Fresh from the launch of an equivalently stunning electric plug-in hybrid BMW i8 Coupe last month, BMW Malaysia continues its commitment to drive e-mobility and sustainable driving experience with the BMW i8 Roadster. The latest model — which has been conceptualised since 2007 — is designed to be future-proof as well as to bring awareness on new and clean technology for the automotive industry.

The roadster is an icon of progress, and by far the most advanced of BMW’s long line of open-top two-seater cruisers. It delivers the performance of a sports car with innovative e-mobility.

“The First-Ever BMW i8 Roadster is the ultimate icon for Mobility of the Future. The open-top hybrid two-seater sports car redefines driving enthusiasm, freedom and demonstrates e-Mobility as the visionary way forward for the convertible sports cars segment,” said Harald Hoelzl, Managing Director and CEO of BMW Group Malaysia

BMW i8 models now mark the future of sporty plug-in hybrid vehicles, especially with the recent launches of BMW i8 Coupe and the first-ever BMW i8 Roadster. In fact, automotive giants like Jaguar, Lamborghini and Mercedes Benz are also joining the hype with their respectively new electrified range.

BMW i8 Roadster hits the road in Malaysia beginning 19 September 2018. (Credit: BMW)

A New Design Language
BMW i8 Roadster imbues emotional appeal in its seamless design that echoes previous BMW i models. The taut soft-top roof has a visual lightness to go with its low physical weight, reinforcing the road-hugging impression made by the car’s low centre of gravity.

The BMW i8 Roadster broad roof retracts fully into the rear end quietly in just 15 seconds. This can also be initiated while travelling at a speed of up to 50km/h. When opened, the rear window raises by around 30mm — serving as a wind deflector that reduces turbulence. The height of the fully retractable rear window can also be varied at the touch of a button.

The new BMW i8 Roadster features an impeccable design language to appeal to the urban audience. (Credit: BMW)

The model features a brand new LifeDrive vehicle architecture, which is a horizontally split structure comprising an aluminium chassis and a carbon-fibre-reinforced-polymer (CFRP) passenger cell. This offers an exceptional degree of aesthetics while ensuring the best possible handling and noticeable weight advantage.

The open-top two-seater comes with newly designed frameless gullwing doors made from CFRP with an aluminium outer shell. CFRP is also used to manufacture the windscreen frame and the side skirts with an extra-large cross-section. This ultra-strong high-tech material provides rigidity while maximising the car’s occupant protection even if it rolls over.

Retract the broad roof while travelling at a speed of up to 50km/h in just 15 seconds. (Credit: BMW)

Standard 20-inch light-alloy wheels feature lightweight construction, with which weighting around 1kg less than the lightest wheels previously offered for the BMW i8. The BMW i8 Roadster has a vehicle weight of 1,595 kg, a remarkably low figure for an open-top car.

Hybrid-specific Drive

Electric power is transmitted to the front wheels and the engine’s drive to the rear wheels, resulting in a hybrid-specific all-wheel-drive system that is controlled by the car’s intelligent energy management. In hybrid mode, the electric motor provides a power boost to assist the engine to accelerate with ease. It has the ability to recuperate energy and feed it to the high-voltage battery on overrun and under braking — ensuring sufficient energy at all times for the electric drive system.

The rear window doubles as a wind deflector to reduce turbulence. (Credit: BMW)

When the navigation system’s route guidance function is activated, the intelligent energy management ensures the electric motor is employed as judiciously as possible from an efficiency point of view. The system analyses the route in full and sets up the powertrain management to run on purely electric power, particularly over low-speed sections of the journey.

The internal combustion engine has also undergone further optimisation. The three-cylinder unit extracts maximum output of 170 kW/231 hp from its displacement of just 1.5 litres, along with a peak torque of 320 Nm. In the process, it generates an even sportier soundtrack. A particulate filter is now fitted to further reduce emissions by absorbing the particulate matter contained in the exhaust gases.

The system output produced by the electric motor and engine acting in unison is now 275 kW/374 hp, enabling an electronically limited top speed of 250 km/h. Its combined fuel consumption stands at 2.0 litres per 100 kilometres, and 14.5 kWh of electrical energy per 100 kilometres. Petrol CO2 emissions come in at 46 grams per kilometre.

These 20-inch lightweight-constructed alloy wheels are approximately 1kg less than the lightest wheels previously offered for the BMW i8. (Credit: BMW)

Enhanced Electric Driving Experience
An updated version of the lithium-ion battery developed for the BMW i8 is implemented into this new model for a pleasurable electric driving experience and emission-free open-top motoring. The high-voltage unit is located centrally in the car’s underbody. Its cell capacity has increased to 33 Ah from the previous 20Ah, and gross energy capacity has risen to 11.6 kWh from 7.1kWh. The cell configuration allows a peak output of 105 kW/143hp, making quick sprints possible on pure-electric power with extra energy to spare.

In the standard driving mode, the BMW i8 Roadster can be driven exclusively on the electric motor alone – from step-off to a speed of 105 km/h. The combustion engine is only brought into play at higher speeds or when the driver stamps down hard on the accelerator, and is switched off again far more frequently when a measured driving style is maintained. Pressing the eDrive button allows travel at up to 120 km/h on electric power alone, up to a distance of 53km.

Progressive Interiors
There is so much to marvel at when you are at the driving seat of the BMW i8 Roadster. The upper centre console to the instrument panel curves toward the driver in an acute 12-degree angle. Notice that all controls and display elements are within perfect reach and easy to read. The open-pored CFRP carbon trim on the centre console, door handle and dashboard inlay, the ceramic controls with an embossed i8 logo on the iDrive controller, as well as the ceramic finish on the gear selection level add a futuristic touch to the internal body.

The cockpit is fitted out with the BMW Head-up Display that changes to a sports display, which includes revs, gears and shift lights when performing manual gear changes in ‘Sport’ mode. Indulge in the leather sports steering wheel with multifunctional buttons and shift paddles, electrically adjustable seats, the instrument display as well as the Navigation System Professional.

The interior comes in Accaro E-Copper with spheric leather in a vivid tan colour.
The interior comes in Accaro E-Copper with spheric leather in a vivid tan colour. (Credit: BMW)

Similar to other BMW i8 models, the latest model is also equipped with the BMW Connected to provide access and information to the current charge status, the range and departure time, helping the driver search for charging stations, and having it sent directly to the vehicle, access to the efficiency rating of the last trip, tutorials for particularly efficient driving, and the CO2 calculator. The BMW Connected personal mobility assistant interfaces the vehicle with the customer’s selected touchpoints, such as a smartphone or smartwatch.

The retail price for the first-ever BMW i8 Roadster starts from RM 1,508,800. The model comes in Exterior E-Copper with Accaro interior design, and will be available at authorised BMW i dealerships from 19 September 2018. 

Martin Teo
Martin has a bent for history and food culture, especially of the Peranakan heritage. Since the pandemic, he finds joy in plant parenting and continues to expand his collection of Philodendrons, Anthuriums, and Syngoniums. He's now on a lookout for the elusive Philodendron Florida Beauty to add to his urban garden.