Drop-top hybrid's arrival coincides with the i8's greener, more powerful update
BMW has – at last – shown off the i8 Roadster. Its development has been lengthy and its teaser campaign a bit drawn out, but finally the production version is here. It’s been unveiled at the LA motor show and while its styling isn’t in the least bit surprising, you probably don’t want it to be: it looks every bit as desirable as an i8 drop-top ought to.
It’s been revealed alongside an updated BMW i8 Coupe, whose mid-life facelift neatly arrives with the Roadster. The good news is it brings more of everything: improved battery technology means more energy, so the motor now produces 143bhp – up 12bhp, taking the car’s total petrol and electric output to 374bhp. The electric-only range tops 30 miles now, too.
The Roadster is very similar to the Coupe, using the same carbon-reinforced plastic core, whose rigid structure has maximised the size of the roof opening and negated the need for lots of extra strengthening. So the Roadster weighs just 60kg more than standard, at 1,595kg, while it retains the bold dihedral doors, albeit frameless versions.
Its roof is a folding fabric item that whirs backwards or forwards in “almost silent hush”, which is handy given the car’s powertrain tries to do the same thing. Opening or closing takes 16secs and can be done at up to 31mph, while the roof’s storage is designed to barely impede on luggage space. It folds in a Z-shape and is stored vertically, while some of the mechanism’s shapes have only been possible via 3D printing. Because the future. The i8’s miniscule rear seats have also been traded for more luggage space.
Beneath all of that is the same all-wheel-drive setup as before. So the 1.5-litre petrol engine powers the rear wheels and the electric motor operates the front axle, though it’s all been tuned so that the motor operates in more scenarios and the engine sits docile as often as possible.
You can twiddle through the i8’s various driving modes for ultimate speed, of course, which frees up 0-62mph in 4.6secs in the Roadster (4.4secs in the Coupe) and a 155mph top speed (for both).
Figures more realistic than the claimed economy, which approaches 150mpg, while average CO2 emissions are as low as 42g/km. You’re probably still best expecting something below 50mpg, but more time as an EV should help cut your fuel bills if you’re light of foot.
The updated i8 Coupe’s price is around five per cent higher than before, at £112,730. The Roadster adds precisely 12 grand more, starting at £124,730. You do get a fair pile of equipment for that, mind, with laser headlights and a pedestrian warning buzzer the key options. Yep, it’s up to the buyer if they want to keep passers-by safe below 18mph…
Like what you see? Has the i8 Roadster been worth the wait or do you prefer the Coupe?
STORY Stephen Dobie