It's been four years since BMW unveiled the i8 to the world, and in that time it has established itself in its futuristic sports-hybrid niche rather nicely. Now the time has come for a second variant to join the line-up, and with it the opportunity to fold the roof down, because the i8 Roadster is finally on sale in the UK.
Priced from £124,735, the drop-top hybrid is £12,000 more than the regular coupe. It gains a folding electric fabric top, which has necessitated the removal of the i8's two back passenger seats, making the Roadster a two-seater. The addition of two rear butresses add a further air of exotica to its look.
Are there any other changes, you ask? Aside from the expected structural modifications (more on those shortly) to ensure its frame doesn't twist like a Slinky around bends, the i8 Roadster is essentially identical to its hard-headed sibling. It uses the same mid-mounted 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine as the Coupe has always done, putting out the same 231hp and 236lb ft of torque. Overall performance is up, however, to 374hp and 420lb ft, thanks to a 12hp bump to the front mounted electric motor that's been introduced to the range alongside the Roadster's launch. The i8 Roadster is claimed to be good for a 0-62mph sprint time of 4.6 seconds (0.2 seconds slower than the Coupe) and a limited top speed of 155mph.
Power is still sent from the petrol unit to the rear wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission, and from the electric motor to the front wheels via a two-speed gearbox. This gives the i8 Roadster - and its Coupe sibling - the ability to run either in four-wheel drive, or front-wheel drive, electric only, guise. The latter resulting in a range of up to 33 miles thanks to the improved lithium-ion battery, which can now be charged to 80 per cent in under three hours.
As with any convertible, a lot of attention has inevitably been focused on the roof. The newly-developed fabric structure opens in just 15 seconds and stows beneath a panel integrated into the buttresses behind the passenger cabin. Unfortunately that means sacrificing the Coupe's 570GT-style luggage deck - but fear not, as BMW will sell you custom bags that fit into compartments totalling 92-litres worth of stowage space behind the seats.
Visually the changes don't extend much past that. The rear window, which also now serves as a wind deflector, has been tweaked, allowing it to be closed or opened independently of the roof. And the rear side windows have been replaced with solid panels as part of a strengthening of the i8's upper structure, which includes a strong windscreen frame. Thanks to the car's CFRP-based architecture however, weight gains over the Coupe have been kept to a minimum, at just 60kg.
Inside, the updated dashboard from the facelifted Coupe makes its way into the Roadster too, with the latest version of BMW's iDrive system in tow. There are newly designed seats too, and buyers have the option of a head-up display as well as a range of carbon fibre and ceramic trim options.
So it's slower, less practical, and more expensive than the Coupe, but that's kind of missing the point, isn't it? The first convertibles are due for delivery later this year. If you can't wait that long, there are used i8s ready and waiting in the classifieds...