n a word, intriguing. You bring the i8 to life by pushing a 'start button', triggering an electronic 'bong' as the dash springs to life in front of you. Pull the gear selector into 'Drive', brush the accelerator and the i8 creeps away in complete silence.
As speed grows, there's a noticeable whine from the front motor. It's in no way unpleasant, and gives you the distinct impression that you're in something special. Go beyond 40mph, or push the accelerator to the floor, and the 3-cylinder petrol engine comes into play. At part throttle, you notice it working, but push harder and a distinctive (almost 911-like) warble swirls around the cabin.
For the full i8 experience, though, you need to select 'Sport' mode. Only then does the i8 feel quick. As the engine whips around to its 7000rpm limiter, that warble gains a harder edge that's particularly addictive. What's most impressive is that you never sense that the front motor is fighting with the rear engine for attention. Driving an i8 feels entirely natural, with no excessive re-gen on the over-run either.
There's more understeer than expected on initial turn-in, but the engineers think this can be dialed out before customer cars are delivered. Ignoring this, the car feels neutral, with crisp, lightweight and accurate steering -- which encourages you to explore the outer limits of the talented chassis.
You sense that because the battery pack sits so low, and the tiny power plants are packaged as close to the centre of the car as possible -- the balance of the chassis is near perfect, giving the i8 an impressive deftness through the corners. The only fly in the ointment is that the quoted 0-62mph time of 4.5secs over-flatters the actual performance on offer, and I suspect that this impressive time is a result of the i8's excellent four-wheel traction and instant torque that all electric motors deliver. The i8 is not in any way slow, but neither is it as punchy as you'd expect.