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2015 BMW i8: Sexy Plug-In Hybrid Sport Coupe Coming Later This Year

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With awareness of the 2014 BMW i3 battery-electric car starting to rise--it will arrive at dealers in late April or early May--it's sometimes easy to forget that BMW has a second plug-in car following close behind.

And unlike the i3, whose looks are controversial, there's very little debate over the design of the 2015 BMW i8 plug-in hybrid sport coupe.

MORE: 2015 BMW i8 Live Photo Gallery: 2013 Frankfurt Auto Show

Pretty much everyone thinks it looks just fantastic.

And that's even before neat technological breakthroughs like the laser headlights.

And adding to the style quotient, we learned today--courtesy of an excited BMW press release--that famed French luxury brand Louis Vuitton will be offering custom-fitted carbon-fiber luggage for the i8.

The two travel bags are described as "a business case and a garment bag," each one "tailor-made to fit perfectly into the interior" of the plug-in hybrid sports car.

But lots of makers offer elegant, sexy sport coupes--think Aston Martin, Ferrari, Porsche, and the rest.

2015 BMW i8, 2013 Frankfurt Auto Show

2015 BMW i8, 2013 Frankfurt Auto Show

Enlarge Photo

Granted that its body shell is made of carbon-fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) riding on an aluminum platform carrying the crash structures and running gear, it's still the plug-in hybrid powertrain--BMW's first--that really sets the i8 apart.

Its rear-mounted and turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine, adapted from one used in the latest 2014 MINI Cooper, provides an output of 231 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque, and drives the rear wheels through a six-speed automatic gearbox. 

The car has a liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack with a usable capacity of 5 kilowatt-hours, housed in a wide tunnel between the two seats. It powers an electric motor driving the front wheels that's rated at 96 kilowatts (131 hp) and 184 lb-ft of torque.

MORE: 2014 BMW i8 Supercar: 0-62 in 4.9 Seconds, Top Speed 156 MPH (Mar 2012)

In all-electric mode, the BMW i8 can run up to 22 miles, at a top speed limited to 75 mph.

2015 BMW i8 laser headlights

2015 BMW i8 laser headlights

Enlarge Photo

The i8 can run electrically (with the front wheels powered) or on gasoline only (through the rear wheels), with all-wheel drive provided when both sets of wheels are powered at the same time.

Performance with all wheels driven is simply the sum of the two maximums: power output of 362 hp and torque of 420 lb-ft.

That arrangement makes the BMW i8 what's called a "through-the-road hybrid," a formulation also used by the far more expensive and limited-edition Porsche 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid sports car.

MORE: BMW i8 Concept: Plug-In Hybrid Sports Coupe—Full Details (Jul 2011)

The car's statistics are impressive: curb weight of just 3,285 pounds, a drag coefficient of 0.26, and a center of gravity less than 18 inches above the ground.

The company's press release calls it a "revolutionary interpretation" of BMW's tradition of driving pleasure, and for once, the word "revolutionary" may not be hyperbole.

The BMW i8 will start at $135,925 including destination--or roughly three times the cost of the smaller i3 battery-electric car that will precede it.

It should arrive at BMW dealers within six to nine months.

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