Car News: I-Candy
BMW lops the top off its i8 hybrid sports car… Has eco-motoring ever been this appealing?
Would you believe me if I told you the striking R2 million-plus BMW i8 Roadster with its gullwing doors and advanced carbon-fibre construction employs a humble 1.5-litre engine – shared with that spunky Mini Cooper that cut you off in traffic this morning?
It does, I swear. But, crucially, it supplements that internal-combustion powertrain with an electric motor powered by a squad of batteries rated at 11.6 kW. The petrol engine cuts out for up to 53 km, allowing the Roadster to coast along in blissful hush as the electric appliance propels the front wheels. When the batteries’ charge is depleted, the Mini motor starts up and refreshes them. Ingenious. (Or owners can simply plug in the i8 when they arrive home or at an ever-widening network of public parking spots equipped with power points.)
Even more impressive, when the fuel-guzzler and the electric motor work in unison, the i8 leaps to 100 km/h in a mere 4.6 seconds. Scale back the pace and BMW says its fl agship sports car sips just 2.1 litres of petrol every 100 km. Have two cakes and eat them, too. For 2018, the i8 range has received a cosmetic facelift. You can still buy the fixed-head two-door and, together with the new drop-top, it gains gentle visual updates, a rejigged infotainment system with various connectivity options, plus a new key that contains a little screen, much like a smartphone, displaying your i8’s core data.
But the big news is the new Roadster, of course. Thanks to the i8’s rigid tub onto which the body and mechanical ancillaries are affixed, the soft-top version weighs just 60 kg more than the coupé. At 1.6 tonnes the new model is impressively lithe despite the bulky battery pack, and that means it uses
less fuel and gets its driver giggling more often. The most striking bit of the transition, however, is that BMW’s engineering boffins have managed to retain the dihedral doors, which make sliding in
and out of the i8 pure theatre.
They’re but two parts of a whole that previews the future of eco-motoring. If all future sports cars are this arresting while having but a slight impact on the environment, sign me up. (Does anyone have R2 million to spare?)
TEXT Terence Steenkamp PHOTOGRAPH Supplied