BMW i8 Roadster finally lands

Convertible hybrid will go on sale next month, five years after the concept’s debut

BMW has unveiled the definitive production version of the i8 Roadster at the 2017 Los Angeles motor show. The long-awaited two-seater will go on sale in the UK next month alongside an updated version of the 2+2 i8 Coupé. The i8 Roadster will be priced from £124,730, which is £12,000 more than the i8 Coupé. Both models will feature a 369bhp plug-in petrol-electric driveline.

The arrival of the i8 roadster comes more than five years after it was originally unveiled as a concept at the 2012 Beijing motor show and almost two years since a more production-based concept was unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

During its lengthy gestation period, the first open-top model from BMW’s i brand has adopted a newly developed roof structure. At the press of a button, it stows beneath a panel integrated within the two buttresses behind the cabin.

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The roof consists of a large fabric-covered panel and integrated header rails. It is claimed to open in just 15sec at vehicle speeds of up to 31mph. To accommodate the new roof, BMW has modified the windscreen, providing it with a strengthened frame and beefed-up quarter windows. The rear window, which doubles as a wind deflector, has also been altered and can be closed or opened independently of the roof.

A further stylistic change over the facelifted i8 Coupé is the deletion of the rear side windows. They’re replaced by new black panels overlaid with aluminium-look trims etched with the word ‘Roadster’.

The liftback tailgate of the i8 Coupé also makes way for a lengthy engine cover on the new i8 Roadster.

The long-awaited two-seater will go on sale in the UK alongside an updated version of the i8 Coupé

BMW says the inherent structural integrity of the i8’s carbonfibre-reinforced plastic and aluminium structure has helped in minimising the weight gain for the Roadster, which is claimed to tip the scales at 1594kg, just 60kg more than the facelifted Coupé.

Inside, the 2+2 configuration of the i8 Coupé has been dispensed with in favour of a two-seat layout for the i8 Roadster, which features a claimed 92 litres of oddment space within three separate cubbyholes integrated into the rear bulkhead.

The earlier dashboard design has also been lightly updated for the i8 Roadster and facelifted i8 Coupé. Among other subtle changes, it features the latest version of BMW’s iDrive system, which now offers either touch control on a free-standing 8.8in monitor or control via a rotary dial on the middle console.

The open-top i8 also receives newly designed seats, an optional head-up display and new trim options that include carbonfibre elements for the dashboard and ceramic controls in the centre console.

Power for the i8 Roadster and facelifted i8 Coupé comes from a reworked version of the plug-in petrol-electric driveline used by the existing i8 Coupé – the LifeDrive architecture, as it is labelled by BMW.

It uses a mid-mounted turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine packaged behind the cabin in combination with an electric motor mounted within the front axle assembly. The set-up can provide front-wheel drive running on the electric motor or four-wheel drive with the petrol engine and electric motor working together.

The petrol engine develops the same 228bhp and 236lb ft as the existing unit, with drive channelled through a six-speed automatic gearbox to the rear wheels. However, the electric motor has been upgraded with an extra 12bhp to 141bhp, which is delivered together with the same 184lb ft as today’s i8 Coupé via a two-speed gearbox to the front wheels.

Altogether, there is a combined 369bhp and a theoretical maximum torque loading of 420lb ft, although the latter is continually regulated according to grip and traction levels. Five driving modes are available: Comfort, Sport and Eco Drive in hybrid mode, and Comfort and Eco Drive in electric mode.

BMW claims a 0-62mph time of 4.6sec for the i8 Roadster and 4.4sec for the revised i8 Coupé. Both have a top speed governed to 155mph.

Accompanying the changes to the driveline is a revised lithium ion battery. Its cell capacity has risen from 20Ah to 34Ah, with energy capacity increasing from 7.1kWh to 11.6kWh. BMW claims the new battery provides a range of 33 miles for the i8 Roadster and 34 miles for the facelifted i8 Coupé in electric mode up to a limited speed of 75mph on the European test cycle.

BMW’s latest 360° Electric charging system is also new. In combination with the latest evolution of the German car maker’s i charging station, it provides 7.2kW charging and a claimed 80% charge for the i8 Roadster and facelifted i8 Coupé in under three hours.



Q&A: DOMAGOJ DUKEC, Design Director, BMW i

This is the first new BMW i car since 2014. Can i stay ahead of its rivals?
“Others are thinking how to do their first electric car, but we’re three or four years in. We’re not just thinking of other product, but how to add real desirability to e-mobility. We show an emotional and romantic side. People fear the future as it feels cold. We want to break this.”

Why a soft-top roof in the i8 Roadster?
“We wanted to be a soft-top as the most expensive and desirable convertibles always are; Rolls-Royce, Aston, Bentley all have soft-tops. On this car, we have much better proportions than the coupé – it’s not a 2+2 so, when you look at both cars, you can see the coupé has a bigger cabin.”

Now many normal cars are going electric, does the i brand still have a role to play as a standalone project?
“i is not just electrified cars but an incubator for BMW. We take all the challenges of the industry and solve them with BMW i. We do that next with autonomy and iNext. BMW i is always on a mission. If you want new horizons, you take the risk but you can fail also.”

The recent iNext concept previewed a 2021 production electric saloon. Is the design signed off?
“I can’t say, but what we’re trying to achieve is for BMW to always be the most dynamic proposition in its segment. To be progressive and innovative, you still can’t go too far from your heritage. The iNext has real BMW heritage as a saloon. It takes all our icons – the kidney grille, Hofmeister kink, lights – and experiments with how you can take it to the next level.”