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Drop-top thrills: BMW's new i8 Roadster headed for SA

2017-12-01 10:26

Image: Newspress

Los Angeles - The new BMW i8 Roadster takes the combination of emission-free and high-performance driving and adds open-top thrills. 

The i8 Roadster made its world premier at the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show. The Roadster will be joined in showrooms by the mid-life update of the i8 Coupé.

The Roadster is the third vehicle in the 'i-car' line-up and this drop-top version forms part of a facelifted i8 range, set to arrive in South Africa in May 2018.

Electrically operated soft-top roof 

All-electric operation ensures the fabric soft-top opens or closes within 16 seconds while travelling at up to 50km/h.

The i8 Roadster is unique in offering a fabric soft-top which stows into a perpendicular position in the rear when opened, therefore taking up very little space. The three segments of the roof fold vertically in a Z-shape, leaving an additional 100 litres of storage space between the roof box and the seats, on top of the 88 litres of cargo space in the rear compartment.

Opening the roof raises the rear window automatically by 30mm, reducing air turbulence inside the cabin and ensuring passengers can enjoy the pleasure of open-top driving with minimal disturbance. The driver can adjust the height of the window at the touch of a button and control airflow.

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The i8 Roadster’s broad roof retracts fully into the rear end, lending greater emphasis to the car’s low-slung silhouette. The C-pillars are adorned with beautifully made model-specific badges bearing the inscription “Roadster”. A similar logo can be found on the tail of the sporty two-seater.

Powertrain, chassis and body

The new BMW i8 Coupé and new BMW i8 Roadster are powered by a hybrid synchronous electric motor and a three-cylinder petrol engine with BMW TwinPower Turbo technology. Power is fed to the rear wheels via a six-speed Steptronic transmission, while the electric motor propels the front wheels via a two-speed automatic gearbox. 

Continual development has enhanced the performance offered by BMW’s eDrive technology. The energy capacity of the latest version of the i8’s lithium-ion battery has increased from 20Ah to 34Ah and gross energy capacity from 7.1kWh to 11.6kWh (net energy capacity: 9.4kWh). 

Extra energy reserves have made it possible to raise the electric motor’s peak output by 9kW to 106kW. In typical electric motor fashion, it generates its maximum torque of 250Nm from rest, which means it is ideally equipped to deliver razor-sharp responses to the slightest movement of the accelerator. 

The battery cells’ higher capacity means that the proportion of all-electric driving can be increased substantially, even in hybrid mode. With the default driving mode engaged, both the new i8 Coupé and new i8 Roadster are capable of pulling away and reaching speeds of up to 105km/h purely on the electric motor’s power, making it possible to drive with zero emissions not just in town, but on country roads as well. And if the eDrive button is pressed, the all-electric threshold of both models is increased further to 120km/h.

The new high-voltage battery benefits the electric range of the two plug-in hybrid sports cars too. In the EU test cycle, the new BMW i8 Coupé achieves a maximum range of 54km – around 50% more than before – while the figure for the new BMW i8 Roadster is 53km.

Three-cylinder petrol engine with improved sound and lower emissions.

The i8’s combustion engine has also undergone further improvements. The turbocharged three-cylinder unit featuring direct injection and VALVETRONIC variable valve timing extracts a maximum output of 172kW from its displacement of just 1.5-litres, plus peak torque of 320Nm. It is pleasantly refined and generates a distinctive soundtrack that now has an even sportier note when its power reserves are called upon. The engine also runs more cleanly, as it now comes equipped with a particulate filter as standard that effectively absorbs all the particulate matter contained in the exhaust gases.

The system output produced by the electric motor and engine acting in unison has increased to 278kW. The new BMW i8 Coupé accelerates from zero to 100km/h in 4.4 seconds, while the new i8 Roadster takes 4.6 seconds. Both models have an electronically limited top speed of 250km.

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