BMW i8 Roadster and new i3 – BMW gets serious about electrification

Did you know BMW has been testing electrified cars since the 70s?  In fact, at the 1972 Olympics, an electric powered BMW sporting an impractical battery setup led the runners along a long distance route. As primitive as that was, it’s led the Munich company to the point where they have now become the biggest investor in charge points in South Africa and the most successful E-Brand in South Africa. Helping South Africa to a total of 57 charge points.  That aside, what are the cars like to drive?

i3 – Instant acceleration

The fully electric i3 had me giddy.   Stomp your foot down and the instant torque becomes available at any point in the “rev range”  It’s a truly addictive feeling. Something I’m sure one could get used to.  The accelerator pedal becomes a sort of lever as the regenerative engine braking function on the i3 is very strong. The brake pedal is simply used for more sudden stops but make the most of the regeneration and the i3 will do around 200km on electric only.  It is a phenomenal city car.

On the highways, the i3 loses charge relatively quickly and although some have travelled far distances, the i3 isn’t a long-distance hauler.  The 175 section tyres grip well enough due to the immense bottom heavy chassis but don’t even think of changing directions quickly at speed.

That aside this is the genesis and it’s a great start and sign of what the future holds for e-mobility and BMW.

i8 – Electric Synergy

The updated i8 and new i8 roadster now boast a longer range at full electric with a distance up from 37km to 55km.  The roadster is just 60kg heavier making the spring from 0-100 in 4.6 seconds instead of 4.4.   Both cars make 275kW which is a mind-boggling figure from what is essentially a 1.5-litre, 3-cylinder engine. Albeit with turbo and electric assistance.  Unlike other markets, heads-up display and other options come as standard on the South African i8.

i8 Roadster on the road

With our luck, we had sporadic spats of rain around the Cape but thank goodness for i8s all-wheel-drive system. Cornering is sharp and predictable and I could lean on the tyres with ease.   There is definite scuttle shake on bumpy roads, specifically through the windscreen,but the lower half of the chassis felt good with no noticeable flex in the suspension.

i8’s biggest party trick is its ability to drive with the roof down even while the rain was coming down. Yes really. As long as one is travelling faster than around 80km/h, i8 stays dry on the inside thanks to some very clever aerodynamics.

If things get too uncomfortable you can pop the roof up in around 15 seconds at speeds of up to 50km/h.

BMW claims fuel consumption of just 2.0l/100 in the new i8 but thanks to our spirited driving we achieved more than three times that.  I think a proper road test later is called for.


Overall the i8 is a massive step in the future of electrified mobility. BMW took a risk with this one and its futuristic looks and interior and without the roof the car looks even more cutting edge.  The drive isn’t as sharp as the hard top so hardcore fans beware, but i8 keeps pushing the boundaries towards a fully electrified, clean energy solution. Why not enjoy the fresher air then?

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