The reasonably powered supercar

The BMW i8 Roadster is the car you want to have if you want to make more statements at once. If you want to look wealthy, unusual, and with an eye towards our future, you should park an i8 in your driveway. The 2+2 sports car still looks fresh six years into its production cycle and, as much as we love the glassed roof of the coupe, this roadster version is the one to have during the summer months. We took one for a spin to see if BMW has lost the lead in the hybrid sports car segment or if the i8 is still the king of the crop.

Now, the first thing you must know about the i8 Roadster is the concession it pushes you to make: due to the fact that you no longer have a fixed roof over your head and, instead, you have to make do with a soft top, there are o back seats. The place where the back seats used to be is eaten up by the two-piece, electrified roof when it’s folded away from view. On the other hand, you do get just as much oomph as in the case of the Coupe, namely 369 horsepower combined that translate to a 0-60 mph time of 4.4 seconds. Also, the roofless i8 was the first to come with the 11.6 kWh battery pack that feeds the single synchronous electric motor on the front axle and the one that sits on the back axle, near the engine.

Video tour of the 2019 BMW i8 roadaster

The i8 Roadster we tested is painted in, arguably, the prettiest color available on this car, E-Copper with Frozen Grey Accents. The car features the Tera World Copper pack that I’ll talk more about below, but what matters is that it comes with E-Copper leather seats that match the color of the body. The i8 Roadster is equipped in standard with 20-inch wheels that conceal Gloss Black brake calipers and, if you look well enough, you’ll find some blue accounts here and there, another trademark of the Tera World pack.

The car is, obviously, dramatic to look at. It looks really good and modern even today, five years after the Coupe was first launched and the open-top version is striking too - that is, if you don’t put the top up. What’s cool is that the curved surface that ends just above the U-shaped taillights to create sort of a tunnel across the rear quarter panels also goes up towards the cabin to cover the roll hoops and, thus, act as a frame for the engine cover. It’s all very ingenious, and you can really only enjoy and suck in all the details of the i8 if you can get up to see it from above. Of course, the rear still features that lower bumper painted in the color of the car (around the black accents of the rear center panel) that still looks as if a 911 is coming out of the i8 but, in a way, that’s just one of the weird and quirky design features of this car, one of the first to come with flaps that completely shut off the kidney grilles in the front for lower air resistance.

The i8 is still one of the most dramatic cars on the road

When BMW first previewed a potential return to the arena of sports cars a whole decade ago with the Vision EfficientDynamics at the German International Auto Show, the whole world was taken aback. For starters, BMW hadn’t made a mid-engine car for over 30 years at that time and, what is more, the new one was bound to be a hybrid. The i8 in production form arrived in 2013 and, at the 2017 L.A. Auto Show, we got to see the open-top version that’d been previewed by the i8 Spyder concept unveiled at the 2012 Beijing Auto Show. We’d known since late 2016 that BMW will bring to the market an i8 in roadster form and we also knew it’d be on sale from 2018.

When introduced, the i8 Roadster automatically became a landmark vehicle in BMW’s lineup as it was the company’s first mid-engined, two-seater, open-top sports car. The M1 was the company’s first ever sports car (a supercar by the standards of the ’70s, though) but there was never a roadster version offered. The launch of the i8 Roadster coincided with the unveiling of the mid-cycle refresh of the i8 Coupe. The refresh is more noticeable under the skin than anywhere else, but we’ll delve into that a bit below in this article.

Is the 2019 BMW i8 Roadster a Good Car?

You may complain that the BMW i8 doesn’t have the power to stay with some of its hybrid peers or that it’s a bit overweight but what you can’t deny is that, after all, it’s still a BMW and you can see that. Panel fitting is good as are most of the materials used on the inside (leather is standard), but you may be annoyed by some of the plasticky bits you’ll find on the dashboard. Unlike one of its key competitors, the Acura NSX, the i8 can be driven in all-electric mode and its three years or 36,000 miles of complimentary scheduled maintenance underline that this is a premium offering.

Is it a good car? Well, it surely is a good car to be seen in, especially the top-down version that simply exudes sexiness and cool. The fact of the matter is that if you think the i8 is a classic BMW ’driver’s car’, you may be a bit disappointed. It’s nowhere near as sharp as BMW’s M cars but, then again, this isn’t an M car, this is an i car. If you want a BMW with an ’M’ followed by an ’8’, check here. Otherwise, the i8 doesn’t let you down if you expected it to be a long-legged tourer which offers a comfortable ride for the two passengers it can hold. While some early models were plagued by reliability woes, later examples seem to be just about the coolest daily drivers you can get without breaking the bank (they’re depreciating fast, although the i8 Roadster might hold up a little bit better than the Coupe).

How Fast is the 2019 BMW i8 Roadster?

If you want the blunt answer then here it is: no, it’s not really that fast. Or, to put it otherwise, it’s not as fast as it looks. I don’t mean to say it’s sluggish or that you don’t relish the driving experience at all or that you don’t feel anything when you floor it, it’s just that, as BMW’s second ever mid-engined sports car, you’d expect it to be a lot more spirited. It looks warp-speed, but it only goes OK-speed.

The good news is that the i8 Roadster arrived at a time when BMW also readied some updates for the Coupe version, so everything was incorporated in the open-top model too. What this means is that you get 369 horsepower (an i8 Coupe from 2016 only put out 357 horsepower) combined from the electric motors and the internal combustion engine while combined torque is rated at 420 pound-feet. Without the help of the electric motors in the front and in the back, the i8 would have to make do with only 226 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 226 pound-feet of twist at 3,700 rpm.

2019 BMW i8 Roadster drivetrain specifications
Drive system
TYPE AC Synchronous Electric Motor with integrated power electronics, charger and generator mode for recuperation
EDRIVE MOTOR HORSEPOWER (hp @ rpm) 141 @ 4300
EDRIVE MOTOR TORQUE (lb-ft @ rpm) 184 @ 0-4100
TYPE 1.5-liter TwinPower Turbo 3-cylinder
ENGINE HORSEPOWER (hp @ rpm) 228 @ 5800-6000
ENGINE TORQUE (lb-ft @ rpm) 236 @ 3700
COMBINED HORSEPOWER / TORQUE (hp / lb-ft) 369 / 420
BATTERY TYPE / CAPACITY (ah) 11.6 kWh lithium-ion / 33
TYPE 2-speed automatic transmission for electric motor
TYPE 6-speed automatic transmission
AUTOMATIC GEAR RATIOS – I / II / III 4.46 / 2.51 / 1.56
AUTOMATIC GEAR RATIOS – IV / V / VI / R 1.14 / 0.85 / 0.67 / 3.19
ACCELERATION 0–60 mph 4.4 seconds
TOP SPEED 155 mph

That’s not much when you think that the car weighs little over 3,500 pounds. Having said this, the i8 is still 300 pounds lighter than the Acura NSX and almost 800 pounds lighter than the Lexus LC500h. This means that, despite not having more than 32 ponies over your average Civic Type R, the i8 roadster reaches 60 mph from a dead stop in just 4.1 seconds as measured by Car & Driver, a 0.3-second improvement over the older Coupe version. Then again, the NSX is at least a full second quicker from naught to 60 mph although some people have managed to sprint to 60 in an NSX in just 2.7 seconds. Mind you, the Acura’s combined output is 573 horsepower with 500 of those ponies coming straight from the 3.5-liter internal combustion mill.

Also, since it’s German, the i8 Roadster won’t impress you with its top speed either. The limit is, as you’d expect, set at 155 mph while that same Civic Type R tops out at 170 mph. I know, the hair will be all over the place at 150 mph too, and you don’t really need more for highway driving anyway (nor for track driving, if I’m honest) but many people expected more. At least, you can be sure of having confidence in your i8 when driving it fast since those two electric motors ensure synchronous AWD.

Should I Buy the 2019 BMW i8 Roadster?

The i8 Roadster is quite expensive to purchase new. It starts at $164,295, $16,000 more than you’d have to pay if you went for the Coupe. And that’s before you add any extras like the Tera World or Tera World Copper packs that offer "ceramic control surfaces and Tera Dalbergia Brown Leather," as BMW puts it. Both Tera World packages cost $2,500 (they’re $3,700 if you want to add them to your i8 Coupe but, then again, the i8 Coupe is cheaper, to begin with).

What you should also remember is that the options are quite expensive (for instance, the Crystal White Pearl Metallic paint job costs $1,800) and there are things you can’t get at all like cooled seats, a power-adjustable steering wheel, and passenger-seat lumbar support.

Having said this, and also considering that an NSX starts at $160,000 and you can just get a Merc AMG GT for about $130,000 and worry not about electric motors and extra weight, the i8 Roadster might be the kind of car to really consider once it starts depreciating. I said before that the i8 is a bit of an odd-ball. Road & Track correctly pointed out that modern supercars don’t seem to depreciate as fast as mundane cars do nowadays.

A four-year-old Huracan is still over $200,000 having started out at $250,000, and an early 488 GTB is about the same although we’ve already seen its replacement roll out. But the pre-facelift/update i8 started to depreciate as people who wanted more practicality bought a Tesla (and got a lot more oomph too) and BMW fans went for an M car that didn’t have to put exhaust notes through the in-car speakers to impress the occupants. You can now find early i8s for under $80,000 on and that’s precisely half the price of a new, off-the-showroom-floor i8 Roadster. Granted, you can’t find such a deal now for the i8 Roadster that just hit the market as a 2018 MY car but, maybe, if the stars align and you let a few years fly by, you’ll be able to get your very own open-top Bimmer with butterfly doors for sub-$100,000 or, to put it otherwise, to get it cheaper than the $97,500 MSRP of a Tesla Model S 100D.

Should I Buy a New or Used BMW i8 Roadster?

Right now, you really have no choice. The car was just been released last year, so all the offerings are of new examples with barely any miles on the clock over the standard delivery mileage. You can only find i8 Roadsters that cost somewhere between $170,000 and $180,000 depending on the heft of options onboard. The base price is already big at $164,295 so, really, if you want the i8 Roadster and you aren’t one to wait around for it, as I suggested you should in hope of some steep depreciation in three or four year’s time, just go to a BMW dealership and configure your very own i8 Roadster.

How Much Does the 2019 BMW i8 Roadster Cost?

The base MSRP is $164,295. But, as you’ll have noticed, most of the examples you’ll find at dealers (and BMW CPO), are at least $8,000 to $10,000 more expensive as all those cars feature basically everything BMW has to offer in terms of options. Only the E-Copper paint, as well as the two tints of black and the striking Donington Grey are free; if you go for the Crystal White Pearl Metallic color, you’ll have to pay almost $2,000 extra. All the 20-inch wheels, be it in a polished finish or a gloss black finish come free of charge but, inside, if you want the E-Copper-colored leather or the Dalbergia Brown leather, you have to pick one of the Tera World packs worth $2,500. The only ’Convenience Option’ available is the $6,300 Icon Adaptive Headlights with Laser Light, and that’s about it. Really, the i8’s list of options is surprisingly short as most things come in standard and other things you may want are not available at all.

2019 BMW i8 Roadster vs. The Competition

I see many people comparing the i8 to a Tesla Model S or even the Jaguar I-Pace SUV just because of the performance figures of those otherwise completely different vehicles. I mean, what’s the point comparing a two-door, convertible sports car with a four-door sedan? Or to pit that same two-door sports car with butterfly doors next to a hefty four-door SUV? In the light of all this, if you take out models that you wouldn’t usually compare with one another if it wasn’t for the fact that the hybrid sports car niche is still very narrow, you end up with only a few cars that could really be compared fairly with the Bimmer and none of them offer a drop-top version.

There’ve been rumors ever since Tony Stark drove a prototype Acura NSX Roadster in The Avengers that there will one day be a production NSX without a roof. Car & Driver wrote late last month that Acura is considering to add to the NSX lineup both a convertible version and a hot Type R version. Also, Lexus teased us recently with the LC Convertible Concept so you could guess a hybridized version of that concept should arrive if the convertible gets the green light at all. But, until that happens, let’s see how the i8 compares to the NSX Coupe and the LC500h Coupe.

Which is Better: The 2019 BMW i8 Roadster or The Acura NSX

Introduced in 2016, the NSX was one of the few overhyped cars to be released in the past five or so years. With it, Honda and Acura revived the legendary News Sportscar eXperimental" nameplate first used for a Ferrari-beating mid-engined car that received the blessing (and a lot of input during the development phase) of none other than three-time Brazilian Formula 1 World Driver’s Champion Ayrton Senna. The new NSX comes forth with almost none of the original’s DNA as it was designed to look towards the future and not the past, which is why it is a hybrid.

Unveiled at the 2015 NAIAS, the new NSX was said to cost between $165,000 and $205,000 (fully equipped) and came with a twin-turbocharged, 75-degree, DOHC, 24-valve, 3.5-liter V-6 engine developing 500 horsepower between 6,500-7,500 rpm and 406 pound-feet of torque between 2,000-6,000 rpm. Add to that the output of the three electric motors (two in the front and one in the rear), and you end up with a combined output of 573 horsepower and 476 pound-feet of torque that reach the wheels through a nine-speed dual clutch transmission.

In spite of the fact that the NSX is built using high-end lightweight materials such as carbon fiber and aluminum, the car weighs 3,802 pounds. This doesn’t stop it from accelerating to 60 mph in about 2.9 seconds en route to a top speed of 191 mph and a quarter-mile run in just 11.2 seconds. These numbers are astonishing, and they really can’t be compared with what the i8 Roadster brings to the table because the two cars are quite different. The NSX is a true supercar, and the hybrid system is there to maximize the performance potential of the car, not to help you drive in all-electric mode. In fact, you can’t even do that at all, whereas in the i8 you can drive without an engine for about 20-22 miles.

So, no, the NSX doesn’t have three electric motors and a battery pack to be ’green.’ It has’em to be ludicrously fast, and that’s exactly what it gives you: insane thrills as it jumps towards the horizon at an amazing rate of speed. What the electric motors also do is never leave you hanging without feeling you’ve got torque. As Autocar put it, "flatten the accelerator pedal with the car locked in gear in manual mode and you can watch the car’s ‘Assist’ gauge rise and fall as those three electric motors ‘torque fill’ through the lower and upper reaches of the rev range."

BMW i8 Roadster vs. Acurs NSX
BMW i8 Roadster Acura NSX
Engine 1.5-liter, turbocharged three-cylinder with two electric motors powered by an 11.6 kWh battery pack twin-turbocharged, 75-degree, DOHC, 24-valve, 3.5-liter V-6 engine
Horsepower 374 HP @ 5,800-6,000 RPM 500 HP @ 6,500-7,500 RPM
Torque 357 LB-FT @ 3,700 RPM 406 LB-FT @ 2,000-6,000 RPM
0 to 60 mph 4.1/4.4 seconds 2.9 seconds
Top speed 155 mph 191 mph

The NSX doubles the excitement of speed with carbon ceramic brakes that respond in no time and a very communicative steering and chassis, something that the BMW lacks as the i8’s steering is a bit light although not as light as it once was. According to Autocar, "the Honda is also more trustworthy and confidence-inspiring than either [the AMG GT or the R8], thanks to steering that’s as weighty and communicative as it is direct, and fine on-throttle stability." All in all, it’s the car you should go for if you want to see what hybridization can do for you when you want to go fast. If you want to see what hybridization can do for you to achieve greater MPG, drive all-electric, and, otherwise, not worry about 0-60 mph times and track days, choose the BImmer.

Which is Better: The 2019 BMW i8 Roadster Or The Lexus LC500h

In the aesthetics department alone, the Lexus is just miles ahead of the i8 at a time when the i8 must be one of the prettiest BMWs you can still buy new (blame the huge new kidney grilles and weird headlights that BMW is putting on each of its new cars). But you can’t deny that the LC500h is a genuinely classy car that exudes finesse and luxury without trying to stick it down your throat. It looks expensive but in a nice, gentlemanly way, not in a flashy way like a Lamborghini.

Once inside, you’ll notice that many of the materials of the Lexus actually look and even feel better than those in the i8 although the Lexus is the cheaper car at $96,510. What is more, you really do get a lot for your money although you should go for the Convenience package since it adds blind-spot monitoring.

The heavy LC500h (almost 800 pounds over the dry weight of an i8 Coupe) LC500h is powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 and an electric motor fed by a lithium-ion battery package. A continuously variable automatic transmission works in conjunction with a traditional four-speed automatic to send power to the rear wheels. The combined output is 354 horsepower which considerably down on the output of the non-hybrid LC500 that’s powered by the RC-F’s 471 horsepower 5.0-liter V-8, but that’s not as bad as it sounds. In fact, in the real world, the two cars reach 60 mph in about five seconds, and the hybrid version boasts combined fuel consumption of 30 mpg. The i8 Roadster delivers 35 e-mpg.

BMW i8 Roadster vs. Lexus LC500h
BMW i8 Roadster Lexus LC500h
Engine 1.5-liter, turbocharged three-cylinder with two electric motors powered by an 11.6 kWh battery pack 3.5-liter V-6 and an electric motor
Horsepower 374 HP @ 5,800-6,000 RPM 354 HP
Torque 357 LB-FT @ 3,700 RPM 369 LB-FT
0 to 60 mph 4.1/4.4 seconds 4.7 seconds
Top speed 155 mph 155 mph

While the LC500h benefits from the usage of aluminum (it comes with aluminum hood, fenders, door skins, and front suspension towers) and carbon fibers (for the door structure), the i8 Roadster takes weight reduction up to another level with its LifeDrive architecture. The monocoque itself is mainly made out of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) while the Drive Module to which the suspension is attached is made using aluminum for the key bits.

Now, you won’t make the same kind of statement driving an LC500h than when you show up with an i8 Roadster but, in a way, the Lexus doesn’t want to stand out like that. If you, too, don’t want to stand out, which you’ll surely do if you get an i8, then you should just buy a $100,000 LC500h and get a sporty hatchback with the $60,000 you saved.

2019 BMW i8 Roadster Interior

The BMW i8’s interior still looks fresh because it hasn’t been copied and planted into any other BMW yet. Yes, the switchgear is not new but, otherwise, the cabin looks good, complete with that 8.8-inch screen on top of the dash. With the i8 Roadster you get the iDrive 6.0 infotainment system that isn’t BMW’s latest (the X7 or the 3 Series feature a more intuitive iteration) but it still comes with wireless Apple CarPlay (via an $80 yearly subscription, other cars offer it for free, but it’s wired) and no Android Auto. The touch controller knob now allows you to scribble the name of the place you want the navigation to take you to. What is more, you get the BMW Connected, ConnectedDrive, and 360 Electric suites as well as two driving assistants.

The deletion of the rear seats means there’s less cargo room, but you can still store some stuff inside an i8 Roadster. For instance, there’s a 3.5-cubic-foot compartment located between the roof box and the seats, plus a secondary storage space in the rear that provides an additional 4.7 cubic feet.

The gauges are digital as you’d expect and multifunctional, showing you an array of information depending on the driving mode that you chose. "Sport mode is set in an orange tint with round dials, while Comfort offers up a blue power meter display, and Eco Pro includes an efficiency gauge. You can also keep tabs on the powertrain stats via the Control Display and iDrive menu," we wrote in our comprehensive review of the car.

The seats are comfortable, comfortable enough for Autocar’s reviewer to state that "I drove it from my home in the Welsh borders to Paris and back in a day, 800 miles with about a three-hour break in the middle, yet I arrived home feeling no more or less tired or uncomfortable than if I’d just gone to London and back." Yes, cooled seats and variable lumbar support for the passengers would’ve been almost obligatory features in this price range that the i8 doesn’t offer at all, but the car is a tourer that can be used daily and, if your commute is short enough, you won’t even have to pollute the environment while commuting.

2019 BMW i8 Roadster and Child Car Seats

If you’re in the market for a BMW i8 Roadster, children are probably way down the list of your concerns if they are at all. The Coupe version that has a back seat has a pair of LATCH systems there since this is a mandated requirement for any car with a usable backseat. Thing is, there actually is enough room in the back for forward-facing back seats (of course, it all depends on the age of the child, the type of the seat and, also, the height of the passenger riding in the front) but, obviously, a child seat is not suitable to be placed on the passenger’s seat of the i8 Roadster. The i8 Roadster is ready to welcome your child after he’s legally allowed to ride shotgun!

2019 BMW i8 Roadster Performance

The i8 Roadster’s performance isn’t the reason you’re going to buy one. I’ve already compared its figures with what its main hybrid rivals offer but, to put it into perspective, here’s what you’ll get if you go for a gas-guzzling sports car that can be, broadly speaking, used every day. My choices? The 992-generation 911 Carrera S Cabriolet and the Audi R8 Spyder.

The R8 is currently available only with the Lamborghini-derived 5.2-liter V-10 that develops 540 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque. As we wrote in our review, the only available transmission now, after the decision to ditch the six-speed manual is the S-Tronic dual-clutch automatic. "The S Tronic delivers power to all four wheels via Audi’s Quattro AWD system and propels the supercar to 62 mph in about 3.6 seconds, a tenth-second slower than the coupe. Top speed sits at 197 mph, four mph off the coupe’s benchmark." If you want even more oomph, there’s also the R8 Spyder Plus with 603 horsepower and 413 pound-feet on tap. That one does 0-62mph in 3.3 seconds on its way to a 203 mph top speed.

We thought we’d also get a topless R8 E-Tron since a Coupe version was available for a few years, but it wasn’t to be, in spite of a 2010 concept car that gave us hopes. However, if Audi decides to keep building a supercar after putting the R8 to rest, it should be all-electric. The R8 E-Tron Coupe, meanwhile, was "motivated by two electric motors powered by a large, T-shaped, 49-kWh battery, which delivered a total of 455 horsepower and a whopping 679 pound-feet of torque." Top speed was 155 mph, and 0-60 mph was achieved in 3.9 seconds. In other words, an electric R8 would put the hybrid i8 to shame any day of the week, and the same can be said about the gas-guzzling versions. The price for what must be a car that’s built at least as good as the BMW? Between $182,100 and $208,100.

The latest 911 Cabriolet, too, is bound to be an amazing car and, unlike the R8, Porsche will soon offer a hybrid version. The packing of the car’s internals suggest there’s just enough room for electric motors but, until we can compare a 911-E with the i8, let’s just look over the numbers of the ICE-powered model. The new chassis is set alight by a turbocharged 3.0-liter flat-six that puts out 443 Horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque. That’s 74 horsepower more than the BMW and, with the Spor Chrono pack, the 911 S Cabriolet is also faster to 60 mph, reaching that speed from naught in just 3.6 seconds. Without Sport Chrono, 0-60 mph takes a comparable 3.8 seconds while top speed is 190 mph (RWD version) and 189 mph (AWD version).

What do you have to pay to get the quintessential German sports car with the engine hanging in the back? As we wrote in our review, the "$126,100 price tag [comes with] a significant premium over the outgoing model, which retails from $117,400. The drop-top is also almost $13,000 more expensive than its coupe counterpart." So, it’s more expensive than the Coupe by $13,000, but it’s still almost $40,000 cheaper than an i8 Roadster. And lighter. And it will make you smile that bit more when you drive it.

2019 BMW i8 Roadster Engine

The whole drivetrain of the i8 was applauded upon the car’s release, and to this day it still receives accolades. The i8 is powered by two electric motors which are connected to an 11.6 kWh "lithium-ion battery, which now boasts an increased cell capacity up to 34 Ah from the previous unit’s 20 Ah." The internal combustion engine is a 1.5-liter three-cylinder which makes 228 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque thanks to features like Valvetronic variable valve timing and direct fuel injection. This same engine can also be found in 1.5-litre many Mini models and the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer MPV.

The drivetrain won the title of ’Best Hybrid’ in the newly established Hybrid section of the International Engine of the Year contest. The award was given to what is, you must admit, a somewhat aged package as BMW didn’t update the architecture significantly since the model’s introduction. The panelists awarded it this distinction for its smoothness and ease of use (as well as its more than acceptable electric mileage) but what we liked the most was how, in Sport Mode, the engine actually charges up the battery. In other words, you have to drive it quite hard if you then want to drive it in the all-electric mode without having to worry about plugging it in somewhere.

2019 BMW i8 Roadster Average Range

The EV mileage on the WLTP cycle is up to 33 miles officially (but Car & Driver could not drive it more than 22.2 miles) while the highway e-mpg is up to 35. The i8 Roadster’s claimed fuel economy of 141.2mpg from its 11-gallon tank. Combined e-mpg is said to be up to 69 while you’ll get somewhere in the region 26 mpg city and 29 mpg highway (27 mpg combined) sans electric help.

2019 BMW i8 Roadster Ride and Handling

The ride’s quite smooth although you do feel it working if you put it in Sport mode. You also get more feedback now from the wheel than ever before while the brakes are more intuitive, and the change from energy regeneration to physical braking is seamless. It rides on skinnier tires than some of its gas-guzzling rivals (read Audi R8 and Porsche 911), and it’s also heavier than them which is why it won’t stay with them on a twisty road. By the same token, the R8 and 911 will have to stop for fuel on a long-legged highway drive so it sort of evens out in the end.


BMW i8 Roadster drivetrain specifications
Engine 1.5-liter, turbocharged three-cylinder with two electric motors powered by an 11.6 kWh battery pack
Transmission Six-speed automatic (gas), two-speed automatic (electric)
Output (combined) 374 HP
Performance 0-62mph in 4.1/4.4 seconds, top speed: 155mph
Suspension double wishbones with unequal arms in front and multi-link in the rear
Steering electronically assisted
Brakes discs all around, assisted
Weight 3,516 pounds

Exterior Dimensions

BMW i8 exterior dimensions
Wheelbase 110.2 inches
Track Width, Rear 67.8 inches
Height, Overall 50.7 inches
Length, Overall 184.9 inches
Track Width, Front 64.7 inches
Width, Max w/o mirrors 76.5 inches
Trunk volume 3.1 cubic feet

Interior Dimensions

BMW i8 Roadster interior dimensions
Front Leg Room 43.1 inches
Passenger Volume 81 cubic feet
Front Shoulder Room 56.7 inches
Front Head Room 38.7 inches

2019 BMW i8 Roadster Reliability

The car’s too new to talk about reliability issues although the pre-update i8 Coupe was plagued very early on by some issues and the current one has been recalled once for some minor issues related to the electrical system. Since this isn’t a standard BMW, you can’t expect it to be as reliable, but it’s still a product of Munich so it won’t let you down. Many long-time owners of the i8 have reported no problems with their cars (that have also endured some rather harsh winters since they were bought), so there’s no reason to think your i8 Roadster will leave you stranded at the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.

2019 BMW i8 Roadster Warranty

With the i8, you get an eight-year or 100,000-mile warranty on hybrid-powertrain components and a three-year or 36,000 miles of complimentary scheduled maintenance. The limited warranty goes on for four years or 50,000 miles, and that’s the same as the non-electric drivetrain warranty.

2019 BMW i8 Roadster Safety

The i8 looks like it’s a car cast in the movie TRON, but it doesn’t offer particularly futuristic safety features. It merely comes with what every other car manufacturer offers and, in that regard, some of its peers are way better equipped and make the i8 seem backward. As Car & Driver underlined, while "forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking are standard, other tech features such as blind-spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control are completely absent." You get airbags for the driver and the passenger as well as curtain airbags on the sides.

2019 BMW i8 Roadster Crash Test Results

The i8 Roadster hasn’t been tested by the NHTSA, and the Euro NCAP didn’t test it either, nor did it test the Coupe version. Having said this, BMW have internally tested the car and, since it’s riding on a CFRP monocoque, it’s bound to be pretty rigid. In 2015, a journalist rolled an i8 Coupe but he was uninjured, and the car looked almost untouched too.

Which BMW i8 is Right for Me?

One can have many hobbies. You may like fishing or collecting stamps or sneakers. But if your hobby is turning heads, the i8 Roadster is an ideal way to turn a lot of heads. Yes, the butterfly doors are a bit impractical, and you can’t get out of the car if you park too close to another car, but you’ll look cool in it. The only issue I see is if people who don’t really know what’s up with the i8 start believing it’s much more powerful and faster than it really is and then they get bummed when the passenger experience isn’t what they expected it to be. From the outside, though, it’s still all sci-fi and cool. If you wait a few years, it may also be cool for your wallet.

Final Thoughts

The BMW i8 was, when introduced, the first car of the i sub-brand and it still remains a sort of a halo car for BMW. It would be wrong to criticize it for its lack of power or for its weight compared to its Porsche and Audi peers because, after all, this is all part of a steep learning curve for BMW. You can be sure that, if BMW decides that this low-volume model (only 5,674 units have been sold in the U.S. since the Coupe was introduced in 2014) deserves a follow-up, that follow-up will be amazing, enough to challenge and maybe even beat the 911 EV or the R8 EV.

Philippe Daix
Philippe Daix
Obsessive and Compulsive Automotive Expert -
Always on the lookout for the latest automotive news, Philippe Daix is our most senior editor and founder of He likes to see himself as a consumer advocate with a mission to educate motorheads of all ages.  Read full bio
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