THE BMW i8 has torn off its roof, and added a bit more under-bonnet spark, in the first significant makeover of the plug-in electric hybrid sports car since its launch in Australia in 2014.
The so-called “sustainable sports car” will add a Roadster version that can drop its fabric roof to let in the sunshine in 15 seconds at speeds of up to 50km/h, while the battery pack that powers both it and the i8 Coupe will add more punch, increasing the performance sent to the front wheels by 9kW to 105kW. It will also allow the i8 to accelerate from rest to 105km/h tapping just the batteries alone – well up on the current model’s 70km/h, and to drive more than 50km on the batteries alone, double what the current one will do.
The 170kW/320Nm 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that drives the rear wheels appears unchanged. However, BMW has given it a fruitier note, while a particulate filter – traditionally the domain of diesel drivetrains – filters its exhaust gases.
Combined, the petrol engine and electric motor increase their combined power to 275kW.
If you can’t pick the rag-topped version, the Coupe will wear a “Coupe” badge on its C-pillar, while the Roadster will wear a “Roadster” one. You may just be able to pick the difference at the traffic lights, too, with the Coupe sprinting from rest to 100km/h in 4.4sec, the same as the current one, and the Roadster in 4.6sec.
They’re expected to join BMW’s Australian showrooms sometime in the middle of next year. The Coupe is likely to arrive first, followed closely by the Roadster. BMW Australia said it was still too early to talk about how the new and facelifted cars would vary from the current i8’s $299,000 price tag.
The extra battery range has had an impact on official fuel use, falling from the current model’s 2.1L/100km to just 1.9L/100km. Emissions for the Coupe fall to just 42g/km – making it cleaner than a plug-in hybrid engined Volvo XC60 T8.
BMW says the soft-top roof of the roadster stows “perpendicular”, meaning it minimises the space it robs from the boot while the cabin is open to the air. The Roadster retains the dihedral doors of the concept, but features a carbonfibre-reinforced plastic windscreen frame and more under-body strengthening over the Coupe.
The Roadster also features unique 20-inch alloy wheels that weigh about 1kg less than the lightest rim currently available for the Coupe.