SANTA MONICA, CA – The success of the Tesla Model S proves there’s a market for attractive, electrified luxury vehicles, so it’s no surprise the old guard of luxury is dipping a toe into this water.

Come August, BMW’s $135,900 i8 plug-in hybrid will be trying to woo American buyers with deep pockets and ecological leanings.

The i8 is the second entry in Bimmer’s nascent ‘i’ sub-brand, which includes the just-launched i3 electric vehicle.

But unlike the nerdy i3, the i8 is drop-dead beautiful, designed to turn heads like perhaps no “green” luxury car before it.

Sinuous character lines? Check. Butterfly doors? Check. Laser-beam headlights? Check.

But the car’s green cred is debatable, as the point of a plug-in hybrid is to limit gas consumption, and our i8 tester didn’t achieve that feat very well. More on that later.

To offset the weight of a complex powertrain and undoubtedly give the car even more of an eco-friendly leg to stand on, BMW engineers used a multitude of lightweight materials in the i8.

It rides on an aluminum chassis, has a carbon-fiber-reinforced-plastic “lifecell” (passenger cabin in non-BMW parlance) and thermoplastic body panels.

The i8’s interior rear window also has the first automotive application of Corning’s Gorilla Glass, used on smartphones for its thinness, lightness and durability.

The sports car’s total weight at minimum is 3,285 lbs. (1,490 kg), which the automaker says is about 20% less than what it would be had the i8 been made with a body.

Taking a page from General Motors’ Voltec propulsion system, BMW splits driving duties between an electric motor – the i8 uses the i3’s 129-hp (96-kW) unit, mounted in front – and a rear-mounted gasoline engine borrowed from the ’14 Mini Cooper.

The 1.5L turbocharged, direct-injected 3-cyl. in the i8 makes 231 hp and 236 lb.-ft. (320 Nm) of torque and can recharge the car’s 7.1-kWh lithium-ion battery pack in certain instances, making the i8 a partially extended-range electric vehicle.

Total system output is 362 hp and 420 lb.-ft. (569 Nm) – eye-popping figures for sure.

However, the problem with ecosmart performance cars is that utilizing their full capabilities makes them not so green.