The BMW i8, a radically styled all-wheel-drive plug-in hybrid machine, is undergoing cold-weather testing before its reveal in production form in late 2012. With the i8 frolicking in the snow, spy photographers at AutoEvolution have caught images of the near production-ready plug-in hybrid dream machine.
The styling of this version of the i8 differs considerably from the previously revealed concepts but retains the same silhouette and low-slung carbon fiber body work. The BMW i8 now most closely resembles a scaled-down Audi R8, but with some distinct design elements, including unusual fins up front and dramatic extensions above the rear wheels.
Specs have not changed, according to BMW. In showroom form, the i8’s rear wheels will be powered by BMW’s 1.5-liter three-cylinder turbocharged gasoline engine that cranks out 215 horsepower and 22 pound-feet of torque. The front wheels of the i8 are spun by a 128-horsepower electric motor. The two powerplants can drive the car together or separately to increase efficiency and respond driving conditions. Combined, peak horsepower comes in at 343 and early estimates peg the i8′s 0-60 mph time at 4.6 seconds. Most importantly, the i8 can function in electric-only mode with an estimated range of 22 miles.
The i8 features BMW’s new LifeDrive architecture, which uses vertical layering of component systems to create a safer, more aerodynamic and more responsive ride. The car’s electric motor and gasoline engine will be built onto its front and rear axle modules, with its battery pack running down the center of the car, giving it an ideal 50-50 front-rear weight distribution and keeping its center of gravity very low to the ground.
The BMW i8 is expected to launch sometime in 2013 and some reports suggest that it will make its worldwide debut in production form at 2012 London Olympics.