I haven’t been a great fan of hybrids over the years.
This shouldn’t come as any surprise; I’ve never been a fan of stop-gap engineering. And, having driven a Tesla, I can tell you for sure that the hybrid’s days are numbered. Unlike a few months ago, however, I’m now not so sure the whole hybrid thing doesn’t actually deserve a place at the table.
Okay, so I first developed my now-superseded theory on hybrids after driving my first petrol-electric, the Toyota Prius. Now, the Prius might be capable of achieving 3.9L/100km on a test that owes about the same to the real world as I owe to Savile Row, but it’s also heavy, lumpen, slow and can’t carry much gear. Plus it sounds like a Hoover. Did I mention homely?
And all because it was a hybrid. The typical hybrid was, for me, the four-wheeled equivalent of either Hilton sister: genetically possible, but fundamentally of limited use. Then, a few days ago, I drove the BMW i8.
Let’s go through this step-by-step, shall we. So, hybrids are heavy? Bzzzt, The carbonfibre and aluminium structure of the i8 brings it in at under 1500kg which, considering what’s going on, is not too bad. Don’t forget, the current Porsche 911 GT3 is 1430kg and it doesn’t even have a back seat.
What’s next? Oh yeah, hybrids are lumpen. Hmm, wrong again. And the inherent lightness of the i8 is actually tangible in the way the thing steers and changes direction. It feels absolutely light on its feet and has a side-step like an All Blacks inside-centre.
Hybrids are slow. Jeez, this isn’t going well for Team Morley, is it? The i8 can sprint to 100km/h in a claimed 4.4 seconds which, even allowing for the usual fudge-factor in factory claims, should translate to something under five ticks of the Tag-Heuer. Even more impressive is the way it gets out of a corner. With bulk torque from the electric motor at low revs (no revs, actually) the BMW has made the holeshot its own.
All right. Hybrids can’t carry much gear? Well, this one’s a bit more debatable, what with the engine sitting in the middle, gobbling up space. Until, that is, you realise the rear seat isn’t for people at all, it’s for luggage, because luggage doesn’t have legs and is, therefore, the only thing that will fit there. Just as well, because the small space under the hatch, behind the petrol motor, ain’t gonna carry a month’s worth of groceries for the Morley clan, lemme tell you.
Next. Hybrids sounds like a Hoover. Whoa, large-scale wrongness here! The electric motor is as silent as ever, but that angry little triple makes a rocking noise. It yodels and wails and generally makes you want to flog it along purely for the racket it contributes.
And finally… Hybrids are homely. Are you kidding? Look at this thing. Okay, so it’s a bit more Buck Rogers than I’d approve of, but I can tell you that I never saw the back of a single person’s head while I was driving the i8.
You know how sometimes people will pull up next to you and shout questions about your car? Well, I swear, in the i8, the two guys in the cars next to each other behind you at the lights will strike up a conversation about the flying saucer ahead of them. It’s true, I saw it happen.
So there it is. I’m chowing down on crow. All I have to do now is get my backside into a McLaren P1 or a Porsche 918. And then it’s off to pick up a Hilton sister.