We’ve waited a long time for the BMW i8 Roadster.
First previewed at the Beijing motor show as the i8 Concept Spyder in 2012, it’s taken a full six years for the plug-in hybrid open-top to be offered in the UK. In that time, the car has undergone a significant amount of development. But, despite the long gestation, it hasn’t lost any of its original impact.
Its contemporary exterior design and advanced powertrain specification might be familiar, coming some three years after the launch of the i8 Coupé, but there are few cars at any price that can claim to make such a powerful visual and technical statement as this roadster.
If anything, the i8’s futuristic lines are further enhanced by the loss of its roof, most notably around the rear, which has gained added prominence on the roadster due to the appearance of two large buttresses in the place taken up by the liftback-style tailgate on the coupé.
What else has changed beyond the removable roof?
The roof, which consists of a large fabric panel and integrated header rails, opens automatically in 15 seconds at speeds up to 31mph. It boats near-silent full electric operation and stows vertically behind the two-seat cabin at the press of a button, nestling in a space-saving position between the rear bulkhead and mid-rear mounted combustion engine.
To accommodate the new soft top, BMW has modified the windscreen of the i8, providing it with a strengthened carbonfibre frame. The rear window, which doubles as a wind deflector, is also altered and can be closed or opened independently of the roof.
Further stylistic changes over the facelifted i8 Coupé that's set for UK delivery at the same time in June include the deletion of the rear side windows. They are replaced by new panels overlaid with aluminium-look trims with the word 'Roadster' on the side of the new buttresses.
In combination with further strengthening measures within the carbonfibre-reinforced plastic and aluminium structure and new frameless scissor-action doors, weight has increased by 60kg over the facelifted coupé at 1595kg.
Inside, the two-plus-two configuration of the fixed-roof i8 has given way to a two-seat layout, with the rear of the cabin altered to provide 92 litres of oddment space within three separate cubby holes in the rear bulkhead. It combines with the 88 litres of the rear-mounted luggage area to provide an overall 160 litres of stowage space.