Has the updated version of BMW's futuristic i8 been hiding in plain sight?

BMW i8 Protonic Red Edition
BMW’s i division is preparing to introduce an updated version of the i8, its futuristic-looking flagship model. The coupe will receive upgrades inside and out, and it will be joined by a long-awaited convertible variant.

The most significant tweaks will be found under the skin. The i8 will continue to rely on a turbocharged, 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine teamed with a compact electric motor, but enthusiast website BMW Blog has learned the system’s total output will be bumped up to 372 horsepower. The modest increase of 15 horses will lower the i8’s zero-to-62-mph time, which currently checks in at 4.4 seconds.

The current car’s 7.1-kWh lithium-ion battery pack will be replaced by a bigger, 10-kWh unit that’s currently being tested in the modified i8 that performs safety car duties during Formula E races. The new battery will significantly improve the i8’s all-electric range. The suspension tweaks BMW made to the safety car are also expected to trickle down to the production model; in short, the model seen during Formula E events is a rolling laboratory of future tech.

Historically, BMW’s mid-cycle face-lifts have almost always been more evolutionary than revolutionary. Visual tweaks will help the updated i8 stand out from the original model (pictured), but they’ll most likely be exceedingly minor at best. Inside, the coupe is expected to receive the gesture-controlled infotainment system inaugurated last year by the 7 Series.

The updated BMW i8 will make its official debut at a major auto show next year, a time frame that leads us to believe it will be branded as a 2018 model when it arrives in showrooms. The improved coupe will provide the basis for the first-ever i8 Spyder, a topless model previewed by a thinly veiled concept all the way back at the 2012 edition of the Beijing Auto Show.

It’s a busy time for BMW’s eco-friendly i sub-brand. The i3 — the division’s entry-level model — recently benefited from a bigger battery pack, and industry rumors indicate more significant updates are in the pipeline for next year. However, the next brand-new i-badged model won’t arrive until much later this decade.

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