport springs available. These H&R Sport springs for your i8 work well with the factory shocks and dampening to retain much of the factory drive ability and ride. This spring set will make a subtle yet noticeable visual improvement to the i8's stance, reducing the perceived fender gap of the stock ride height.
Front Lowering .75"
Rear Lowering .6"
Click here to order.
Front Upper A-arm Camber Upgrade
These upper A-arms are an upgrade over the stock arms thanks to the extra negative camber they give. Bolt these in for an immediate 0.5 degree increase in negative camber. This is a factory part that BMW offers to correct for alignment issues. They just happen to increase negative camber which is what every BMW needs. Adding more negative camber helps with handling and steering response by reducing understeer. You don't have to be on the racetrack or autocross to feel the improvement. The extra camber is useful in spirited driving on secondary roads and even on/off ramps.
Click here to order.
Forgeline AR1 Forged Wheels for i8
The AR1 is an exciting evolution in Forgeline monoblock styling, with a very angular split spoke pattern, extra-deep concave profile, and radically-chamfered outer edge perfect for the i8.
Click here to order.