In Depth

BMW i8: Roadster version teased in new video

Drop-top hybrid has futuristic looks and a small folding roof, say reports

A roadster version of BMW's i8 sports car could be nearing production as the company has released a video teasing the drop-top hybrid. 

It's clear the drop-top i8 retains the coupe's futuristic styling, including flying buttresses at the rear and the LED headlight cluster, despite appearing in light camouflage. 

The video is the first official showing of the car in production form, says Evo, as the car has appeared as a concept on "multiple" occasions before. 

According to Engadget, the i8 Roadster will "share the fixed-roof i8's aluminium chassis and carbon fibre reinforced plastic cell", which should retain the car's rigidity when the roof is removed. 

The coupe's 352bhp hybrid three-cylinder engine is also expected to appear in the Roadster, adds the site, helping the sports car go from zero to 60mph in 4.2secs. 

Roadster models will come with a "small, folding fabric targa top" that's stored in a "small compartment behind driver and passenger", says AutoExpress. It's also expected to come with the coupe's upward-hinging doors.  

There's a chance the launch of the i8 Roadster will "usher in a mild facelift for the hard-top coupe", the magazine says, although it's difficult to see what has changed because of the car's camouflage.

Evo says the i8 Roadster is expected to hit the showrooms in 2018, with prices set to be revealed closer to the car's launch. 

But drop-top variants often come with a marginally higher price tag than their hard-top siblings, so expect the i8 Roadster to cost more than the £104,540 needed for the coupe. 

BMW i8: Specs, prices and reviews  

14 February

The BMW i8 is one of the most groundbreaking sports cars on sale, with a radical, concept car-like design and very special powertrain lurking underneath the bodywork. 

Despite being on sale for two years now, the i8 remains one of the most desirable vehicles you can buy. It's a plug-in hybrid and the car for those wanting to mix Porsche 911-rivalling performance with excellent efficiency and smooth all-electric running power. However, it's also an expensive option, with a price tag exceeding six figures. 

Nevertheless, Auto Express says it "really does redefine what a supercar can be", adding it's the "stuff of a bedroom poster" and that the hybrid propulsion makes it a pretty unique proposition.

At the moment the i8 is available as a hard-top coupe only, but BMW has plans to expand the range over the next few years. 

Here's what you need to know.

Design

The i8's design is one of its biggest selling points, considering it's one of the most eye-catching cars money can buy.

It closely resembles many of the concept cars that foreshadowed the production version and Evo says it's "perhaps one of the few cars ever to truly live up it its concept, there is nothing else on the road quite like it".

The i8 is a wide car measuring 6.5ft, but the width coupled with the low, stooping nose means it has serious presence.

Nice little design tweaks include floating buttresses flying over the rear wheels and housing the brake lights, the massive downward wedge scoop in the bonnet, the black belt running over the roof and the length of the car and the line rising from the side skirts to meet the roofline above the rear wheel.

To top it all off, the i8 boasts scissor doors, adding to the drama.

Interior

Once you've swung the scissor door open, Autocar says, you're greeted by a cabin that's both extremely beautiful but somewhat familiar - "just as it should be, then: special yet also entirely usable".

It's a different setup to BMW's other i car, the i3, as the i8 strives for a highly futuristic cockpit-style layout over the outlandish, more youthful shapes and materials used in the smaller car's cabin, it adds. The materials are more conventional, but high quality, and are woven into a dashboard and centre console that wraps around the driver. Together with driver-focussed controls, which is a low driving position, and the high window line, the driver feels truly cocooned in the i8, says the magazine.

A pair of 8.8ins screens are the dashboard's two headline acts. The one in the middle can be controlled through BMW's iDrive system – the toggle being placed on the transmission tunnel – and displays the infotainment interface and sat nav. It also allows the driver to alter the car's settings. The screen behind the steering wheel is an electronic instrument binnacle.

Surprisingly, the i8 isn't a two-seater but a 2+2 - but those two rear seats aren’t well suited to adults.

Practicality

At first glance, the i8 does not seem built with practicality in mind, says Auto Express, but it is more spacious and comfortable than it appears.

The party piece doors can cause some problems in tight car parks, but the cabin is "surprisingly spacious" from the front, adds Auto Express. Sweeping and spacious, it feeds back into the i8's character when cruising, making for a quiet and comfortable place to be and those sat up front will have no qualms for space

As for the boot, it's a small one, concludes the magazine, and at 154 litres, roughly half the size you'll find in a regular small family hatchback such as the Ford Fiesta so you won't be able to take the i8 for a big family shop.

However, as part of the buying model, BMW will offer access to a points-based scheme that will allow you to borrow conventionally powered BMW cars that are ideal for big trips or times when you'll need a lot of luggage capacity. The magazine says it makes the i8 a much more "reasonable ownership proposition", although that doesn't solve the day-to-day impracticalities.

Powertrain

Underneath the i8's skin is its all-important hybrid powertrain. The combustion engine is mounted in the middle of the car, right behind the driver, and is a petrol 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo plucked from the BMW Mini. In the i8, it produces 228bhp.

It's joined by a 129bhp electric motor mounted over the front axle, meaning the i8 is a 357bhp, 420lb-ft torque, four-wheel drive hybrid sports car. Power is sent to the wheels via a six-speed automatic gearbox.

In terms of performance, the official figures claim a 0-62mph time of 4.4secs and an electronically limited top speed of 155mph. Evo says the instant torque means the i8 "actually ends up feeling a bit quicker than it reads on paper".

Efficiency

The combined plug-in electric-petrol power gives an official combined fuel consumption rating of 134.5mpg. While you'll likely never see figures like that in the real world – Auto Express notched up 40mpg during its time with the car – that still beats rivals such as the Porsche 911. Plus the 49g/km CO2 figure makes the i8 road-tax and congestion-charge exempt.

Powering up the battery can be done in eight hours from a standard household supply, although for £315, BMW will fit a fast-charging Wallbox to your home that can charge the batteries to 80 per cent in two hours. It's also possible to run the i8 only on electric power. BMW claims you'll get a 23 mile range.

Reviews

Evo says the i8 "proves that the basic tenets of involving handling, strong straight-line performance, and eye-catching styling will always be central to the sports car proposition". The car's not quite as honed in as other sports cars around its price tag, it adds, but is "certainly an impressive technological achievement", with superb body control and balance.

The 20-mile all-electric range is a unique feature among sports cars within its price point, but the additional torque means that with your foot planted, there's very little between the i8 and a Porsche 911 Carrera off the line, adds the site. It's an impressive technological achievement, although some may feel it lacks the sparkle of a traditional sports car engine.

The 134mpg figure is fanciful, says Evo, which cites an average of 40mpg as being more probably. However, the i8 is tax free and congestion charge exempt – more perks many of its rivals cannot compete with.

Crucially, it "turns heads like few others" and you'll be buying "the car of the moment", the site concludes.

Autocar is equally flattering, calling the i8 "one of the most compelling cars we've tested in years". As well as the hybrid powertrain and its performance, the mag also praises the finish both inside and out, saying it's a car that's likely to be easy to live with if you adjust to the routine of plugging it in to charge.

The price may be eyebrow-raising, but "at any cost, this is a thoroughly desirable car", it adds.

Getting in and out of the i8 can be challenging due to the butterfly doors and large sills, says What Car?. There is, however, "plenty of room for those in the front" and it's easy to see out of the low windscreen. 

Nevertheless, the rear seats "are really only for occasional use or for children" and there's only enough space for one bag in the boot. Storage is also hard to find throughout the car, as there are no door pockets and the glovebox is too "slender". 

While it may appear "radical and otherworldly", i8 works brilliantly as a sports car, says Top Gear, adding the car is more appealing to drive than an Audi R8, while the futuristic looks will turn more heads than a Ferrari.

It also corners wonderfully - "despite the mishmash of power sources" between the front and rear axles – and handling is very consist and only on rare occasions will drivers experience a hint of understeer.

Price

Since the shakeup of the government-backed low-emission vehicle grant earlier this year, the BMW i8 no longer qualifies for a state discount as it costs more than £60,000.

In fact, it costs a lot more than that. The i8 starts from £104,540, while the Protonic Red Edition, featuring red paint and several optional extras, will set you back £112,535.

i8 Roadster and facelifted model 

The i8 line-up looks set to change in the near future in two significant ways – the introduction of a convertible car and a facelifted model with an improved hybrid powertrain. 

BMW has already confirmed a convertible, expected to be called the i8 Spyder, is on the way. We've already seen numerous concept cars hinting at such a beast but according to Autocar, it will definitely arrive at some point in 2018. 

When it does go on sale, BMW will also roll out a facelifted i8, which Autocar says will get a fettled powertrain with extra power and up to 420bhp. The car's cabin will feel the benefit of the mid-life refresh too, with new onboard technologies. 

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