Stunning BMW i8 Concept Spyder breaks cover

Plug-in hybrid supercar drops top and a few jaws, too

By Gavin Conway on April 3, 2012 12:23 PM

BMW is keen to keep the buzz around its i8 sportscar coupe alive and the release of the open-top Concept Spyder is likely to achieve just that.

It’s a logical progression from the unveiling last year of the i8 coupe and i3 hatchback, which also launched last year, were the first wave of concepts to emerge from the BMW ‘i’ sub-brand. The idea behind it is to use the most advanced technologies – electric and hybrid powertrains - and lightweight materials to achieve very low fuel consumption and emissions. In the case i8, that is coupled with very high performance.

At a glance, the i8 Concept Spyder looks like a coupe i8 shorn of its roof, but there are some important detail changes. The Spyder, for example, has a shorter wheelbase than the coupe, which makes it strictly a two-seater against the coupe’s four. And unlike earlier versions of the i8 coupe with clear glass door panels, the Spyder uses solid door panels. We’ve seen these recently on spyshots of i8 prototypes on test, which suggests that the Spyder is nearer to production form – the i8 coupe is due for production in 2014.

There is, though, an amusing feature that is pure concept car - a pair of electric scooters housed under a transparent tailgate. On a more practical note, the Spyder features a two-piece removable roof.

As with its coupe sibling, the Spyder employs a carbon-fibre-reinforced structure and extensive use of aluminium to keep weight down – BMW claims that the usual weight penalty of the hybrid drivetrain has ‘been cancelled out.’

The Spyder is a plug-in hybrid that couples a high performance electric motor with a three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine. The lithium-ion batteries that feed the electric motor can be fully charged in under two hours – in pure electric mode the Spyder can travel 19 miles before the engine kicks in. With the 131hp electric motor powering the front wheels and a 223hp petrol engine driving the rears, the Spyder gets to 62mph in just 5.0secs and tops out at 155mph. All this and a combined fuel consumption of 94mpg.

There’s been no announcement but given the timing of the official release just before the New York Auto Show, there’s widespread suspicion that the Spyder might turn up there – that’s tomorrow, Wednesday April 4, so we’ll keep you informed.