BMW i8 Roadster - it's nearly ready

Published: 12 May 2017

► First spyshots of BMW i8 Roadster
► Convertible prototype plug-in hybrid
► Debut Frankfurt 2017, on sale 2018

Well, this is pretty conclusive: any remaining doubts that BMW really is working on a production version of the i8 Roadster are dispelled by our closest look at the car yet.

Following a pair of i8 Spyder concepts – the first of which (the silver car) dates all the way back to 2012, the second (the orange car) to CES in 2016 – the prototype spotted cold-weather testing shows that BMW has finally figured out how to turn its high-tech hybrid into a convertible.

What will the i8 convertible be called and when does it go on sale?

The new model will be called the BMW i8 Roadster and we’ll see it sans the crocodile skin camouflage livery just in time for the 2017 Frankfurt motor show this September.

2012 BMW i8 Spyder Concept

The car isn’t expected to go on sale until 2018, however, as BMW CEO Harold Krueger announced when he confirmed the Roadster back in October 2016.

Will the rest of the i8 range be updated in 2018, too?

No official word on this yet, but given the i8 originally launched in 2014, a four-year, mid-life update cycle sounds about right.

Expect a little extra power from the turbocharged triple – which already outputs 231hp, from just 1.5 litres don’t forget – and a lot of extra plug-in potential from the electric motor and battery pack.

2016 BMW i8 Spyder Concept

Most recent mid-life electric vehicle updates have seen a 50% increase in driving range.

Check out our upgraded BMW i3 long-term test review as proof.

BMW is likely to sacrifice some of that capability for additional performance from a more powerful motor, but you will still be able to go further between filling stations and charge points.

What kind of roof will the i8 Roadster have?

BMW’s engineers have made no secret of the challenges involved in loping the top off the i8’s complex carbon structure. So what do we know about the resulting roof.

Looking at the spyshot below – captured on a cameraphone – the buttresses behind the cabin appear to be narrower and further apart than they have been in the concepts. They’re also bridged by some kind of wind block.

BMW i8 Roadster prototype

The arrangement reminds us of both the McLaren 650S Spider and the Ferrari 488 Spider, which suggests the i8 Roadster may have some kind of folding hardtop tucked away in there.

However, a folding fabric roof like that employed by the Lamborghini Huracan Spyder would probably be more compact.

So far our sources have only been able to confirm that it does have a folding roof. So buyers won’t have to panic like original Porsche Boxster Spyder owners should the weather suddenly change.

Anything else of note about the i8 Roadster prototype?

You can’t quite tell for sure from the pictures, but it looks like the Roadster will be kissing goodbye to the rear seats – after all, that roof has got to go somewhere.

More intriguing is the curiously glossy-looking finish to the rear deck lid. Is it a window displaying the hybrid drivetrain components? Don’t laugh – the original 2012 i8 Spyder concept had a pair of scooters in the boot.

Click here for more BMW spyshots and scoops

By CJ Hubbard

Former associate editor; road tester, organiser, extremely variable average wheel count

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