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BMW i8 hybrid supercar | new car sales price

BMW i8 hybrid supercar goes on sale in March next year in Australia.

BMW announces Australian pricing for hybrid supercar 

Crystal balls are always a bit murky — and gazing into them costs cash. Just how much depends on the reputation of the soothsayer and the gullibility of the client.

BMW's vision is much more transparent and much easier to appreciate than the insights of the local clairvoyant. And it is BMW that will pay the price if its prognostication is wrong.

Its electric/hybrid sub-brand — known as "i" — is a multibillion-dollar investment that amounts to a daring interpretation of the next generation of auto mobility.

In the case of its i8 supercar — this week announced with a local price of $299,000 when it goes on sale in March next year — that amounts to a radically styled and constructed body powered by an electric motor pumping through the front axle and a turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine engaging the rear. In electric mode, the i8 does 37km.

Depending on operating mode (BMW's conventional Eco Pro, Eco and Sport), the motor, engine or both will provide motive power. And there's no shortage of that.

BMW says the i8 will hit 100km/h in 4.4 seconds after the accelerator is depressed. That's on a par with a Porsche 911 Carrera S, which costs $243,000 in Australia.

Where the Porsche wins is in outright driving dynamics — it eats corners, ferociously. Overseas test drives indicate the Beemer falls just short of those lofty marks but in BMW's defence it wasn't intended to.

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The maker has maintained the i8 is a "forward-looking and sustainably focused sports car" rather than a next-gen take on an outright track car, as with its performance M vehicles. It is also a saleable showcase of how BMW can electrify a tiny engine to act and perform close to the benchmark set by conventional Euro sports coupes.

The hybrid drivetrain is wrapped in a carbon-fibre reinforced plastic and alloy body, replete with vertically opening "butterfly" doors, laser headlights and all the driving aids the Bavarian maker can cram into the computers.

Given only a handful will end up in Australian garages, there's no reason to doubt the success of the i8, at least as a mobile "proof of concept". Viability will depend how fast BMW can make mass-market versions that fuse the technology and performance with what families expect.