© 2020 kertong © 2020 kertong

2017 BMW i8

This car was a mistake.

Some mistakes are fun. This one – was the complete opposite. A 2 week long ownership period with nothing but worry and anger.

It had a promising start. I had scoped out several i8’s in the past, but they were usually pretty beat up. The materials in these cars did not wear well due to being “environmentally conscious”, and being made of more sustainable materials that did not hold up to wear and tear. This one, looked (visually) mint. And it was well optioned (laser headlights!), without the stupid i-Blue trim that all these have. It was in Los Angeles though – and as my wife and I had a reason to visit Los Angeles to get keys from a property that had just closed, we decided to go down and check it out at the official BMW dealership in Buena Park.

After a test drive, and some negotiations, I decided to purchase the car. Almost an year prior, I had rented an i8 from a coworker; and I loved it. This planted a seed which continued to grow over time; I was constantly watching i8 videos on youtube, and reading reviews and forums on them. I figured it was time. I was never really a fan of the BMW brand, and the dealer (an AutoNation one) didn’t help. “Is this your first BMW? Welcome to the Family.” Cringe. They started asking all sorts of irrelevant but invasive questions (“where will you store the car? how many miles will you drive it? work or pleasure?”), to assemble a “services” package to upsell useless items like tire protection, insurance plans, etc, etc. Every form was signed twice and all sorts of marketing communication preferences were opted into by default and took considerable time and effort to change to opt-out. In retrospect, I should have walked out right then and there.

Things went well enough after getting out of the grip of the dealership though. From Buena Park to Palos Verdes, the car drove well and I was flipping back between EV-only mode and sport mode, and learning the car. It was wide, low, and felt exotic (outside of sound and power). Stereo sounded great and the tech was nice. I topped off the gas in Palos Verdes before we hit the road to drive back up north to the Bay Area, and was wondering why the fuel filler kept sticking and popping out. Turns out this car had sipped so little gas in the Buena Park -> Palos Verdes drive that it only filled up 0.28 gallons or so and that was it.

Driving up north; the car was quiet and comfortable. It was a refreshing change from what I was used to (loud, raw, bumpy). One of the most comfortable 6+ hour drives I’ve ever had; and the entire way, GPS directions, and phone calls were handled through the heads up display hovering above the road in front of the car. Fantastic!

Mistake though, right? Here’s what I learned from making this mistake: Never, EVER, buy a used car when your sense of smell is impacted. In my case, I test drove this car with a mask over my face as the salesman was in the car with me when I took it for a test drive.

On the drive up, as the car warmed up in the sun, I noted a familiar smell. It was a bit unpleasant, but I figured once I got it home I would scrub it down and give it a good cleaning.

The next two weeks of ownership was just that – constant scrubbing of every carpet, every seat surface, and I even purchased a brand new steering wheel as that was one of the strongest sources of this odor and would make my hands stink (washing with soap multiple times would not get the smell off my hands either). The new steering wheel helped, but most unfortunately, the seats also had this odor and would soak into my clothes during a drive. And even more unfortunate, was that this odor was the odor of curry – a delicious food to eat, a horrible unremovable nightmare chemical to smell as something that isn’t related to your current meal.

I spent more time scrubbing this car with various chemicals than I did driving it. During and after every drive I’d be sniff-testing my hands and tshirt. Even items I placed in the rear trunk would come out stinking of curry no matter what I did. I even bought an ozone generator to reduce the odor, and after 3 separate 6 hour treatments of it, all it took was 10 minutes in sunlight for the curry odor to come right back to full strength.

I ended up resigned, and hired a professional odor removal company called BioSweep. They specialize in fire damaged homes (removing smoke odor), and crime scenes / fatality / death scenes to remove the smell of rotting flesh, gasses, and all that unpleasant stuff. If they could remove that, curry should be a walk in the park! Right?

Not so, sadly. After their initial treatment, I was elated. I could put my nose right up to the seats and take a big whiff, and smell nothing but a light citrusy detergent. Finally – I could enjoy the i8 without worry!

After a few short trips, I took my wife out for a long drive up some curvy mountain roads. She is a Porsche fan with a few boxsters, macan S and GTS, and a 991 911 GTS under her belt, and was not a fan of how the i8 handled; said it felt unsecure and imbalanced, and she hated the drive. Whatever. But once I got home, I took my sweater off, and caught a whiff of That Fucking Odor. As I exclaimed and moved my sweater towards my wife to ask her for a sniff test, she recoiled and said “ugh! it smells” even before she inhaled.

When I was initially starting to scrub down the car, I was hopeful the odor could be removed. I googled “How to remove curry odor from upholstery”, and came upon a forum post where the poster had purchased a used couch from somebody and wanted to remove the existing curry odor from it. He described his situation and asked “What can I use to remove the odor?” The reply: “Dynamite.” I thought it was a funny joke, but concede now that it is a completely serious and legitimate answer.

Now, the odor wasn’t very noticeable, but it did seep into your clothes after sitting in it a while. It seemed pretty logical to assume the curry was still embedded in the pores and it was a matter of time until it came back full force. So, I sold the car the next day. At a huge loss. Fuck everything about this one, it was a mistake and I would strike it from the record if I could. I know it isn’t the i8 or BMW’s fault, but it has completely turned me off of this whole brand. This is the car memory I’d like to burn with extreme prejudice.