Six years in the making, it still looks futuristic
BMW i8 Roadster
Engine: 1.5-litre, three-cylinder, turbo petrol, 129bhp electric motor
Torque: 320lb ft
Gearbox: 6-spd automatic;
Kerb weight: 1595kg
Top speed: 155mph
Fuel economy: 134mpg
CO2 emissions: 46g/km
We remember seeing the concept back in 2012, and thought it looked magical. And here, in 2018, is the BMW i8 Roadster. The i8 has always looked a bit ahead of its time and taking the roof off has only enhanced those Bladerunner looks. But what else has been taken away and what has been added?
One of the first things that you notice, at least on paper, is that there’s more weight, another 60kg of it. That’s thanks to changes around the windscreen, rear window, and indeed the whole structure including new frameless scissor-action doors.
That’s all necessary because the Coupé had to be reinforced to accommodate the loss of roof integrity, as now there’s a fabric and header rails roof instead of the original. It opens and closes in 15 seconds in either direction and slots in just ahead of the engine in the rear.
That in turn means those two occasional rear seats have gone, but hey, let the kids take the bus. Overall there’s still 160 litres of luggage space, although that’s split up between the boot and cargo areas behind the front seats.
One big visual change is that you now have to flying buttresses behind the seats, adding some definite heft and grace to the rear. There are minor changes to the cabin, keeping it ahead of even the redesigned i8 Coupé.
The motive power has had some upgrades too. There’s the same triple-cylinder turbocharged four-stroke 1.5-litre back there, and that remains the same with 228bhp. But the electric motor up front now has 141bhp, up 12bhp, with the same 184lb ft of torque. So in theory you’ve got 420bhp and 374lb ft of torque and weight is still only 1595kg. Tasty.
The lithium-ion battery upstream has also been upgraded and so now, in theory, the all-electric range is 33 miles, which is up a big 10 miles on the earlier Coupé. There’s still an electric motor in the rear, used more for topping up the battery, and when running in pure electric mode, which powers only the front wheels, all is unerringly quiet and serene. Around town it’s great, even if the turning circle isn’t that tight.
But get out on the open road and bring in the petrol engine, which powers the rear wheels, and you’ve got a ferocious amount of power going to all four wheels. One of the benefits of the new structural strengthening is that secondary vibrations through the chassis, which were an annoying characteristic of the earlier Coupé, are now almost entirely absent. There’s still quite a bit of tyre roar, but things are definitely improved.
The handling dynamics remain excellent, and these are only improved by an upgraded steering system which brings some welcome heft to the off-centre weighting. It means you can place the car with more confidence, thus exploiting even more of the remarkable performance and handling.
Really, all the changes wrought to this i8 Roadster have been positive. What was already a stellar car has become even better, even more rounded. You can hoof around town in eDrive Eco mode, or you can settle back and cover some big distances in real comfort. It’s a great all-rounder that, at least claimed, can do 134mpg, and does emit only 46g/km of CO2.
Driving along with the wind in your hair, knowing you’re not polluting that wind as much as some others, is a great feeling in this i8 Roadster. And that wind can pass pretty quickly and remorselessly with the improvements made to what remains a unique sports car.