Under the ever-present sunny skies of Los Angeles, BMW unveiled a more scintillating variant of one of its sexiest cars: the 2019 i8 Roadster. This open-air sibling to the i8 Coupe takes that sports car’s hybrid gasoline-electric powertrain, performance hardware and captivating looks, and adds convertible freedom thanks to a fabric top that opens and closes in less than 16 seconds.

Like the i8 Coupe, which also sees enhancements for 2019, the all-new BMW i8 Roadster uses a performance-oriented all-wheel drive system in which a turbocharged gasoline engine powers the rear wheels while an electric motor drives the front. Total power of the plug-in hybrid  has increased to 369 horsepower, a 12-horsepower bump over the current system.

BMW pegs preliminary 0-60 mph times at 4.4 seconds for the i8 Roadster and 4.2 seconds for the i8 Coupe. Both i8 models continue to use a turbocharged 1.5-liter 3-cylinder gasoline engine and an enhanced battery-powered electric motor. All-electric range has been increased, with BMW expecting the i8 to travel up to 18 miles on electricity alone, up from the current i8’s 14 mile pure EV range. Power to the rear wheels continues to be transmitted through a 6-speed automatic transmission, while the electric motor on the front axle uses a 2-speed gearbox.

Captivating 2-person chariot

While the 2019 i8 Coupe keeps its 2+2 configuration, the new BMW i8 Roadster is a 2-seater, meant for the enjoyment of its driver and one lucky passenger. In addition to opening and closing in less than 16 seconds, BMW says the i8 Roadster’s insulated fabric roof can be operated at speeds up to 31 mph.

As with the i8 Coupe, the Roadster variant has a small, 4.7-cubic foot trunk, plus about 3.5-cubic feet of additional storage between the roof box and seats. And like the coupe, the i8 Roadster boasts upward-swinging “gullwing” doors that further emphasize this a sports car as not just another innovative vehicle, but rather art on wheels.

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The Roadster further benefits from a specialized rear window. When the roof is opened, the i8 Roadster’s rear window rises by 1.9 inches into what BMW calls a “comfort” position to reduce wind turbulence. However, if you literally want more wind in your hair, the driver can adjust the rear window positioning at the touch of a button.

Performance, luxury and efficiency

While its gorgeous design and potent performance might lead you to believe otherwise, the i8 is highly efficient. This is a plug-in hybrid, after all. BMW’s preliminary figures peg the new i8 at 70 miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe). That figure is down from the 76 MPGe of the current i8, but impressive nevertheless.

The 2019 BMW i8 Coupe and Roadster feature multiple driving modes that include Comfort, Sport, and Eco Pro that adjust how the vehicle drives and feels. Additionally, in Comfort or Eco Pro mode, the i8 can be driven on electricity alone at speeds up to 75 mph. In addition to its sophisticated gasoline-electric powertrain, the i8 depends on cutting-edge materials for its high efficiency. Both variants continue to use carbon-fiber, aluminum and other lightweight materials.

Inside, the i8’s cockpit befits a rare, six-figure luxury performance car with fine materials of the requisite leather, wood and even carbon fiber. Creature comforts include an 8.8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation and 12-speaker Harman/Kardon premium audio system. Safety features includes collision warning and automatic emergency braking systems with pedestrian detection.

The 2019 BMW i8 Roadster and i8 Coupe are set to go on sale next spring. Pricing will be announced closer to the on-sale date, but one BMW executive said to expect this new topless variant to begin "north of $150,000."




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