The long-awaited BMW i8 roadster is real. Six years after being teased as the i8 Concept Spyder, and more than two years after BMW Group boss Harald Krüger announced that it would actually be built, the first i8 roadsters are coming off the production line at BMW Plant Leipzig in Germany. The market launch for the roadster and the newest version of the i8 coupe is scheduled for May 2018.

The roadster is a two-seat plug-in-hybrid sports car with an electric soft top, while the coupe has a 2+2 cabin. Both cars make extensive use of carbon-fiber and aluminum to keep the weight down, but the roadster weighs more than the coupe due to the heavier roof-opening-and-closing mechanism.

Both cars have the new version of the i8’s lithium-ion high-voltage battery, the capacity of which is 34 Ah, up from 20 Ah in the original BMW i8. The gross energy content of the new batteries has been pumped to 11.6 kWh, up from 7.1 kWh. The electric-only range using the way-too-optimistic test cycle NEDC is 32.9 miles on the roadster and 34.2 miles on the coupe. Expect less than that in real life. Really. Believe me.

BMW Plant Leipzig Manager Hans-Peter Kemser is happy about the added member of the BMW i production family, saying, “We are proud to be able to produce another top product in our plant. An important factor here is the long-standing know-how of our Leipzig employees in the production of electric vehicles.”

The i8 roadster shares a single production line with the enhanced i8 coupe. Leipzig was already the production site of the various iterations of the i3 battery-electric vehicle, including the new i3S and the Range Extender versions of the i3. The factory completes about 130 BMW i models every day. By the way, since 2014 when it was launched, the i8 has been the best-selling plug-in-hybrid sports car in the world.

BMW expects brisk sales of the i8 roadster, especially in areas conducive to convertibles, and areas in which the original i8 coupe has sold well—like Southern California, for example.

There is no question that as exciting as the original i8 was, the new roadster will ratchet up interest in the i8 family considerably. The workers at BMW Plant Leipzig’s BMW i production line must know how much attention their latest handiwork will command.—Scott Blazey

     

[Photos courtesy of BMW AG.]

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