Mzansi’s best-selling hybrid sports car has now been updated and upgraded such that it now produces more power than ever before. Being the carrier of the “sexy hotness” mantle is no easy task I would imagine, but the BMW i8 has done it so well that its maker has now created an even sexier version of it; the i8 Roadster. I got to drive both around Gauteng and saw more stares, heard more hooters than taxi passengers at the Noord taxi rank.

So in case you had forgotten, the i8 Coupe (the one with the hard roof), was launched here in Mzansi in 2015, much later than in Europe because of the high demand over there. Since then it has become quite a favourite among sports car buyers, not only because it is pretty fast as any sports car should be, but because it is different as a plug-in hybrid. Many of us don’t realise that the i8 actually has two power sources; a petrol engine and an electric motor planted on lithium-ion batteries.

The previous model carried a 1.5-litre turbocharged BMW engine, an electric motor and lithium-ion batteries too. But it was less powerful, having produced total system output of 266kW and 570Nm of torque for a claimed 0 – 100km/h of 4.4 seconds. The new Coupe is bringing it on, with 275kW of power and the same torque and sprint time. The slahla though, is slightly slower at 4.6 seconds, and it feels it. BMW has kept the 6-speed automatic gearbox for the petrol, and the 2-speed for the electric motor. While the engine sends power and torque to the rear wheels, the electric motor does the same for the front wheels, making this car all-wheel-driven.

During our drive in the Gauteng region we felt a little slower in the E-Copper Roadster, which is about 60kg heavier than the Coupe, thanks for the roof opening/ closing mechanism. That operation – which takes care of the soft-top and stores it just behind the occupants – takes just 15 seconds to complete. Best of all it can be done at speeds of up to 50km/h on any breezy day, which of course I did. One simply pushes or pulls a button at the centre console and voila, roof down/ up.

Cars with special doors like the i8 Coupe (which open up and outward like scissors) often lose that unique and attractive look when they also lose their roofs. Admittedly I was quite concerned about this when I first heard about a possible i8 slahla, but thankfully this has not happened in this case. What’s an i8 without those scissor doors? The engineers at BMW, the story goes, simply took an i8, sawed off its roof and began working out the rest of the details. In the end we have a strictly 2-seat Roadster with small storage spaces where rear seats used to be, and a soft roof.

The cabin itself remains a sample of surprisingly good ergonomic design, with the dashboard driver-centric as other BMWs, buttons minimal and easy to find, and an infotainment screen set up for iDrive and ConnnectedDrive functions as well as others. Apart from fewer storage spaces, the i8 boasts the same cabin feeling as any other BMW of similar size, with pretty much the same switch gear, knobs, buttons etc.

BMW created the i8 out of paper and it now stands straight and tall as a leader not only in design, but also in performance and environmental responsibility. The Roadster just adds to the existing mystique of a sports car that ticks all the right boxes.


BMW i8 Prices

Coupe (R2 095 200)

Roadster (R2 329 300)

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