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The BMW i8 – £99,590

When Old Meets New

We get behind the wheel of the classic BMW 2002 Turbo and compare it to the state of the art BMW i8
State of the art technology in the i8

"This car is a proper classic, and in this condition, one that carries a hefty price tag."

Kevin Haggarthy

 

If you were born about 40 years ago and fate has been kind to you, you’re only about halfway through your life right now. At this age, many men are trying to cope with losing their hair, middle age spread, and a midlife crisis or two.

I won’t comment generally on women in this regard, but sometimes when I listen to my wife, I would say that maybe some women have similar issues with dipping confidence as they get older. In our house, these days, our conversation often goes like this: my wonderful other half says, “Do you like my new dress, sweetheart?”

“Yes, I do, darling,” I reply genuinely, “it looks lovely.”

“You don’t like it really do you?” she sighs, “You’re just saying it. You think it makes me look fat, don’t you? Right that’s it! I’m never asking you again!” she will fume, storming upstairs to change her dress for the fourth time. Neither of us had any of these confidence issues 20 years ago, when we were both much younger, but as time has changed us, we have both grown less secure about our looks.

The BMW 2002 Turbo – one of the most desirable cars of the early 70s © BMW AG

 

But, really, there’s been little radical change in either of us. We humans evolve gradually over the years into older but similar versions of ourselves, whereas cars tend to change radically over the years.

BMW 2002 Turbo

40 years ago, the BMW 2002 Turbo was all the rage. Unveiled in 1973, it was the first European production model with turbocharged technology; the four cylinder two litre engine produces 170bhp, 0-62mph in seven seconds, and a top speed of 130mph. It was a genuinely fast car for the early 70s. Only 1,672 cars were produced before the 1974 oil crisis killed the car’s sales. The one you see here is a fully restored pristine version with an approximate value of circa £60,000 today.

It is easy to see the appeal; the 2002 Turbo is a remarkably spacious and comfortable four-seater with an airy cabin and a large boot. There was hardly anything around at the time offering similar pound for pound performance and practicality, being equally fantastic either for the daily commute or for a fast long-haul transcontinental journey. Take a 360 degree look around from the driver’s seat, and its all-round vision and natural cabin light easily outclasses many modern cars. Yet, none of this detracts from its sleek sporting appearance, gracefully preceding the origami-angled cars which dominated the following decade. It was also novel to have a ‘dog-leg’ five speed gearbox in the 2002, with first being to the left and back, and the other four gears following the usual square-on four speed sequence.

Surprise

What will surprise you greatly is the performance. It’s a much higher eff ort drive than modern cars, of course, but great for being so, as it makes for a much more engaging drive. You can feel yourself connect with the mechanical characteristics of the car through the throttle, gear-change and steering, whilst the handling behaviour of the stiffened chassis communicates through your bum. On a challenging road, you’ll soon understand why the 2002 Turbo proved so popular with keen drivers. Even in 2017, you’ll have no trouble keeping up with even well driven modern cars, and by and large you’ll be having more fun trying. It’s a car that grows on you, and judging by the comments of several passengers during our time with the car, it has a surprising amount of whoomph too.

This car is a proper classic, and in this condition, one that carries a hefty price tag. Yet, it remains a sound investment even at upwards of 50 grand, and an even better one if you have the time and resources to restore one.

To the future

Wind the clock forward 44 years and you have the BMW i8. If you saw an image of this car in 1973, it would be the stuff of science fiction, straight out of the Gerry Anderson’s TV Series ‘UFO’. Only it’s not; it’s real…and I’m sure you already know, it’s a hybrid.

As we approached the i8 in our car park for the first drive, three or four young guys were hanging around with their mobile phones on record and pointed towards the rear of the car in order to catch the engine note as we zoomed away. You should have seen the look on their faces when the i8 eased away in total silence (being electric of course).

When not being driven by electric motors, the i8 is powered by a three cylinder 1500cc twin turbocharged engine. We had a bit of fun with the lads waiting by the car; I explained to them that the i8 does 0-62mph in 4.4 seconds, has a top speed of 155mph and generates around 357bhp, then asked them to guess the size of the engine. The answers ranged from V6 Turbo to V12. When I told them, it was a three cylinder 1500cc unit, they couldn’t believe it. They had already guessed we got about 14mpg, and when I told them it was more like 134.5mpg they were gobsmacked. We’ve covered the i8 in these pages before, and we say now as we did then, “Bring it on BMW”; if this is to be the future for the modern-day supercar, then BMW have got it right first time.

Thrilling speed

Getting in the i8 means planting your bum first and pulling in your legs after. Once you’re in though, it‘s like being in a spaceship, especially after pressing the start button when everything lights up. Even in pure electric mode (good for about 15 miles), the i8 is no shirk; you will promptly leave every green light with gusto, despite there being, literally, no noise. But very soon, you will be inclined to shift the floor mounted lever to sport mode – then everything turns red, the engine kicks in with a growl, and then we get into seriously fast driving.

In sport, the i8 is a very different car; exciting, raucous and ready for anything. It is not a Ferrari or 911, but it’s not that far off – and it will greedily gobble all twisty and challenging A and B roads. Of course, high speed motorway travel is an absolute doddle; it’ll do 155mph all day should you choose the derestricted German Autobahns to drive down.

Taking the i8 on English B roads is best though – it’s quite entertaining to keep a peripheral eye on the i8 passenger when you are pushing hard; the head goes forward when braking, is fixed to the headrest on hard acceleration, and sways from door to centre console with g-force on cornering. All this in a car that hardly uses fuel (it cost £47 for us to fill from empty), and drives around in silence.

The environmentally friendly supercar is here. The purist may miss the ultimate dynamic handling flow you get in a car with a traditional engine, much of this flow is compromised here by front wheel drive assistance – thus flattening the car on the high-speed dribble. But it is unlikely that this alone will deter you from wanting the motor, mainly because it is generally sensational.

Human versus machine

Personally, I find 40 years of progress in motor car development much more interesting than watching myself and others age to over 40 plus years. If anything, it makes me want to live a lot longer, so as to live through these exciting transitions in motoring history.

Yet, whilst modern cars are becoming increasingly computer-aided, there is a big resurgence of interest in classics. Many are preferring the old to the new, when “engines were engines”, and when designers put inspiration before computer-aided design. Maybe that’s why we are falling in love again with cars like the BMW 2002 Turbo. Either way, making the choice between old and new is much more fun than contemplating hair loss, and middle age spread. However, having a midlife crisis does mean I have an excuse to go out and buy either of these two amazing cars.

 

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