If you're not familiar with the workings of the BMW i8, its Jeykll and Hyde character is down to the combination of an electric motor and a small (but efficient) petrol engine. Neither are particularly sensational in isolation, but together the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, giving you the power to rival cars with big, thirsty engines.
Electric mode gives the BMW clean, quiet power, which is ideal when you're just pootling around. But if you want to get somewhere fast, slip the gearbox into Sport mode and the 1.5-litre, three-cylinder, twin-turbo engine comes to life, instantly turning the i8 from shopping trolley to supercar.
At just over £100,000 (list price), the BMW i8 is a swanky spend. What T3 wants to know is, are we looking at the future of fast cars here, or will the average petrolhead turn their nose up at it? To find out, we took six car-loving, tech-adoring readers, put them on a test track and let the keys do the talking.
Was the car as fast as you imagined it to be?
To be honest, when it was in normal driving mode, the i8 wasn't really that impressive – there was a slight delay when I hit the accelerator, making quick exits out of corners a little on the sluggish side.
But then I discovered Sport mode! When you flick this on, the big display turns from blue to red, and the car turns into something else altogether – it really did take things up a gear. The acceleration improves significantly and becomes on a par with how I imagine a supercar to be.
Occupation Marketing manager
If you had £100K burning a hole in your pocket, would you BUY THIS CAR?
As a sheer feat of automotive engineering and an example of what can be achieved with hybrid technology, the BMW i8 is undoubtedly an amazing set of wheels.
This car can really shift when you put your foot down, and it certainly looks the part! However, if I'm honest, if I had that sort of money I'd probably buy a different car. At that price point, you have a lot of choice. For me, the i8's performance is decent but it can't quite compete with some of its rivals.
Occupation IT consultant
Is this the future of the sports car?
I suspect it is. The technology is undoubtedly there with the i8, and I've no doubt that future iterations of this car will bring even better dynamics, as well as both improved range and economy.
However, I think I'll wait to see what generations 2.0 and 3.0 bring before I start digging deep into my wallet to buy one of these things. For the time being, I reckon I'm much better off keeping an older sports car on the road – but I'm sure the lure of shiny new technology will get me eventually!
Occupation Video technician
Did the design of the i8 impress you?
Most cars these days tend to follow (pretty much) the same design principles, which means that everyone on the road looks more or less the same as everyone else.
But BMW has gone totally leftfield with the unusual styling of the i8, embracing a look that we'd normally only see in science-fiction films. But unusual certainly doesn't mean unattractive, and the car is beautifully sleek. What really impressed me was how the car manages to be super-stylish and functional at the same time.
Occupation Advertising manager
How space-age is the interior?
Nestling into the driving seat for my first ride and suddenly being assaulted by a plethora of buttons, sounds and colours made me feel as though I was on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise.
I have to admit, it was a little intimidating at first but, thankfully, BMW has made all the settings simple to get the hang of. In fact, it's so easy, it almost felt like I was driving a family hatchback rather than some kind of eco supercar. I got the hang of it in a matter of minutes, and was quickly sold!
Occupation Management consultant
What's your favourite feature of the i8?
Hands down, it has to be the hybrid engine (it combines a small petrol engine with an electric motor). I feel that BMW should be commended for its fusion of economical motoring and strong performance – no car company has really achieved this before now.
The BMW i8 also feels very comfortable to drive at low speeds, with a surprisingly smooth, quiet and refined feel to it. But as soon as you put your foot down, the 'wow' factor really kicks in – you have huge speed at your disposal.