I’m pretty sure the words “Ya know, I like the BMW i8 but it just doesn’t look exciting enough for me.” have never been uttered. Since its debut in 2014, the BMW i8 has been the most wild looking cars on the road, regardless of what the Italians or British come out with. The i8 looks like it came from the year 2104, not 2014. So it’s not an easy task to set out to try and make the i8 more exciting, more interesting. Though, there is always one surefire way to make any car more exciting looking, supercar or otherwise — take the roof off. And that’s exactly what the Bavarians did with the new BMW i8 Roadster.
We’ve been hearing rumors, seeing renders and even concept teases from BMW of an i8 Roadster for some time. Now it’s finally here and it looks every bit as good as we were hoping it would. The BMW i8 Roadster comes as part of an LCI mid-cycle refresh of the i8 and is the most exciting and interesting part of the new refresh.
Replacing the fixed hardtop roof of the BMW i8 Coupe is an electrically-operated soft-top roof on the i8 Roadster. The heavily soundproofed, all-season soft-top roof can open and close in less than 16 seconds, which is actually quite quick. It can also operate on the move, up to 31 mph, so getting caught in the rain won’t be so bad. But it isn’t just a plain old soft-top roof. BMW has put some proper thought into it. As the roof opens, the rear window raises 1.9 inches, to reduce wind noise, and that window can be electronically controlled to go up or down as the driver wishes. Also, the aluminum elements that connect the roof to the body have been 3D-printed, marking a first for BMW.
With the roof down, the BMW i8 Roadster is arguably even prettier than the standard i8 Coupe. In fact, the standard BMW i8 was never actually a pretty car. It looked wildly futuristic, cooler than almost any other car on the road and like nothing we’d ever seen before or since. However, it wasn’t exactly pretty. Losing the roof somehow makes the i8 pretty. Maybe that’s just the opinion of a man with very poor taste in fashion (Ahem, me) but the i8 Roadster looks better topless.
The absolute best part of the new BMW i8 Roadster, though, is the increase in drama, which is something the i8 sorely needed. The BMW i8 was always an impressive car, technically. From a technical standpoint, it was always hard not to marvel at the i8. However, when it came to actually driving it, it could come off as cold and uninviting. That’s because it’s so high-tech, so futuristic that it loses so much of the connection between man and machine that we’ve come to love from BMW. Now, though, losing the roof will add some of the drama, the theater that the i8 Coupe lacked.
Most of that added drama will come audibly. BMW’s turbo-triple engine has been one that sounds cool and fun, despite not actually making that much power or a ton of noise. Yet it sounded like a swarm of angry bees were about to burst through the hood. In BMW i8-guise, though, BMW has tuned the little three-pot to make a very growly, very fun noise. Without the roof, that turbo-triple noise will be far more prominent and add quite a lot of excitement to the driving experience.
Speaking of power and performance, the BMW i8 Roadster won’t really have any more of either. Its 1.5 liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine remains unchanged, so it still makes 228 hp and 236 lb-ft and is mated to an electric motor and six-speed automatic gearbox, powering the rear wheels. While an electric motor powers the front wheels, thus giving it real-time torque-vectoring all-wheel drive. The latter motor makes 141 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque, up only slightly from the non-LCI BMW i8. So 0-60 mph happens in about the same 4.2 seconds. BMW claims there’s no performance penalty with the Roadster.
The BMW i8 hasn’t ever been a perfect car. It made up for its faults by being wild looking and technologically interesting, more so than most cars. Now, the addition of the Roadster body variant will us overlook even more about the i8 and enjoy it ever further. While the BMW i8 always looked like something from the future, it looks even better when topless.