BMW News

Announced by the BMW CEO almost two years ago and spotted in test camouflage many times in the past year, the 2019 BMW i8 Roadster was finally introduced to the world at the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show. The plug-in hybrid convertible sports car now constitutes a matching set of halo cars for BMW with the Roadster's older but updated sibling, the 2019 BMW i8 Coupe.

The 2019 BMW i8 Roadster incorporates the same drivetrain as the 2019 BMW i8 Coupe, which means the ability to choose the 141-horsepower synchronous electric motor alone, or the combination of electric power in hybrid concert with the BMW TwinPower Turbo technology 1,499 cc three-cylinder gasoline engine. The internal combustion engine (ICE) generates 228 horsepower, so the total drivetrain commands 369 horsepower, which is a twelve-horsepower bump from the original i8 Coupe powertrain. That's enough power to move the i8 Coupe from zero to 60 miles per hour in 4.2 seconds, followed by the i8 Roadster two-tenths of a second later. Top speed of both is electronically limited to 155 miles per hour.

The mid-engine ICE engine contributes its power to the rear wheels via a six-speed Steptronic automatic transmission, while the electric motor in front pulls the front wheels through a two-speed automatic gearbox. Together, they make the i8 Coupe and Roadster all-wheel drive vehicles.

The i8 Coupe is famous for the light weight and strength of its carbon fiber and aluminum construction and the i8 Roadster has pretty much the same attributes, packaged in a similar but not identical body. The Roadster keeps the overall shape of the Coupe although by necessity, things get different aft of the front windshield and, of course, the silhouette looks completely different when the roof is retracted.

For many months, the world has waited patiently to see how the BMW i8 Roadster would handle the convertible top. With the coupe version already tight on interior space, the retractable roof, it's composition, and its location generated much speculation. Now that the wait is over, we can tell you that the Roadster has an electrically operated fabric soft top with additional soundproofing. It opens or closes in less than sixteen seconds at speeds of up to 31 miles per hour.

The closing mechanism folds the three roof segments into a "Z" shape and stows the top in a perpendicular position in the rear behind the front seats, leaving about 3.5 cubic feet of storage space between the roof box and the seats. The i8 Roadster has no rear seating like the coupe version does.

Another question posed by those waiting for the final version of the Roadster had to do with the doors. Given that the butterfly/scissor doors were one of the most impactful design attributes of the BMW i8 Coupe, there was no way that BMW was going to put normal doors on the Roadster.

The Roadster also keeps the low hood, the slatless BMW kidney grille, air flap control system, Air Curtains in the front apron, flat underbody, contoured side skirts, “stream flow” lines of the car’s flanks, and air ducts between the rear lights and roof frame. Cooling airflow in both the new versions now exits near the wheel arches into the underbody instead of through the opening in the middle of the hood. It would be a total surprise of the new i8 Roadster doesn't start raking in design awards as soon as the car is available for sale next spring.

If the lack of a hard top was not already a dead giveaway, the i8 Roadster adds "Roadster" badges to the B-pillars while the Coupe gets new "Coupe" badges in the same place.

All of the existing paint colors for the i8 Coupe are available for both models but in addition, BMW has expanded the i8's palette to include E-Copper metallic and Donington Grey metallic. Both of the new colors get Frozen Grey metallic accents.

Because the hardware required for the convertible top weighs more, BMW engineers looked for more ways to lose weight. For example, the first-ever BMW i8 Roadster comes standard with exclusive 20-inch BMW i light-alloy wheels in Radial-spoke style bicolor design with mixed-size tires. Each wheel weighs about 2.2 pounds less than the lightest wheels previously available for the BMW i8.

Under that beautiful body is a more powerful lithium-ion battery with a cell capacity up to 34 Ah from 20, and a rise in gross energy capacity from 7.1 to 11.6 kWh. The electric range of the i8 has also been increased—sort of. BMW claimed an electric-only range of 22 miles for the first i8 Coupe, but those were testing numbers. In the real world, few owners regularly saw an electric-only range higher than 15 to 18 miles. Now BMW states definitively that the new i8s will cover 18 miles on battery juice alone. We'll see.

Inside the two newest members of the i8 family, owners can choose the Giga interior trim with full-leather Ivory White upholstery in the Coupe and Ivory White/Black for the Roadster. The optional Halo interior comes with cloth/leather upholstery in Carum/Dalbergia. A new high-end option is called Tera World Copper and consists of cloth/leather upholstery in an Amido/E-Copper color scheme.

The leather sports steering wheel comes with shift paddles, and heated seats are electrically adjustable.

Five driving modes are available through the Driving Dynamics Control switch and eDrive button. The eDrive button will turn on only the electric motor while the car is in Comfort or Eco Pro modes. Otherwise, Eco Pro, Comfort, and Sport modes will employ hybrid power in various combinations and intensities. Sport mode is a hoot, with tighter, firmer steering, faster accelerator response, and a power boost.

Navigation system Professional is standard and controlled through the latest iDrive 6.0 operating system using the iDrive Controller on the center console or a freestanding 8.8-inch touchscreen. A twelve-speaker 360-watt Harman Kardon HiFi system with HD digital radio receiver is standard equipment.

Both new i8s come with a model-specific BMW Head-Up Display, cruise control system with braking function, and the Driving Assistant Package that includes Surround View, Frontal Collision warning with City Collision Mitigation, Daytime Pedestrian Protection, Park Distance Control, Automatic High beams, Speed Limit Info, Cross Traffic Alert, and Side and Top View Cameras.

Naturally, the new BMW i8s will have the latest BMW Connected personal mobility assistant and BMW Connected and BMW Connected-Plus digital services.

The all-new BMW i8 Roadster, likes its older sibling, is electrified and eventually, its lithium-ion batteries must be recharged. One way to feed the car's high-voltage batteries enough electrons to bring them to a decent level of charge is to run the car in Sport mode. An auxiliary generator will charge the batteries while running in Sport, although not to as high a level as is possible with a wall charger.

For the quickest charging, you can order the BMW TurboCord™ EV Charger for an extra $499. This beast plugs into 120- or 240 volts and when used at the higher voltage, can charge the i8s batteries in right around an hour.

The 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show is here, and now, so are the all-new, long-awaited 2019 BMW i8 Roadster and the 2019 BMW i8 Coupe that just underwent its Life Cycle Impulse (or mid-life refresh as some call it). We still must wait a little longer for the price, which we won't know until the cars get closer to market, and the cars themselves that will become available in the spring of 2018. So we still have a few months before we see a new i8 Roadster in person. If you ever get to see one in person. The original i8 came out more than three years ago and many BMW enthusiasts still haven't seen one on the highway. But eventually you'll see one, maybe with the top up, maybe with the top down, but looking marvelous either way.—Scott Blazey

[Photos courtesy of BMW AG.]