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BMW i8 Concept Spyder revealed
BMW has revealed a new open-top Spyder version of its 354hp plug-in hybrid i8 Concept sportscar, prior to its full reveal at the Beijing Motor Show on 23 April.
The new model is said to hint at a production sister car to the futuristic new BMW i8 Coupe that's due to go on sale in 2014.
The BMW i8 Concept Spyder has a distinctive open cockpit design that features upward-swiveling windowless doors. These pivot around the A-pillar and are even more dramatic than the similar doors seen on the i8 Concept Coupe.
The concept car's cockpit-style wraparound aerofoil windows are also striking and although they're unlikely to make production, expect a similar design for the regular fully-opening windows.
Smartly, there is a small spoiler lip on the top of the windscreen, which directs airflow over the heads of passengers, although BMW has yet to reveal how the roof itself works, other than saying it will be a two-piece folding-section design: expect some form of targa-style lift-out panel.
In another variation from the Coupe, there is a flowing double-hoop-style panel containing a clear glass section at the rear (which, in the concept model, bizarrely carries two electric scooter-style kickboards). There's also a rear diffuser, 3D air outlets and U-shaped rear lights. The rear end is appreciably more detailed and complex than the Coupe.
The design itself provides clearer hints to the look of the production car: the i8 Concept Coupe's translucent side panels are gone, replaced by regular production-intent sections, while the rear section is also simpler and more showroom-ready. The A-pillars are more conventional and the doors themselves are much thicker, suggesting ample side impact protection has been built in.
These details also suggest BMW fully intends to put the i8 Concept Spyder into production.
BMW's 'layering' design theme remains, though, something particularly apparent from the side thanks to the wedge-shape side skirts. This is a key part of the i design language to be used by all models in the firm's i sub-brand.
The new Spyder is slightly shorter than the Coupe and, surprisingly, has a marginally shorter wheelbase. This engineering detail suggests the i8 Concept's Modular LifeDrive platform is flexible and adaptable - indicating it may be easy for BMW to launch further variants derived from these underpinnings in the future.
As in the i8 Concept Coupe, the i8 Concept Spyder is constructed from an all-new mix of carbon-fibre reinforced plastic 'Life' top half: this comprises the bodywork and interior section, and is mounted atop an aluminium 'Drive' lower half that contains the mechanicals.
Powering the BMW i8 Concept Spyder is a 131hp electric motor, a battery pack and a 223hp three-cylinder turbo petrol engine. These all work in a plug-in hybrid setup: the batteries can be plugged into the mains and carry enough charge for a 19-mile range on electric power alone.
Charging the batteries, which are located in the car's central tunnel (ensuring the centre of gravity is low and central, aiding handling and maintaining BMW's famous principal of 50:50 weight distribution), takes less than two hours. When they run low, the petrol engine takes over.
Overall, the drivetrain produces an aggregate 354hp and maximum torque of 405lb ft. Performance is thus impressive: thanks to the lightweight design and advanced drivetrain, the BMW i8 Concept Spyder can hit 62mph from rest in 5.0 seconds and go on to a (restricted) 155mph top speed.
Despite this swift pace, BMW claims an overall combined economy of 94mpg on the European test cycle - and, of course, if the journey is 19 miles or less, infinite miles per gallon.
Handling should impress as power can be sent through the front wheels (via the electric motor), rear wheels (using the petrol engine) or both together giving four-wheel drive capability. This is all controlled electronically: status is displayed on a display screen.
The interior of the i8 Concept Spyder is near-identical to the Coupe, but is trimmed in new colours and materials to provide, says BMW, "an extra dose of sportiness". There are also detail changes to the centre console.
Two large display screens dominate the interior. The instrument panel display shows driving data in innovative new forms, based around a variable-form ellipse design.
The central screen displays hybrid drive system status, navigation information and also connectivity functions so the car can communicate with the outside world.
This is a developing new technology BMW is eager to be at the forefront of: functions in the i8 Concept Spyder include charge station finder and dynamic route guidance that chooses the most economical route based on current traffic info. It can even direct drivers to parking lots with available spaces, using live feeds from the car parks themselves.
The sat nav also optimises the drivetrain according to live traffic data: if it detects a jam, it will switch to electric power alone, for zero emissions travel.
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