When it debuted for the 2014 model year, the BMW i8 wowed us with its carbon-fiber construction, swing-up doors and its high-performance plug-in hybrid powertrain. It was BMW’s showcase for maximizing performance while simultaneously minimizing environmental impact. Five model years later, BMW has rolled out an updated 2019 BMW i8 that features improved hybrid power components as well as a new convertible model called the i8 Roadster.
Both i8s feature nearly identical rooflines, and you may be forgiven for mistaking the two with just a quick glance. But unlike the i8 Coupe’s 2+2 seating arrangement, the i8 Roadster is a two-seater only. BMW has used the coupe’s rear seating area to house the Roadster’s power-operated soft top. But considering how small the coupe’s rear seats are, it’s really no big loss. Plus, the Roadster still has a storage area behind the seats that’s big enough for a couple of small backpacks or a duffel bag.
The soft top can open or close in about 15 seconds at speeds of up to 31 mph. Because it’s 132 pounds heavier than the coupe, the Roadster features its own suspension calibration and chassis-stiffening measures to ensure a similar level of handling. To hide to the soft top’s actuation hardware, BMW has used a gloss-black rear decklid for the Roadster versus the glass piece on the coupe.
All 2019 i8s benefit from a more energy-dense battery pack (bumped from 7.1 kWh to 11.6 kWh) and a slightly more powerful electric motor. A turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine still drives the wheels, and the electric motor powers the front. Total system power is now 374 horsepower, an increase of 17 hp. There are other benefits to the 2019 i8, too. Electric-only top speed is improved to 65 mph in Normal mode and about 75 mph in eDrive mode. You can also expect the i8’s electric-only driving range, which was previously an EPA-estimated 15 miles, to increase a few miles.
Just like the i8 Coupe, the 2019 BMW i8 Roadster will be a car for the wealthy few when it goes on sale in the spring of 2018. Overall, though, it demonstrates BMW’s commitment to developing cars that are both fun to drive and environmentally friendly.