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One of the most remarkable things about the 2019 BMW i8 Roadster, which just made its debut at the 2017 LA Auto Show, is how closely it resembles the concept we saw way, way back in the spring 2012 — an eternity in automotive design years. We’re not sure what the holdup was, but it was probably for the best that BMW reached so far into future for its looks; the thing still looks fairly fresh today (assuming you’re into scoops, finlets and flying buttresses).

When it was shown as a concept — then called the i8 Spyder — it was unclear just what sort of roof it would have; now we know it gets a folding ragtop that tucks out of sight without eating up too much cargo space. Speaking of, there’s a fair amount of storage, 3.5 cubic feet, where the rear seats used to be (not that those seats were suitable for adult use anyway). Add in the 4.7 cubic feet in the rear compartment, and this thing might actually be better equipped for weekend getaways than the Coupe.

2019 BMW i8 Roadster profile view top down

This picture doesn’t show it, but the Roadster keeps the i8 Coupe’s signature flip-up doors.

The Roadster wasn’t the only i8-related development BMW unveiled in LA; since the i8 Coupe was introduced, electrification technology has evolved, and it benefits from the implements that have gone into the Roadster. The battery pack capacity has been improved, from 7.1 to 11.6 kilowatt-hours. Output has been increased along with it: Total system horsepower is up 12 to 369, thanks to boosted power on the electric side of the powertrain. Still not supercar territory. Neither is the acceleration, though the 0-60 mph times now stand at 4.2 seconds for the Coupe and 4.4 seconds for the roadster; 155 mph remains the limited top speed.

Electric-only range is up to 18 miles — a gain of 3 miles. Make of that what you will.

The i8 was and is a curious vehicle. From a performance standpoint, it can’t contend with the Acura NSX, nor can it hope to compete with any hypothetical pure-electric sports cars. But from its composite construction to its hybrid powertrain to its wild looks, it’s a true exotic — the perfect candidate for a Roadster variant.

Both the 2019 i8 Roadster and the updated 2019 i8 Coupe will be available beginning spring 2018; stay tuned for pricing information. For reference, an i8 Coupe starts at $144,395 today.

2019 BMW i8 Roadster rear view on road top down

Is it just us, or does this thing look angry from the rear?

Graham Kozak

Graham Kozak – Graham Kozak drove a 1951 Packard 200 sedan in high school because he wanted something that would be easy to find in a parking lot. He thinks all the things they’re doing with fuel injection and seatbelts these days are pretty nifty too.
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