2019 BMW i8 Plug-in Electric Hybrid Roadster Test Drive

“2019 BMW i8 Plug-in Electric Hybrid Roadster”
An Elegant Futuristic and Stylish Drop Top
Every once in awhile, a truly special vehicle arrives on the scene that stirs one’s emotions and stuns virtually all of their senses – a car that is capable of upping one’s heart rate and of generating an insatiable desire or need to own it, or at least to experience time behind the wheel. Okay, even riding in such a car is capable of delivering a most exhilarating and rewarding experience. Enter the 2019 BMW i8 Plug-in Electric Hybrid Roadster – In terms of its visual appeal and sustainable purpose, it ranks right up there at the pinnacle of the BMW eDrive lineup. There’s also a BMW i8 Coupe that might hold that placement for some, but it’s a closed car and not a convertible – and fresh air rules.

There aren’t many vehicles that garner a “drop dead gorgeous” rating in terms of their design appeal, along with kudos for their sustainable operational efficiency, (or Efficient Dynamics in BMW-speak) and a resounding overall ‘phenomenal’ status for their performance and handling capability. The futuristic BMW i8 Plug-in electric Roadster qualifies on all counts. It is everything the BMW team claims it to be and then some.

The 2019 BMW i8 Roadster is a two-seater versus the i8 Coupe, which is a 2+2. The first ever i8 Roadster comes with a fully electric convertible top that operates in just under 16 seconds and it gets down the road via BMW’s optimized eDrive optimized technology with 12 more horsepower than the i8 Coupe. Power for the hybrid-specific, all-wheel drive Roadster comes from two sources: a hybrid AC electric synchronous motor; combined with a 1.5-liter, 3-cylinder 
turbocharged gasoline engine.

The internal combustion engine drives the rear wheels, while the electric motor propels the front wheels. There are also two transmissions: a six-speed automatic for the gas engine and a two-stage gearbox for the electric motor.


The 1.5-liter gas engine is an inline, DOHC, 12-valve BMW inline, VANOS, 3-cylinder, with TwinPower Turbo technology, High Precision Direct Gasoline Injection, VALVETRONIC fully variable valve control. It produces 228 horsepower along with 236 lb.-ft. of torque.
The 141 horsepower electric motor, courtesy of BMW eDrive technology is a hybrid AC synchronous motor with power electronics, integrated charging module and generator mode for recuperation. Energy is generated by a more powerful and refined high voltage 11.6 kWh Lithium-ion battery with increased capacity (up from 7.1 kWh) and range. The high-voltage unit is centrally located in the car’s underbody, with its cell capacity up from 20 to 34. Torque is rated at 185 lb.-ft.

The i8 is capable of running exclusively on electric power at speeds up to 75 mph, with the electric only range limited to 18 miles.

The number of driving situations where the electric motor is solely responsible for powering the car has been increased. In contrast, the gas engine is only brought into play when accelerating hard, and is switched off again more frequently with a measured driving style. The electric motor is also able to recuperate energy and feed it to the high-voltage battery on the overrun and under braking.

The fuel capacity is 11 gallons, extending the range to 320 miles total in Comfort mode. 0-60 mph is achieved in 4.4 seconds. The total combined system output is 369 horsepower and 420 lb.-ft. of torque. Top speed is limited to 155 mph.

Available as a BMW Original Accessory the BMW TurboCord Electric Vehicle Charger may be purchased at certified BMW Centers for $499 MSRP, which provides BMW i and BMW iPerformance drivers with flexible dual-voltage (120 V / 240 V) capability and nearly three-times faster charging in the smallest, lightest UL-listed portable charger available. Charge time is roughly three hours at 240V.

The new BMW i8 Roadster exudes the freedom of drop-top motoring. Its emotion-stirring design provides an intense driving experience and fresh air exhilaration. Its styling displays individual highlights that exude elegance. The soft-top roof serves up a visual lightness to go with its low physical weight, while serving as a defining element of the silhouette in reinforcing the car’s road-hugging impression made by the low center of gravity. The body’s dynamic wedge shape may best be appreciated when viewed in profile.

The i8 Roadster was developed from vision to reality with the focus on sustainability. Both the exterior and interior display an emotionally charged and revolutionary, execution that serves the Ultimate Driving Machine mantra well.

The lines are clean, and minimalist with smooth flowing surfaces defined by a number of precise edges and function-focused details showcasing the status of the BMW i8 as the most futuristic looking car in its segment.
The broad soft-top roof retracts fully into an aft compartment in just under 16 seconds at speeds up to 31 mph, lending greater emphasis to the car’s low-slung silhouette. The rear window extends into a comfort position serving as a draft stop as the three segments of the roof fold vertically in a “Z” configuration. Additional storage space between the roof box and the seats for the driver and front passenger is around 3.5 ft. in combination with the storage area in the rear, that can accommodate 4.7 ft. cargo. The B-pillars of the BMW i8 Roadster appear with model-specific ”Roadster” badges, and a similar logo is located on the deck lid.
The BMW i8 exhibits typical sports car proportions, with its dynamic character reflected in its long bonnet, clearly visible aerodynamic aids, short overhangs and long wheelbase.
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A layering principle allows aerodynamic forms to be enveloped in a progressively styled package, while powerfully formed wheel arches draw attention to the wide track. The compact construction facilitates both the electric motor and combustion engine allowing the front and rear sections of the car to be exceptionally low-slung, while accentuating the car’s dramatically stretched flanks. The scissor-style doors, that open forward and upward in wing-like fashion, add extra intrigue to the design.
A signature feature of the BMW i brand is the “black band”. On the BMW i8, it emerges in a “V” shape from the hood and extending into the rear section of the car, framing the center section of the rear apron. At the front end, the black band is framed by the body-colored apron and fenders, while at the rear it is overlapped by the “floating” roof pillars that extend over the rear lights, serving as a rear spoiler.
Up front, functional large apron air intakes arranged over several levels generate a feeling of depth. The broad pronounced BMW kidney grille stretches over to the slim headlights, accentuating the i8’s road-focused stance. The full-LED headlights adopt the U-shape hallmark of BMW i models. The dipped and high-beam light is emitted by a lens positioned on the far outer edge of the light units in a three-dimensional effect.
The low-slung stance of the rear end and its horizontal, width-emphasizing lines hint at the car’s dynamic potential. The rear is bordered by the sculpted rear wheel arches. The rear lights, reflectors and rear diffuser form a strong, single visual effect. As with the headlights, the intricately designed rear light clusters also feature the characteristic BMW i U-shaped design. Directional indicators are integrated above the rear lights into the descending roofline. All exterior lights on the BMW i8 are LEDs.
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New exterior paint finishes (E-Copper metallic and Donington Grey metallic have been added to the choice of exterior paint finishes available combined with accents in Frozen Grey metallic); the low hood, extended BMW kidney grille, air flap control system, Air Curtains in the front apron, flat underbody, contoured side skirts ‚ airstream flow lines of the car’s flanks, and air ducts between the rear lights and roof frame allow air to be effectively guided. Front cooling air flow has been re-routed escaping at the sides of the car near the wheel arches and into the underbody, rather than rushing out through the hood outlet, ensuring a pleasant cabin temperature, especially when traveling with the roof stowed. for the new BMW i8 Coupe and first-ever BMW i8 Roadster. Inside, New Tera World Copper with E-Copper upholstery, and Carbon Fiber Interior Trim debut.

The i8 Roadster is equipped as standard with exclusive 20-inch BMW i light-alloy wheels in a Radial-spoke style bicolor design.


The i8 was developed exclusively for BMW with a specific Life Drive architecture that showcases an aerodynamically groundbreaking body design and a futuristic interior design that blend to deliver an intense and rewarding driving experience. It consists of a Life module passenger cell made from carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP); drive system technology, high-voltage battery, chassis, and crash and structural functions integrated into the aluminum Drive module. The curb weight is 3,513 lbs (132 pounds more than the Coupe) and the coefficient of drag is 0.26. The i8 features a very low center of gravity (below 18 inches) along with a well-balanced weight distribution.


The i8’s lightweight construction is an intelligent blend of elements including: a CFRP passenger cell, which is ultra-torsionally stiff; doors with a CFRP/aluminum structure; an instrument panel with magnesium support; an aluminum chassis and a partition between the passenger compartment and boot made from thin glass; all incorporating a comprehensive safety concept. The hood and door skins are aluminum.
The i8 Roadster’s windscreen frame is made entirely from CFRP, which is ideally equipped to provide exceptional rigidity, maximizing the car’s occupant protection in case of a rollover situation. CFRP is also used to manufacture the side skirts with their extra-large cross-section. The skirts are a contributing factor in the body’s stiffness, as are the additional panels in the rear suspension and the specially designed struts for the front and rear axle.


An extensive inventory of standard equipment includes: the Navigation system; a Professional package with proactive drive system for all-electric driving, a fully-digital instrument display, BMW iDrive with a freestanding Control Display and leather sports seats.
Also included in the BMW i8 Roadster is a wide range of BMW ConnectedDrive features: Park Distance Control; a cruise control system with braking function; a rain sensor; and an Intelligent Emergency Call function; a driver assistance package with High Beam Assistant; a rear view camera; Surround View; Speed Limit Info that includes a No Passing Info display; Collision Warning with pedestrian recognition and braking function. Also available is a Head-Up Display, BMW Online Entertainment, Concierge Services, Real Time Traffic Information and mobility services developed specifically for BMW i, e.g. intermodal route guidance as standard.
Once inside, the interior, the driver and front passenger sit low in traditional sports car fashion – in lightweight seats. Standard leather trim extends beyond the seat surfaces to parts of the center console, instrument panel and interior door panels. Exposed CFRP sections of the passenger cell are visible around the entry apertures when the doors are opened.

The instrument panel consists of overlapping, three-dimensional segments, complemented by a contrast-rich color scheme. The layering approach also finds its way, through dynamically curving lines, into the design of the center console, which is home to the gearshift lever, the Controller for the iDrive operating system, the start/stop button, the eDrive button and the Driving Experience Control switch. The iDrive system’s Control Display comes in a freestanding 8.8-inch format. A sports steering wheel with multifunction buttons and the Navigation system are standard in the BMW i8, as is the multifunction instrument display.

There are five driving modes that allow drivers, at the touch of a button.
 to adjust efficiency and dynamic performance as desired, offering an unusual scope to adjust the drive and suspension settings of the vehicle. As well as the electronic gear selector for the automatic transmission, the driver may also use the Driving Experience Control switch – a familiar feature of BMW models – or, exclusively to the BMW i8, the eDrive button. The modes consist of D for automated gear selection in COMFORT and ECO PRO modes, SPORT mode and eDrive for pure-electric driving – also with a choice of COMFORT and ECO PRO mode.

The powertrain controller coordinates the cooperation between the gasoline engine and the electric motor for minimal fuel consumption. On overrun, the intelligent energy management system automatically decides, in line with the driving situation and vehicle status, whether to recuperate braking energy or to coast with the powertrain disengaged. At the same time, ECO PRO mode also programs electrical convenience functions such as the air conditioning, seat heating and heated mirrors to operate at minimum power consumption – but without compromising safety.

The first ever BMW i8 Roadster also benefits from the latest BMW Connected and BMW Connected+ digital services.


My test 2019 BMW i8 Roadster sported a Donington Grey metallic (Silver) exterior, highlighted by the BMWi Frozen Blue and Black accent panels. The interior was executed in E-Copper Leather Exclusive with Blue and Charcoal tones along with Carbon Fiber trim accents. The base price was set at $163,300, which came to $166,795 after adding options and Destination and Handling charges.


The 2019 BMW i8 Roadster is not only a stellar sports car, but it also represents a look into BMW’s future vehicle development. I found the look of the car to be especially alluring, and I found the driving experience to be exhilarating, once finally positioned inside. The only drawbacks of the BMW i8 – there’s no such thing as graceful entry or exit and women can forget modesty when wearing a short skirt or dress, due to the high and wide side sill. Exiting the i8 is actually more difficult, especially if the vehicle is parked on an incline. One other issue – the car is exceptionally low requiring extreme care when entering or departing a driveway with any pitch at all.
All that aside, after settling in, the front seats are highly supportive as well as quite comfortable. Switchgear is placed for optimal user friendliness, and outward visibility is surprisingly good.

Acceleration is incredible, as is halting. Handling characteristics deliver instantaneous response with excellent feedback. The i8 Roadster is capable of moving from 100% Front Wheel Drive to 100% Rear Wheel Drive, with a torque split used to enhance performance at limits.

The BMW i8 Roadster’s low center of gravity and ideal weight distribution give it an almost unheard of stability during spirited maneuvers on tight, twisting mountain roads. The all-wheel drive delivers a balanced and neutral behavior, making it a joy to drive.

SPORT mode allows for the intelligently controlled interaction between electric motor and combustion engine to be experienced at its most intense. Both power units deliver extra-sharp performance, accelerator response is faster and the power boost from the electric motor is maximized. And to keep the battery topped up, SPORT mode also activates maximum energy recuperation on the overrun and under braking. When the Sport Mode is activated, mapping for the Dynamic Damper Control / Shift Points / Shift Speed, Maximum Energy Recovery / Maximum eBoost are modified and the 1.5L Engine Runs Continuously. The electric motor and combustion engine are activated, with a special Instrument Cluster Design– featuring Engine Speed Displayed and the electric motor in 2nd gear.

There’s also an eBoost function, and a Front Axle Motor plus Rear Engine Motor / Generator Overboost Function. There’s also a Kickdown Activated with Signature BMW Kickdown Feel, and the i8 is capable of moving from 100% Front Wheel Drive to 100% Rear Wheel Drive, with a torque split used to enhance performance at limits.

The BMW i8 Roadster’s low center of gravity and ideal weight distribution give it an almost unheard of stability during spirited maneuvers on tight, twisting mountain roads, and the all-wheel drive delivers a balanced and neutral behavior, making it a joy to drive. It is more visually stunning than several Ferrari models and is more unique, along with being considerably more affordable.

With the 2019 BMW i8 Roadster, the future draws ever closer, exemplifying advanced sustainability and efficient dynamics – not to mention exquisite form and function. This all comes in a package without range anxiety.

SPECIFICATIONS: 2019 BMW i8 Plug-in Electric Hybrid Roadster

Base Price: $163,300.
Price as Tested: $186,795.

Engine Type and Size: Gas Engine: 1.5-liter (1,499cc), DOHC,12-valve BMW inline, VANOS, 3-cylinder TwinPower Turbo technology, 
turbocharger, High Precision Direct Gasoline Injection, VALVETRONIC fully variable valve control.
Horsepower (bhp): 228 152 HP per liter RPMs not given
Torque (ft./ lbs.): 236 rpms not given

Motor Type and Size: Electric Motor: BMW eDrive technology: 
hybrid AC synchronous motor with power electronics, integrated charging module and generator mode for recuperation. High Voltage battery – 11.6 kWh Lithium-ion.
Horsepower (bhp): 141 rpms not given
Torque (ft./ lbs.): 184 rpms not given

Total system output:
Horsepower (bhp): 369 rpms not given
Torque (ft./ lbs.): 420 rpms not given

Transmission: Gas – 6-speed Steptronic automatic with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters/ Electric two-speed automatic.

Drive Train: Hybrid-specific all-wheel drive, combustion engine driving the rear wheels, electric motor driving the front wheels.

Suspension: Front – Double wishbone front axle with Dynamic Damper Control, linked with Dynamic Driving Control.
Rear – 5-link rear axle with Dynamic Damper Control, linked with Dynamic Driving Control.

Brakes: Power-assisted four wheel vented and drilled discs with pushbutton DSC stability system includes: ABS, Cornering Brake Control Dynamic Brake Control, BA, Brake Standby, Start-Off Assistant, Fading Compensation Brake Drying function, Dynamic Traction Control and Regenerative Braking.

Tires: Bridgestone Potenza S001 215/45 R20x7-inch 95W front / 245/40 R20x7.5-inch 99W rear mounted on 5-“Trident”–Spoke (“V”-Spoke with 5 single separator spokes– machine face with Black painted inners. light-alloy wheels.

Wheelbase: 110.2 inches
Length Overall: 184.6 inches
Width: 76.5 inches
Height: 51.0 inches
Curb Weight: 3,513 lbs.
Turning Circle: 40.4 ft.
Fuel Capacity: 11.0 gallons
EPA Mileage Estimates: Up to 22 miles eRange / 320 miles combined total for roughly 28 mpg.
Drag Coefficient: 0.26
0 – 60 mph: 4.4 seconds. Top speed 155 mph gas / 75 mph

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Arv Voss is a Northern California based freelance motoring Journalist and member and past officer of several noted Automotive Journalist organizations who contributes regularly to a number of national and international media outlets. He reviews not only cars, trucks and SUVs, but motorcycles and unusual wheeled vehicles as well.

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