With the average house price in the UK being around £226,000, the luxury car market appears to be going in a similar upwards direction.
Jack Evans, Press Association motoring correspondent road tests the new BMW i8 Roadster, which is thought to have a guide price around £136,000.
The drop-top version of BMW’s instantly recognisable hybrid sports car is now on sale. Jack Evans heads out to Valencia to see what it’s like.
What is it?
That’s right, it’s finally here. After years of teasers, reveals and promises, we’re finally behind the wheel of the BMW i8 Roadster. A soft-top version of the iconic hybrid sports car, the Roadster is aimed at those who want the wind in their hair when piloting one of the most futuristic looking vehicles available.
It’s also able to offer genuinely low running costs and emits next to nothing, but can that help the i8 Roadster to top the bill when it comes to performance drop-tops? Let’s find out.
The biggest change here is, of course, the lack of a roof. BMW has whipped off the i8’s top and, because of its predominantly carbon-fibre underbody, it hasn’t had to laden the car down with additional strengthening.
That means the Roadster’s weight stays down, and as a result it’s just 60kg heavier than its hard-top brethren. The roof mechanism itself is clever too, taking just 15 seconds to raise or lower at speeds of up to 31mph. The exterior of the car has also been lightly breathed upon to freshen its looks, though we’ll come to those in more depth later.
What’s under the bonnet?
The i8 Roadster makes use of exactly the same powertrain as the regular i8, so you’ll find a 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine linked to an electric motor. The combustion engine powers the rear wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission, while the electric motor powers the front wheels through a two-speed automatic ‘box.
BMW has also increased the car’s battery cell capacity, so while you still get 369bhp and 570Nm of torque, the Roadster can still travel up to 33 miles on electric power alone. Both units combine to offer the best performance possible, with the electric motor filling in the gaps of the petrol’s power delivery. Thanks to this, 0-60mph takes just 4.4 seconds, and it can a top speed of 155mph too.
What’s it like to drive?
Usually when converting a regular hardtop into a convertible, you’d expect a significant penalty to the way the car drives. Lopping the roof off usually requires additional bracing to stop the car from flexing too much, and this adds weight, therefore blunting the vehicle’s performance. However, as we mentioned, the i8 Roadster hasn’t suffered too much with the conversion, with a negligible amount of weight added. This means that it steers just as keenly as the Coupe, and manages the weight it does have impressively well through the corners.
Push the i8 Roadster a little harder and it does fall into understeer, the front tyres scrubbing wide with little effort. We’d also like the brakes to be sharper; currently they feel underpowered and vague, leaving you guessing as to how much pedal force you need apply at any given moment.