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.

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