BMW i8 Roadster: Roofless and ready

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BMW’s i8 Roadster finally makes its global debut, while the orginal car gets a few useful updates…

IT’S BEEN THREE years since the BMW i8 arrived to reassure us that an electrified future can still be fun, and it’s received two key updates: an i8 Roadster joins the range, and there’s some new tech under the bonnet.

First, the topless car. The i8 Roadster is something BMW has hinted at with various concept cars, so it’s arrival shouldn’t be surprising.

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Its cloth top disappears in 16 seconds, folding into a Z-shape, and it can be stowed on the move at up to 50km/h.

It apparently sits perpendicular to the car’s body, and BMW says it takes up very little room as a result.

Naturally the coupe’s two tiny rear seats are gone, but there’s 100 litres of stowage space behind the Roadster’s seats as a result, in addition to another 88 litres in a rear compartment.

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Interestingly, there are 3D-printed parts made of (presumably sintered) aluminium that link the roof with the car’s body, making the i8 Roadster the first car we know of to use the technique in production.

bmw i8 3d printing roof

It has an unladen weight of 1,595kg, making it 60kg heavier than the Coupe. The extra weight comes from a number of additional components that stiffen the body up (compensating for the loss of rigidity caused by losing the roof), and BMW says the open-top car has different suspension settings to suit.

And yes, the car still has “those” doors…

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The i8 Roadster’s introduction also gives BMW the chance to usher in a few mid-life upgrades for the i8 in general. The fixed model is now called the i8 Coupe, and just in case there’s any doubt on the matter, it gets a small badge on the c-pillar to tell you.

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Of the various improvements, the most important is a new battery that has a cell capacity of 34Ah (up from 20Ah). It’s not a bigger battery as such; BMW says the improvement is down to “advances made in battery cell technology”.

The denser battery gives the i8’s front axle motor a power hike from 121hp to 143hp, and it creates more range in the cars’ Electric Vehicle, battery-only mode. The i8 Coupe can cover just over 54km in pure-electric mode (around 50 per cent further than before) while the i8 Roadster can squeeze around 53km from the battery.

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The 1.5-litre petrol engine in the back has undergone some change, too. Output stays the same at 231hp, but it now has a particulate filter to sift out fine particles from the exhaust gas. BMW says it’s worked on making the exhaust note more sporty, as well.

The petrol-electric system output is now 374 horsepower, and with that the i8 Coupe hits 100km/h in 4.4 seconds while the i8 Roadster does the same in 4.6 seconds.

bmw i8 facelift price singapore reviewObviously not a race, since the wrong car is in front…

Overseas, the cars are rated for fuel consumption of 1.9L/100km (with corresponding emissions of 42g/km of CO2) and 2.1L/100km (46g/km) respectively, although testing by Singapore authorities will likely yield different ratings.

The i8’s interior has been updated too, with the iDrive infotainment system’s screen gaining the current tile-based layout, and a number of new options such as carbon trim and a ceramic finish for the system’s rotary controller.

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A new upholstery option called Accaro E-copper (pictured above) has been introduced, apparently made of sustainable materials, and the optional 20-inch wheels are in a new design.

It seems unlikely we’ll see either car at January’s Singapore Motorshow, but we hear BMW Asia is toying with the idea of another BMW World event in the middle of 2018, a multi-day exhibition of its model range with the new i8 models as their anchor. That would provide some symmetry, since the i3 and i8 were launched here at just such an event.

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As for pricing, the Singapore figure is a distant twinkle in someone’s eye at the moment, but overseas the i8 Roadster costs roughly 10 percent more than the i8 Coupe.

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At current pricing, that would mean $670,000 or so with COE, but we’ll find out when the car gets here. As for the i8 Coupe, the improved battery should help revive interest in the car. The better the cells, the easier the sell.

about the author

Leow Ju-Len
Leow Ju-Len is a lot older than he behaves. He's been writing about cars for 23 years. Someday he might do it coherently. Ju-Len believes in world peace and V8s, but not necessarily in that order.