Midrand - The upgraded versions of BMW’s dedicated electric and hybrid line-up, more commonly known as the ‘i’ cars, have reached South African shores.

The i8 sports car is now available in Roadster guise, while it and the more sensible i3 hatchback have been treated to various cosmetic and technological upgrades.

Let’s take a closer look at the newcomers:

BMW i8 Coupe and Roadster

BMW’s futuristic plug-in hybrid sports car has been treated to some minor styling tweaks, an upgraded drivetrain that offers more power and increased battery range and, for the first time, customers can now opt for an open-top Roadster version.

The i8 Roadster retains virtually all of its tin-top sibling’s design flavour, including those upward-swinging scissor doors, but whereas the Coupé is classified as a 2+2 seater, the Roadster is strictly for two only.

The Targa-style design incorporates an electrically-operated fabric soft top connected to the body with 3D printed components.

Tipping the scales at 1595kg, the Roadster weighs just 60kg more than the Coupé. Like the tin-top it’s built around BMW’s lightweight LifeDrive architecture and features a carbon-fibre-reinforced-plastic body.

The i8 Coupe’s radical design has been left unaltered, but BMW has expanded the range of exterior paint colours to include E-Copper and Donington Grey metallics. The Roadster and Coupé both ride on 20-inch alloy wheels with mixed-size tyres.

As before, the hybrid system consists of a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder turbopetrol that drives the rear wheels and an electric motor powering the front end. The 2018 updates usher in an updated lithium-ion battery and electric motor, which not only bring more power to the party - with the total system output rising from 266kW to 275kW - but the electric-only distance has been improved, with BMW claiming a range of 55km for the Coupé and 53km for the Roadster.

Furthermore, the i8 can go all-electric in more driving situations, given that it can now technically reach 105km/h without calling the petrol motor into play.

The Driving Experience Control system has five driving modes that adapt the vehicle’s settings for everything from maximum efficiency to full performance mode. Hit that ‘Sport’ button and all systems come together to allow proper sports car performance, with BMW claiming a 4.4 second zero to 100km/h sprint time for the tin-top and 4.6s for the Roadster.

As per the exterior, cabin changes are minor, and include the option of Accaro interior trim, featuring an ‘E-Copper’ colour scheme, and the latest version of BMW’s iDrive command centre, featuring Navigation System Professional as standard, makes its appearance with a new horizontal tile display.

Also standard is BMW’s Display Key (with remote access) and the Driving Assistant system that comprises collision and pedestrian warning, City Braking, Surround View, High Beam Assistant and Park Distance Control. Options include Head-Up Display, Laser Headlights and much more.

BMW has priced the latest i8 Coupé at R2 095 200, and the Roadster is yours for R2 329 300.

BMW i3

The more sensible member of BMW’s ‘i’ family has been given its own set of updates, which include refreshed styling inside and out, and new features.

A higher-performance variant is set to join the line-up later this year in the form of the i3 S, which boasts system outputs of 135kW and 270Nm.

The standard i3 continues with the familiar 125kW and 250Nm synchronous electric motor, mated to a single-speed automatic transmission. The lithium ion battery located in the vehicle’s floor allows a driving range of 200km between charges in “everyday use”, says BMW, and range-anxiety can be mitigated to some degree by a 28kW two-cylinder range-extending petrol engine that acts as a generator.

Design tweaks that distinguish the 2018 model include new front and rear aprons that aim to give the car a wider look, a black finish on the A-pillars and roof lines and new paint finishes in the form of Melbourne Red and Imperial Blue.

Freshening up the cabin are a blue seatbelt option and new Solaric Brown trim in the ‘Lodge’ trim grade. Adding more colour to the cabin is a bit more complicated than in conventional cars as over 80 percent of visible components are made from recycled materials or renewable resources.

On the tech front, BMW’s latest iDrive system improves overall functionality, while Apple CarPlay joins the options list along with a revised Navigation System Professional with an increased-resolution 26cm screen.

Buyers can also opt for Driving Assistant Plus with Active Cruise Control and Stop & Go, Traffic Jam Assistant, Collision and Pedestrian Warning and lane keeping aid.

The new i3 is priced at R637 300 in standard guise, and R717 100 when fitted with the range extender.

IOL Motoring