Performance motoring now demands a hybrid drivetrain. Electric motors are increasingly used to boost acceleration and enable makers to reduce engine capacity and trim CO2 emissions.

The weight disadvantage in lugging around a motor and associated battery pack is offset by the use of carbon fibre and lightweight alloys.

Explore the 2015 BMW i8 Range

Porsche's 918, the McLaren P1 and Ferrari's LaFerrari all follow this formula. The electric motor provides instant torque from takeoff, then a supplemental shove in the back during mid-range acceleration.

Now BMW has joined the fray with its stunningly designed i8. With looks straight off a futuristic film set, this is heart-throb Hollywood style with hang-on performance.

That is reinforced from the moment the gull-wing door scissors down and the start button fires up the dash - the only indication the car is 'on" - with an electric blue driver's display that references more than a little Tron.

This BMW is a car for extroverts who want to show off conspicuous consumption without being accused of constantly consuming prehistoric fauna and flora.

The 7.1kW/h lithium-ion battery pack is good for a claimed 37km range. That would make most city drives a stealth commute, where it not for the constant looks and the intentionally engineered faint jet-engine whine as the i8 spools up.

Demand more performance and the 1.5-litre engine - from the Mini, no less - kicks in without a hint of drivetrain shudder. If passengers aren't told, they'll never believe the combustion engine nestled behind the 2+2 cockpit is a three-cylinder, such is the work BMW has put into ensuring the sound matches the car's looks (and price).

There's a gruff snarl under acceleration, pronounced bark on downshifts and a constant surge of progression at all speeds.

In terms of numbers, the 4.4-second trip to 100km/h is good if not eye-watering. Vastly more intimidating - and relevant - is the mid-range acceleration where momentum overwhelms mass to flick the speedo from 80-120km/h in just 2.6 seconds.

more a fusion of a sports car and grand tourer than an outright supercar

That'll put the vast majority of sports cars into the rear-vision mirror. The i8 officially uses 2.1L/100km. Drive extended distances at elevated speeds and expect to see that figure jump to about 5.8L/100km. Given the 42-litre fuel tank, that equates to a range of up to 700km.

The brakes are first rate, particularly given they help regenerate energy for the battery. Generally such setups have had all the pedal feel of a tractor but the BMW's is a vast improvement.

The steering is light, even with the automatic transmission shifted into Sport, which tightens up most inputs. There's no arguing with the precision but it ultimately lacks the feedback and cornering confidence of the likes of an M3.

That's a critical point - as capable as the i8 is, it's not an M car and is more a fusion of a sports car and grand tourer than an outright supercar.

It's apparent in the way the suspension is set to elevate comfort over cornering. Its pace through a turn is phenomenal but the I car will understeer if pushed hard into an apex.

This vehicle rewards backing it off early and powering through the turn. The only area that lets the i8 down is storage space. The glovebox is just that, an area for a pair of gloves and a purse. There are no door pockets, the cupholders reside behind the front seats - and smaller bottles will spill out of the receptacles at reasonable cornering G-forces. The rear luggage compartment, under the glass hatch, won't take much more than a soft-sided overnight bag.

Louis Vuitton has developed a set of carbon-fibre luggage specifically for the i8. If you can afford the $299,000 for the car, you can presumably stump up for the LV-branded bags but even then some of the bespoke luggage is intended to reside on the back seat.

So in reality this is a two-seater with only a token concession to putting adults aft.

That's academic. Most rational adults will refuse to travel beyond 20km in the rear, as the lack of leg and headroom makes it a less than luxurious place in which to appreciate the i8's other charms. Moreover, the owner probably won't want anyone else stealing the attention on a cruise through the inner suburbs.