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We get behind the wheel of the only BMW i8 Roadster in SA

2018-06-20 15:00

Sean Parker

Image: Supplied

The only, yes only i8 Roadster in the country is down in Cape Town this week, Wheels24's Sean Parker tackled some of the Western Cape's best roads with the hybrid sports car. 

Hoping for little or no rain to fall in Cape Town during Winter is like openly supporting corrupt former president Jacob Zuma, it's just not done. 

However with a forecast of showers for the day of the launch, I secretly hoped I'd be able to experience BMW's brand new i8 Roadster in its purest form: with the electrically-operated soft top roof stowed away.

And that's what I got. More on that later.

So, what's new besides the fact that it doesn't have a fixed roof? Well in emission-free mode (i.e electric mode), the soft top has a claimed range of 53km and has an increase of 9kW due to a larger cell capacity of the battery, total output of the electric motor is 105kW. 

The main ingredient is of course the carbon tub, BMW quote an unladen weight of 1595kg for the Roadster thanks to carbon fibre used in the gullwing doors, windscreen frame, side skirts and chassis. 

It certainly looks like the future. Low and squat with a distinctive hue like the test car's, it was always going to literally stop traffic as we made our way out of the city. 

What's it like to drive? 

Without the 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine getting involved, BMW says the electric motor alone can propel the Roadster up to 120km/h with the eDrive button engaged.  

After testing the silent mode in traffic and those dreaded Somerset West intersections, it was time to push the Roadster around the demanding but epic Clarence Drive above Gordon's Bay. And it didn't disappoint. Pop the gearlever left to engage Sport mode. Then tug on the paddle shift gearlever to engage a head ups display (standard on the coupe too) that shows a rev counter and which gear you're in. 

The traction control gets involved quite early if it feels that you're being overzealous with all the nannies on. But with sport traction engaged, it allows for a bit of slip before reigning you back in, in a smooth, calm fashion. 

Smoothness is probably the word best used to describe the driving experience as the power is put down without fuss and the four-wheel drive stability adds to that safe factor. I couldn't mirror that in say, the manic M4 Competition Pack with its 331kW and rear-drive layout.

The exhaust might be as an influencer's apology but it still sounds good and simply adds to the experience. I debated it with my co-driver briefly and we both agreed it was something we'd just have to get used to. 

With a total output of 275kW and 320Nm, the Roadster executes the from 0-100km/h dash in a claimed 4.6 seconds and has to be physically restrained at 250km/h. Brisk, whichever you look at it. 

At R2 329 300, the i8 Roadster offers a bespoke experience and a hefty price. If you've got the money and you feel like stopping traffic, then why not blow two bar on the stunning roadster. 

The updated i8 Coupe retails for R2 095 200. 

*BMW also showed off its updated i3, the model has undergone cosmetic changes inside and out. LED headlights are now standard across the range which is made up of the fully-electric model and the range extender derivative which uses a petrol engine. 

Read more on:    bmw  |  sean parker  |  south africa  |  new models  |  sports car  |  hybrid

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