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Following the world premiere of the BMW i8 Roadster at the Los Angeles Auto Show 2017, local sales commenced at the end of May 2018. The Roadster will be joined in showrooms by the new version of the BMW i8 Coupe. Both models are based on the LifeDrive vehicle architecture designed for BMW i cars. The aluminium Drive module brings together the powertrain, high-voltage battery, suspension, crash system and structural functions, while the Life module takes the form of a passenger cell hewn from carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP).

And so the BMW i8 Roadster also benefits from a low-weight construction, complete with low centre of gravity and even weight distribution. The aerodynamically optimised exterior – with model-specific gullwing doors and a soft-top roof that also displays great visual lightness – is a fine exponent of the signature BMW i design language. The result is a two-seater boasting a distinctive and elegantly stretched silhouette, and delivering an immediate promise of instantaneous power ready to be unleashed.

The BMW i8 Roadster: two-seater with electrically operated soft-top roof and additional on-board stowage space.

Rigorously further developed BMW eDrive technology powers both the BMW i8 Roadster and new BMW i8 Coupe. The number of driving situations where the electric motor is solely responsible for powering the car has been significantly increased. By contrast, the combustion engine is only brought into play when accelerating hard, and is switched off again far more frequently with a measured driving style. The optimised operating strategy of the intelligent energy management underscores the future-focused character of the new BMW i8 Coupe and ensures that drivers of the new BMW i8 Roadster can enjoy silent open-top motoring with zero local emissions to the full.

Underpinning this new level of locally emission-free electric mobility is the updated version of the lithium-ion battery developed for the BMW i8. The high-voltage unit is located centrally in the car’s underbody and its cell capacity is up from 20 to 34 Ah. All of which means the electric motor has more energy at its disposal. Plus, the cell configuration allows a 9 kW increase in peak output to 105 kW, lacing quick sprints on pure-electric power with an even sharper streak of dynamism.

The electric range of the i8 has also been increased. The new BMW i8 Roadster can now cover up to 53 kilometres with zero local emissions in the NEDC test cycle and the new BMW i8 Coupe up to 55 kilometres. And that broadens the reach of all-electric mobility well beyond the city limits.

The constant process of development has enhanced the performance capabilities offered by BMW’s eDrive technology. The energy capacity of the latest version of the model-specific lithium-ion battery is far greater, battery cell capacity having increased from 20 to 34 ampere hours (Ah) and gross energy capacity from 7.1 to 11.6 kilowatt hours (kWh, net energy capacity: 9.4 kWh). This advance is rooted primarily in advances made to the battery cell technology, which in turn stem from the BMW Group’s ever-increasing expertise in the field of electrical energy storage.

These extra energy reserves have made it possible to raise the electric motor’s peak output by 9 kW to 105 kW/. In typical electric motor fashion, it generates its maximum torque of 250 Nm from rest, which means it is ideally equipped to deliver razor-sharp responses to the slightest movement of the accelerator. The electric motor developed by the BMW Group also stands out with its consistent power delivery up to very high revs.

The battery cells’ higher capacity means that the proportion of all-electric driving can be increased substantially, even in hybrid mode. With the default driving mode engaged, both the new BMW i8 Coupe and new BMW i8 Roadster are capable of pulling away and reaching speeds of up to 105 km/h purely on the electric motor’s power, making it possible to drive with zero local emissions not just in town, but on country roads as well. And if the eDrive button is pressed, the all-electric threshold of both models is increased further to 120 km/h.

The new high-voltage battery benefits the electric range of the two plug-in hybrid sports cars too. In the EU test cycle, the new BMW i8 Coupe achieves a maximum range of 55 kilometres – around 50 per cent more than before – while the figure for the new BMW i8 Roadster is 53 kilometres.

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Three-cylinder petrol engine with improved sound and lower emissions

The i8’s combustion engine has also undergone further optimisation to ready it for the new Coupe and Roadster. The turbocharged three-cylinder unit featuring direct injection and VALVETRONIC variable valve timing extracts a maximum output of 170 kW from its displacement of just 1.5 litres, plus peak torque of 320 Nm. It is pleasantly refined and generates a distinctive soundtrack that now has an even sportier note when its power reserves are called upon. The engine also runs more cleanly, as it now comes equipped with a particulate filter as standard that effectively absorbs all the particulate matter contained in the exhaust gases.

The system output produced by the electric motor and engine acting in unison has increased to 275 kW in the new BMW i8 Coupe and new BMW i8 Roadster. The new BMW i8 Coupe accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.4 seconds, while the new BMW i8 Roadster takes a tick longer with a time of 4.6 seconds. Both models have an electronically limited top speed of 250 km/h.

Combined fuel consumption, as calculated in the EU test cycle for plug-in hybrid vehicles, stands at 1.8 litres per 100 kilometres for the BMW i8 Coupe and 2.0 litres per 100 kilometres for the BMW i8 Roadster – which equates to petrol CO2 emissions of 42 and 46 grams per kilometre respectively – plus 14.0 kWh of electricity for the BMW i8 Coupe and 14.5 kWh for the BMW i8 Roadster. In everyday driving, both models return fuel consumption and emissions figures that undercut those for conventionally powered sports cars with similar outputs by around 50 per cent. A typical commute through city traffic and along country roads can be negotiated with fuel consumption of under five litres per 100 kilometres when utilising the two drive units. On long-distance journeys with prolonged sections of country and motorway driving, the intelligent energy management ensures that average economy betters seven litres per 100 kilometres.

Both the display and control concept and the equipment of the new BMW i8 Coupe and new BMW i8 Roadster serve to enhance their exhilarating sports car feel and the intense hybrid driving experience. As well as its multifunction buttons, the leather sports steering wheel also comes with shift paddles for changing gear manually, while the standard heated seats for the driver and front passenger are electrically adjustable.

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Other noteworthy updates

The Navigation system Professional, also included as standard, is controlled using the iDrive operating system, comprising both a Touch Controller on the centre console and an 8.8″ freestanding Control Display screen. The main menu is now presented on the screen in the form of horizontally arranged tiles with a live mode. The audio system features a seven-channel amplifier as well as a USB port, while there is also the option of a Harman Kardon hi-fi speaker system and a DAB tuner for digital radio reception.

The BMW i8 was the world’s first production vehicle to be equipped with pioneering laser headlights. The non-dazzling BMW Laserlight with BMW Selective Beam achieves a remarkable high-beam range of 600 metres, double that of the full-LED headlights fitted as standard on the BMW i8 Coupe and BMW i8 Roadster, which are themselves exceptionally powerful.

Another optional extra available for the new BMW i8 Coupe and new BMW i8 Roadster is an acoustic pedestrian warning, which makes it easier for pedestrians to notice the vehicle when driving at low speeds in all-electric mode by generating a distinctive identifying sound similar to the noise from a turbine. The acoustic pedestrian warning is active up to 30 km/h, i.e. at the sort of speeds where tyre noise and wind noise are barely audible.

Pricing starts at R2 095 200 for the i8 Coupé and R2 329 300 for the i8 Roadster.

BMW have also facelifted the i3 which is now locally available alongside the i8 range.

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