In 2014, BMW expanded the definition of “supercar” by releasing the i8. Beginning life as a 2009 concept – the Vision Efficient Dynamics car – the German automaker stunned the world by building a production version that didn’t stray far from its out-of-this-world show car. The glass doors were gone, but the butterfly doors, futuristic interior, rippling blue-accented bodywork, and carbon fiber body shell all made it to production.
With its tiny mid-mounted 91 cubic inch turbocharged inline-three mated to an electric motor up front, the i8 makes an impressive 357 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. With launch control on, it scrambles from a standstill to 60 in 3.6 seconds, and tops out at an electronically limited 155 miles per hour. Driving it like that, you’re likely to only see fuel economy in the high 20s. If you were insane enough to hypermile it like a Prius, you could see as high as 76 MPG.
If the Porsche 911 is the timeless sports car, the i8 is the near-futuristic competitor purely of our time. It brings the hypercar hybrid technology of the Porsche 918, LaFerrari, and McLaren P1 a little closer to the masses ($140k versus $1 million-plus), while remaining nearly as impressive. And now, BMW’s exotic hybrid is about to get even more exciting. For 2016, an open-topped Spyder version is coming, and according to company CEO Harald Krueger, it’s coming very soon.
The company will bring a refreshed version of the 2012 i8 Spyder Concept (pictured here) to January’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, with a production version expected to appear later in the year. According to BMWBlog, “The car is expected to be nearly production ready, hinting that the i8 Spyder will finally go on sale in the next few years. Alongside improvements to the i8’s connectivity and safety systems, some improvements to the powertrain and battery pack are expected to increase its electric-only range above the 23 miles.”
With those battery and powertrain improvements, it’s possible that the i8 Spyder could be an even better performer than its hardtop cousin. And by choosing to unveil it at the CES, BMW is joining Mercedes, Chevrolet, Audi, and a number of other automakers in transforming what was once an inconsequential (for the auto industry, at least) trade show into arguably the most important stop for hybrids, EVs, and autonomous vehicles on the auto show circuit.
Thanks to the 2012 concept, there are a few key differences between the hardtop and the Spyder that we already know about, with the largest being its layout. Instead of the hardtop’s hopelessly small rear seats (likely thrown in to better compete with the 911 and keep insurance costs down), the Spyder is strictly a two-seater, with that extra room behind the important seats going to reinforce the body shell. The 2012 concept also had a redesigned rear deck that differentiated it from the production car. We don’t know if that will carry over to production, but it would be a simple way to give the Spyder its own identity, especially if it does turn out to be the hotter of the two.
It was never a secret that BMW was planning to put the Spyder into production, but now that it’s finally on its way, it’s a welcome addition to the brand’s performance stable. How close or different it’ll be from the 2012 concept remains to be seen, but placed alongside the hardtop, it should help create a formidable lineup that should transforms the i8 from futuristic outlier to a serious sports car contender.
Like classics? It’s always Throwback Thursday somewhere.
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