AS AN ADIEU TO ITS REVOLUTIONARY I8 PLUG-IN HYBRID LINE, BMW UNVEILS A SPECTACULARLY OVER-THE-TOP (AS WELL AS OPTIONALLY TOPLESS) ULTIMATE SOPHISTO EDITION

BY MATT SCANLON

In what BMW refers to as “the final chapter in the story of a very special car,” but what more specifically can be described as the plug-in hybrid-electric super sports model that essentially launched an entire market sector, the i8 Coupé, which will cease production in April of next year, is bidding farewell in spectacular fashion: a special release Ultimate Sophisto Edition. Six years after the i8 electrified the enthusiast marketplace by offering unparalleled power, acceleration, and theretofore unheard-of range, BMW’s complete rethink of the hybrid marketplace (then dominated by Prius, sensibilities, lord help us) remains revelatory, and paved the way for models like the Jaguar I-PACE and the upcoming Porsche Taycan. A convertible version, released in 2018, only made the model more alluring, and makes the goodbye all the more bittersweet.

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ALL BMW i3 AND i8 VEHICLES ARE ASSEMBLED in Leipzig, Germany, at one of the world’s most eco-friendly factories, powered by wind turbines. The Moses Lake facility in Washington State among the largest carbon fiber-reinforced polymer (CFRP) plants on earth draws its energy from locally-sourced hydropower.

THE COMBINATION OF AN ELECTRIC MOTOR and a three-cylinder internal combustion engine generates a total of 369 horsepower, harnessed by a six-speed automatic transmission. Top speed is 155 miles per hour.

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THE CFRP PASSENGER CELL (AS STRONG AS steel, but only half the weight) and an aluminum chassis help keep curb weight down to a remarkable 3,384 pounds.

THE ACCARO INTERIOR DESIGN IN BLACK/E-COPPER plays upon and adds to the model-exclusive visual treatments. Tech features include a heads-up display, light package, Harman Kardon hi-fi speaker system, and ceramic control applicators.

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E-COPPER LEATHER UPHOLSTERY is standard, as is a navigation system with Apple CarPlay Compatibility, an Anthracite headliner, and Ultimate Sophisto Edition “One of 200” badging and door sill lettering.

But, no tears need be shed just yet, because the Ultimate Sophisto four-seater, limited to just 200 examples, is a gloriously madcap adventure in embracing environmentalism in its more… self-gratifying aspects. Available in both Coupé and Convertible guises and in Sophisto Grey Brilliant Effect paint, further exterior clues as to the edition’s rarefied status include exclusive copper accents highlighting the 20-inch “ilight” alloy wheels in radialspoke design, as well as on the grill and side skirts. Shadow Line color additions include a trim element on the C-pillar and a tailgate inlay in High-Gloss Black. Brake calipers are likewise painted in black, and feature blue detailing and BMW “i” badging. Open the door, and “Ultimate Sophisto Edition” door plates and interior lettering are visible (including a numbered plaque), with copper accents also making an appearance in cockpit trim.

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Both Coupé and Convertible combine 369 horsepower, 420 lb.-ft. of torque, and all-wheel drive, plus a carbon fiber-reinforced polymer passenger cell and an aluminum chassis that together produce an emotion-stirring driving experience. This is good for a 0-to-60 mph time of just 4.2 seconds (4.4 for the drop-top). Depending upon driving habits, you can get more than 100 miles per gallon, too!

So, the next time you are at a red light in your Sophisto and accidentally (or not) embarrass a Detroit muscle car enthusiasts’s tweaked-out Charger, be sure to add that you did so in the name of environmentalism. No official price was available at press time, but we expect it to hover in the $160,000 range.

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