After years of teases, BMW is finally pulling the trigger on a convertible version of its i8 plug-in hybrid coupe. Such a vehicle was first teased in April 2012, in the form of the i8 Spyder concept. But BMW has dragged its feet on a production i8 roadster, until now.
The convertible will start production next year as the i8 Roadster, BMW confirmed with a teaser pushed to its major social media accounts. The announcement echoes a statement made by CEO Harald Krueger last fall regarding a 2018 launch date for the i8 convertible. This model will be the third in BMW’s “i” lineup of electrified vehicles, and the first new one since the i8 coupe launched in 2014.
The teaser doesn’t reveal much about the i8 Roadster but, then again, this car shouldn’t hold too many surprises. Aside from the convertible roof, the Roadster should maintain most of the features of the i8 coupe, including futuristic styling and an unusual chassis composed of a carbon fiber-reinforced plastic body shell, and aluminum subframe. Expect the powertrain to remain the same too, meaning a 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine and electric motor will provide motivation.
The i8 Roadster has had a long gestation period. After the i8 Spyder concept was unveiled in 2012, rumors persisted that it would go into production. BMW even unveiled a second i8 convertible concept, the i Future Interaction, at CES 2016. This concept was built primarily to show off infotainment tech, but it still kept the i8 convertible conversation going.
Automotive News is reporting that BMW will drop its production i8 Roadster at this fall’s L.A. Auto Show. BMW has yet to confirm the report but a November debut would make sense given the teaser and reports of the finishing touches being added to the topless i8.
BMW could certainly use a high-profile new model like the i8 Roadster right now. While both the i8 coupe and i3 electric car garnered plenty of praise when they were first launched, BMW’s “i” division seems to have lost its way somewhat. The i8 and the i3 electric car garnered plenty of praise when they were launched, but with so many other automakers developing electric cars, the “i” division is not the vanguard of automotive tech BMW hoped it would be. If nothing else, the i8 Roadster will get people to pay attention to the “i” sub-brand again.
When it launches next year, the i8 Roadster will also be an unusual proposition. Aside from the all-electric Smart ForTwo Electric Drive, it will be the only plug-in convertible sold in the U.S. So BMW will make environmentally conscious sun seekers happy, at least.
Update: Added news of i8 Roadster’s potential debut in Los Angeles.