Automobile March 12, 2020
BMW i8 Roadster The Hybrid Super Car.
What’s new in the i8 Roadster?
The main change to the Roadster is the removal of the car’s roof, but the i8’s striking design doesn’t suffer for it. The roof gubbins don’t detract from the hybrid super car’s lines, and instead improve them.
You’ll still find the same, shark-like snout on this i8, the same kidney grilles and swooping rear bodywork, but the addition of two flowing nacelles behind the cockpit make the i8 Roadster look as if it’s moving even when stood still. Of course, unlike an R8, NSX or even Carrera GT, there’s no meaty engine to display behind the cabin. Welcome to our electrified future.
Changes under the surface
Like the previous car, the Roadster still benefits from a stiff carbon fibre shell, but BMW has also reworked the steering and suspension of the i8 Roadster – and new Coupe, also refreshed for 2018.
The way the Roadster vents excess heat from the front motor is also different. Without a roof, heat from the original car’s bonnet vent found its way into the cabin, so the new Roadster vents it under the car. The under body is more aerodynamic to aid the new airflow, and because it’s marginally more efficient, you’ll find the same solution on the new Coupe.
Inside, the changes aren’t as obvious, but the i8 Roadster benefits from a new infotainment system, so you can use the display as a touchscreen. i Drive is still here too, but now features handwriting recognition, so you can doodle addresses into the sat-nav, for example.
What’s the i8 Roadster like to drive?
If you’re hoping the new i8 has been transformed into a precise, Porsche 911 esque super car, you’re going to be disappointed. However, the driving experience is significantly better this time around.
The old Coupe’s slightly vague, fast steering has been replaced by a wheel that gives far more feedback than before, and BMW has changed the way the resistance comes in off-centre, too. It’s present in all modes, but most noticeable when you select the i8 Roadster Sport mode. It’s not Civic Type R heavy, but it finally suits the performance offered by the rest of the car.
The overall result increases your feeling of connection to the car, and helps you explore limits of that rigid carbon fibre shell and uprated suspension.
The brakes are more intuitive, and the change from energy regeneration to physical braking is seamless unlike a Golf GTE, for example. Sport mode adds a rev-counter to the car’s HUD, and while it’s a small change, it’s indictive of the i8’s sportier personality.
But what about the power?
Rump told us the i8 chassis is already at its limit when it comes to engine size, so there’s no difference between the 1.5-litre three-cylinder in the new i8 and the last. It also means if BMW does make a more powerful hybrid super car in future, it won’t be based on the platform you see here.
But there is a handsome power increase on the electric side. A more power-dense battery means electrical power has risen to 141bhp, so combined power is now 369bhp. The i8 Roadster will hit 62mph in a super car comparable 4.6 seconds. It’s no slouch.
And what about the EV-only mode?
The new i8 can run on EV power alone, but the new, bigger battery means it’ll go for longer, and at higher speeds, too. EV mode is now a viable choice out of the city limits, and isn’t a tacked-on afterthought. Instead, it’s another, fully developed side to the car’s personality. Although it’s not quick as using both petrol and electric power, it does offer a totally different type of driving – and at decent speeds.