Advertisement

New BMW i8 Roadster 2018 review

The hi-tech BMW i8 plug-in hybrid loses its roof, but has it gained extra appeal over the Coupe?

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

As spectacular to look at as ever, the new-for-2018 BMW i8 still feels every bit the hi-tech sports car, too. Losing its roof has enhanced the experience; the open-top adds to the thrills, making it well worth the extra cash over the Coupe. There are alternatives for similar money that are more exciting to drive, but in lots of ways, the i8 makes them feel old-fashioned.

BMW has revised its i8 for 2018, introducing an all-new open-top version. The i8 Roadster sits alongside a revised Coupe, losing the latter’s solid roof and back seats, while gaining 60kg and an additional £12,000 on the price. But does that add up to a worthy trade?

The extra mass is a result of structural work to the carbon-fibre passenger cell. There are a few extra layers of carbon fibre around the windscreen and extra panels provide a stronger location for the Roadster’s rear suspension.

Best convertible cars

Elsewhere, the Roadster’s DSC system and adaptive dampers get unique tuning. Overall the i8 soft-top tips the scales at 1,595kg; hardly portly for a hybrid sports car with show-stopping gullwing doors.

The new roof is almost as spectacular as it delicately glides out of sight in a matter of seconds. It’s stored vertically where the back seats would be in the Coupe, and frees up an extra 92 litres of storage.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

More reviews for i8 Roadster

As with the Coupe, the Roadster gains BMW’s latest electric technology. Battery capacity has increased, which bumps power up from 129bhp to 141bhp and battery-only range from 22 to 33 miles.

There was always a pleasing novelty to cruising around in silence in any i8, and that’s amplified (so to speak) without a roof. Call for more speed, and the petrol engine jumps in. It’s the same 1.5-litre three-cylinder as before, but with an added particulate filter to reduce exhaust emissions.

Performance might not be supercar-quick on paper, but in the real world it feels rapid. The instant shove of electric torque helps the i8 leap forward like a car half its weight, and the engine is more than willing to pull strongly to the red line, albeit without the thunderous drama of a Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster.

Nor can the chassis match that car for thrills. With the electric motor driving the front wheels and the petrol engine the rears, you have to be completely brutal with the throttle to even induce the slightest slip from the back end. Otherwise, the i8’s natural tendency is towards understeer. You’ll be hard-pressed to notice the Roadster’s extra weight compared with the Coupe, though.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

• The best sports cars of 2018

However, the same can’t be said for refinement. While closed-top driving is perfectly fine, with the roof down, those buttresses generate a fair amount of wind noise at anything above 65mph. It’s a shame, because otherwise the i8 would be a fantastic long-distance cruiser.

But what about fuel returns? The 33-mile electric-only range is achievable in the real world, but you’ll need to make sure that the battery is well topped up for that to translate into hybrid-like mpg figures. Drive it hard, or simply treat it like any other performance car, and you’ll be unlikely to get much above 30mpg. Still good for a sports car, but some way short of the claimed 141.2mpg.

This test car comes with more than £10,000-worth of options, and we wouldn’t really bother with any of them. Half of that cash is taken up by laser lights – a feature that’s only really a benefit at full beam; another £2,750 pays for orange upholstery and £1,600 covers the carbon-fibre interior trim.

That material sits in an interior that is starting to look a little past its best. It’s not bad, but while the spectacular body still resembles a concept from 2030, the inside can’t match its theatre any more.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Most Popular

Visit/bentley/continental-gt/351832/bentleys-built-horse-themed-continental-gt-convertible
Bentley Continental GT

Bentley’s built a horse-themed Continental GT Convertible

The bespoke Continental GT Convertible Equestrian Edition features tweed door panels, a walnut dash and gold “horse and rider” emblems
9 Mar 2020
Visit/tips-advice/351925/can-i-drive-my-car-during-uks-coronavirus-lockdown
Speed limit to be cut to 60mph on M1
Tips & advice

Can I drive my car during the UK’s coronavirus lockdown?

The UK has been put on lockdown to help combat the spread of COVID-19, but does this mean you can’t drive your car anymore?
24 Mar 2020
Visit/bmw/4-series/107632/new-2020-bmw-4-series-spotted-undergoing-development
BMW 4 Series

New 2020 BMW 4 Series spotted undergoing development

A near production-ready version of the latest BMW 4 Series Coupe has been spied, wearing a pair of huge kidney grilles.
19 Mar 2020