The BMW i8 continues to be the trend-setter for the electric generation with the release of a roadster version
Looking back, it’s hard to comprehend that BMW’s iconic sports car, the i8 – BMW’s first-ever plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) production car – was officially unveiled to the world as a concept only in 2011. Fast-forward to today. This PHEV continues to turn heads and send hearts a-flutter, completely overturning the theory that electric vehicles are boring and slow. In fact, it’s become an object that tops bucket lists.
The coupé remains a runaway success for BMW, rewarding the company handsomely for its strategy of solidifying electric mobility and making it a reality now, instead of waiting for infrastructure to be enhanced and for charging stations to be widely available. BMW customers vindicated the initiative by buying over 100 000 pure electric and PHEVs from the company, proving that there’s indeed a viable market for having the best of both worlds – sheer performance and a smaller carbon footprint.
In the case of the i8, which combines electric and petrol engines – allowing motorists to enjoy longdistance travel without the dreaded “range fear” associated with electric vehicles and be rewarded for good driving by saving fuel – there’s been an even better uptake. This love led to the expansion of the brand that saw the i8 roadster join its coupé sibling just in time for summer.
A futuristic convertible, this sports car will get you behind the wheel at every opportunity simply to enjoy the performance and unleash your inner exhibitionist. In fact, you don’t even have to drop the top to attract attention, as we discovered during an urban exploration between Johannesburg and Pretoria.
Before you even flick open the gullwing doors, you’ll be seduced by the colour of the roadster.
Against the African sun, the e-copper shade shimmers seductively, luring you closer to the vehicle. While BMW has yet to devise a dignified way of getting into the two-seater vehicle, once you’ve done so, the seats are comfortable and accommodate most body types. It takes just 15 seconds for the roof to open, making you one with the environment.
An urban vehicle with capabilities for the open road, it allows the driver to fully experience the technologies of its various driving modes in real time. While it looks aggressive and very sporty, the only difference between the i8 and any typical V8 sports car is that
you’re likely to have a clumsy start to the drive. There’s no roaring engine; instead, it’s completely quiet and the car magically swooshes away from its parking spot while in electric (comfort) mode, making it an ideal vehicle for those who prefer to arrive at or leave their destinations discreetly. At speeds of over 60km/h, the petrol engine kicks in, as do the acoustics. Conversely, if you start in petrol engine mode, the car switches to Eco Pro (electric) mode once you’ve reached the same speed, adjusting the engine to be as efficient as possible in achieving zero carbon emissions.
The Sports mode turns this baby into a pure BMW, giving you ultimate performance and dynamics and achieving acceleration of 0-100km in just 4,6 seconds.
After a whirlwind drive through towns, suburbs and townships between Gauteng’s two major cities, we were left completely envious of individuals with the two-bar plus to take ownership of the new roadster. The only word of caution we have for them is to prepare for a slew of admiring stares, questions and photographs from anyone and everyone who sees them in this beast.