What's better than an environmentally friendly sports coupé? An environmentally friendly sports convertible.
And BMW's stand at the 2017 LA Auto Show revealed both: the all-new i8 Roadster and an impressively updated version of its existing i8 hybrid performance car.
Five years ago the hybrid hypercar raced into being thanks to McLaren, Ferrari and Porsche all using batteries to make their sportscars go like lightning.
But while these dream cars got all of the attention, BMW was busy building something similarly powered and similarly impressive: the i8 -- an ultralight coupé built from exotic materials and powered by a tiny three-cylinder turbocharged engine plus a battery pack. It sipped fuel as if it were fighting a mild gasoline allergy, yet delivered the same sort of driving performance that would put any of its full-blooded ‘M' cars in the rearview mirror.
Fast-forward to today and none of the aforementioned battery-assisted McLarens, Ferraris or Porsches are still in production.
But the i8 still is (and is still 10 times cheaper than any of those cars), and at the LA Auto Show it has just become even more fun because now it comes as a hard top or a soft top but both models also get an improved engine and battery pack that have upped the total output to 374hp.
That doesn't sound like much at all, but in a car built from aluminum and carbon-fiber reinforced plastics it translates into a 0-100km/h time of just 4.6 seconds and an electronically limited 250km/h top speed.
And because the electric engine powers the front wheels and cancels out all turbo lag while the gasoline engine sends its power exclusively to the rear, the car's roadholding, grip and handling are exquisite.
The car was conceived as an electrification research facility on wheels. As customers bought the cars and as BMW built them, the technology underpinning the model would improve and evolve.
And that's why as well as a new drop top exterior, the car can boast a suitably improved power pack. It can now offer 53km of pure electric range and can offer it without capping speed. It can be driven in full electric mode at speeds of up to 120km/h.
Even when the twin-turbo 1.4-liter engine kicks in to power the rear wheels or top up the battery pack, the car still delivers an incredible fuel economy of 2.1l/100km and in the hard top, which is 60km lighter, the economy is even better -- 1.9l/100km.
The new BMW i8 Roadster will go on sale in May 2018 when prices will be confirmed.