BMW i8 Coupe & Roadster: Launch Drive

BMW i8 Coupe & Roadster: Launch Drive

It is not often that one gets to spend the day with future of motoring, BMW South Africa afforded us this opportunity, and it was also a fine moment to introduce us to several other new additions to their e-mobility fleet. Having driven the fully electric i3 a few months ago, I was keen to get a feel of the i3  with range extender.

The day started off with a visit to the newly built Auto Bavaria located at Waterfall, a truly impressive dealership, not a penny was spared to get the best in equipment, taking up to 74cars daily for servicing, while they were doing final touches , it was fully operational with New cars, Pre owned and Mini , each with its own wing. It even has a luxurious boardroom for customers to hold meetings. From this point I drove the fully electric revised i3 in 2 tone blue black colour combination, the interior was impressive as always, made of up of 80% recycled materials, the seats are utterly cosy and supportive. The centre console and cluster are quite simple and user friendly, the gear lever is rather unusual but easy to operate to get going.

The drive to Menlyn was pleasant, for me the i3 is properly entertaining with its 94AH 33kwh high voltage lithium battery. Power is rated at 125kw & 250nm, the immediate surge with the silence is incredible. Good thing most test units in these have the optional Harman Kardon Sound system, it takes away the whistle of the battery as one accelerates, the regenerative braking as you lift of the throttle is one I have never really got accustomed to. It does save on brakes to be honest. The feel is one that one could live with; it encourages so much responsible driving to manage the amount of power on reserve. On departure from Menlyn I took over the Range extender unit, this has a 2 cylinder back up combustion engine, never really got to use it as we had enough battery power to get us to Jamie’s Italian Restaurant in Melrose Arch for lunch. The Range Extender adds the distance that can be travelled from 180 to 330km. For the speed freaks, the i3 moves from standstill to 100-km/h in 7.3 seconds and has a top speed of 150km/h.  Be warned attempting such one should be quite close to a charging station since that exercise has serious consumption on the power.

We concluded lunch while the media launch cars were being charged, the excitement was mounting since landing in Johannesburg for this launch, the chance to drive a famed hybrid sports car, the charismatic BMW i8.  Bucket list stuff!!! Now available with in cabriolet or rather roadster form, and a coupe was on hand to test as well. The coupe has always been just pure beauty in my eyes, that rear slit between the fender and the roof has always been a magical touch , the front splitters horizontal shaped and flowing into the bonnet, every crevice , slide, to cut is sexy and has so much purpose to the visual and performance appeal. The LED headlights and taillights are unmistakably unique to the i8. One thing I have always wanted to do was open the gullwing upwards hydraulic powered doors, they make a serious look at me statement. I love how they managed to keep the stylish look even with the roadster. The interior is a mix of sporty touches with BMW luxurious notes. Lovely place to be, if you manage to get in without some fuss, I battled a little!!! But nothing was going to stop me from driving this sports car.

As I settle in, first observation is the great seating position, thoroughly low, seats are decent with support necessary for something of this stature. The i8 has a selection of Drive Modes, I chose comfort mode as we started our drive, this was great for all the bumps as we made our way out of the CBD. The 1.5Litre turbo charged 3 cylinder started mumbling giggle inducing stuff, the more you accelerate it was more engaging, the suspension is forgiving yet stable, steering input was precise, the sound was more pronounced as we had the top down, I had started with the Roadster. Switched to sports mode as we hit the freeway, the fun was more immense, utterly amazing how this hybrid with a mere 170kw & 320nm of torque from the combustion engine and 105kw & 250nm from the electric motor, this brings the combined power to 275kw &570nm. This equates to the i8 moving from standstill to 100km/h in 4.4seconds and will carry on to a limited top of 250km/h. The electric motor can run the car up speeds of 105km/h with a range of 55km. The laden weight of the Roadster 1.595kgs 60kgs heavier than its coupe sibling making it 0.2seconds slower to 100km/h.  Speaking of seconds, the i8 Roadster takes a swift 15 seconds to drop the upholstery hood , this can be done at speed to 50km/h.

The handling is as impressive as to be expected from any performance BMW, involving and fun, speed builds up nicely, what is truly impressive is how it pulls midrange, just never runs out of steam. When sense eventually comes in you can switch to Comfort or Eco pro mode which changes the cluster to a more economic inspired set up. I reckon the total range of the i8 is 400kms when driven sensibly. The i8 is equipped with host of safety equipment to ensure peace of mind; the rear view camera is amongst the best in terms of quality view of surroundings and clarity, especially for a car of this nature where rear visibility can be quite limited. Cross Traffic alert is another useful trick up its sleeve. Navigation is standard fitment on the sexy hybrid.

The i8 is easily one of the highest generously specified with standard kit cars around, especially for a sports car.

In essence, if this is the future of motoring I say bring it on , in teaspoon doses like the i8 and others that are making waves, even though pricing is still steep , we do take to the view of low maintenance costs.

The i8 is stunner in most key areas; it is easy to see why it is hugely popular, devilish good looks, superb performance and eco-friendly.

The i3 is the answer for anyone looking for a problem free motoring that’s urban based, it is practical and nippy.


BMW i8 Coupe R2.095 200

BMW i8 Roadster R2.329 300

BMW i3 94ah R637 300

BMW i3 94ah REX R717 100

All BMW i8s & i3s are backed by a 5year/100 000 BMW motorplan, and an 8year/100 000 High Voltage battery warranty.

Thanks to Edward, Hailey, Lesego, Lerato and the team for the drive and experience.

Yours in motoring

Wezile Lorenzio Bonani


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