Making its first appearance at a U.S. auto show, the slick BMW i8 Concept Roadster represents a could-be runningmate to the automaker's i8 Coupe that's now slated to go into limited production in 2014. This production-capable plug-in hybrid shares its basic styling, design and platform mechanicals with the BMW i8 Coupe but puts an open-air spin on the theme. Like the i8 Coupe, the BMW i8 Concept Roadster features the automaker's lightweight Modular LifeDrive architecture, a CFRP (Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic) central structure and "layered" look to its striking bodywork and cutting-edge 2-seat cabin.
Powering this low-slung, all-wheel-drive sports car of tomorrow is a gas/electric 1-2 punch that promises stunning performance with outstanding efficiency. Up front, a 131-horsepower electric motor energized by a lithium-ion battery pack in the car's central "energy tunnel" sends power to the forward wheels while a BMW TwinTurbo Power three-cylinder engine that makes 223 horses ships that force to the aft axle. While the two can operate independently when the driver desires, they also create a collective 354 ponies that BMW claims will send the 3,594-pound i8 Concept Roadster from 0-60 mph in less than 5.0-seconds and on to an electronically limited top end of 155 mph.
With a full battery, the BMW i8 Concept Roadster can travel 19 miles in pure EV mode, with on-the- fly replenishment available via the car's extremely efficient regenerative braking system and/or by having the engine serve as a high-voltage alternator. Plug-in e-refills will require just two hours on a 240V system. Although still officially a one-off, beginning to seem more and more likely the i8 Concept Roadster will have a real-world future at some point.