Generally speaking, mid-engined exotica and environmental friendliness pair well together, much like a room full of lambs and a ravenous wolf. But thanks to the BMW i8 Roadster, you can drive a stylish set of wheels while giving the Earth a giant bear hug.
This stunning example of futuristic design combines an electric motor, batteries, and a tiny 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine. The outcome? Heart-pounding acceleration with only 46g/km of CO2 emissions. In order to prevent the automobile from acting like a microwaved lettuce leaf, it has a super-stiff carbonfibre-reinforced plastic passenger compartment, just like the i8 Coupé.
The i8 Roadster competes on pricing with drop-top heavyweights like the Audi R8 Spyder, Porsche 911 Cabriolet, and Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster while having a little powerplant. While they could be faster, none of them, in your opinion, can match the i8’s visual impact.
We’ll learn exactly what the i8 Roadster offers the market for high-end convertibles over the next several pages.
Efficiency & motivation
If you’re looking to spend well over £100,000 on a quick, showy cabrio, you presumably want it to sound fairly racy. The 1.5-litre, three-cylinder turbo engine in the i8 Roadster sounds more like a delicious rasp than it does like a dormouse, which is what you might expect.
Although you won’t mistake it for a roaring V8 or V10, the exhaust tone has hints of the Porsche 911. The i8 sounds fantastic, despite the fact that a speaker is partially responsible for that noise.
It is also swift. The i8 can accelerate from 0 to 62 mph in 4.6 seconds with the assistance of a front-mounted electric motor. Although that is fast, it is still a long way from vehicles like the Porsche 911 Cabriolet and the Audi R8 Spyder.
Of course, neither of those competitors can travel up to 33 miles on a single charge while running virtually silently on electricity, unlike the i8. The six-speed automatic gearbox and transition between electric and engine power are both seamless. However, in manual mode, the ‘box can be a little sluggish to change down.
The i8 is light for a car in its class despite having a lot of batteries inside since it is made of carbon fiber-reinforced plastic. Additionally, it stiffens the vehicle, reducing the amount of chassis flex that convertibles frequently exhibit. This makes for excellent handling.
In fact, the car steers precisely, changes directions quickly, and has plenty of traction while coming out of tight turns thanks to the four-wheel drive system. While the majority of drivers will like the car’s poise, enthusiastic drivers may favour the 911 or R8’s more jovial demeanour.
The ride is firm but not agonisingly so, in part because of the standard-fit adaptive dampers. The hood does a fantastic job of shielding you from wind noise, but you will hear quite a bit of road noise. Because there is less buffeting while the roof is down, you can talk to your companion while travelling at high speeds. The roof may be raised or lowered in 15 seconds while travelling at speeds of up to 31 mph.
It’s practically hard to enter the i8 Roadster in a polite manner, even with the roof down. You essentially have to fall into the driver’s seat due to the low seating position and broad sills.
Things are a little confusing inside. Even with copious amounts of leather, the interior’s quality is a little disappointing despite the sweeping design, chrome highlights, and fully digital instrument panel. Yes, there is a lot of plush plastic, but there are also materials and switches that could have come from a far less expensive 3 Series.
The electric front seats and a height- and reach-adjustable steering column at least make it simple to establish a comfortable driving position, and the rest of the controls are simple to use and understand. Standard equipment includes a head-up display to keep your focus on the road.
A large 8.8-inch screen that is situated high and directed towards the driver handles infotainment. In order to make it simple to use while moving, it can be operated as a touchscreen or by a rotary dial located between the seats. The only letdown is having to pay extra for Apple CarPlay, which is quite stingy in a car this expensive.
For a low-slung sports car, visibility is good, and there are front and rear parking sensors as well as a surround-view camera system for manoeuvring.
Boot and passenger space
Although the i8 Coupé has four seats, the back seats are only suitable for small passengers or one of Snow White’s friends. With that in mind, the two-seater nature of the soft-top variant doesn’t cost you anything. In reality, you get a useful shelf that can hold a few soft bags and even a leather-wrapped pocket for maps (though we’d stick with sat-nav).
If you’re thinking about taking a weekend trip, you should definitely use that shelf. The trunk of an i8 Roadster is considerably smaller than those of a Mazda MX-5 or even the Volkswagen Up. For that, thank the mid-mounted engine.
At least you’ll discover that there is lots of space inside; even six-footers can spread out comfortably, and it’s doubtful that your head will accidentally touch the canvas canopy. Although there are a few cupholders and a cubby with wireless charging for compatible mobile devices between the seats, there isn’t much storage space for odds and ends.
Costs and judgement
The i8 Roadster isn’t exactly cheap, shock horror. Not only is it considerably above £100,000, but it also costs substantially more than an additional £10,000 for the coupé. Yes, you do receive more equipment, but not enough to make up for the additional cost. Nevertheless, competitors charge the same sum for the right to be topless.
Furthermore, compared to the comparably speedy Porsche 911 Cabriolet or even the extremely quick Turbo model, the i8 is far more well-equipped. Adaptive LED headlights, heated seats, leather seats with leather accents on the dash and doors, a wi-fi hotspot, and wireless phone charging are all included in the kit list. You won’t have to spend any further money on upgrades aside from Apple CarPlay and possibly nice paint, which isn’t something you can say about the 911.
The i8 has not undergone crash testing by Euro NCAP, although it comes with good basic safety equipment, like as six airbags, collision warning, and automated emergency braking.
The i8 produces only 46g/km of CO2, which results in impressively low monthly company car costs. But unless you’re driving nearly entirely on electricity, don’t expect to consistently achieve the advertised average of 134.5 mpg.