BMW – The high life

For one day, I could see what a boat-loving, BMW-sponsored Prince life is like and, let me tell you, it is not too shabby. Not too shabby at all.

How must the life of a Prince be? Dinner parties, constant travelling to the best places, pretty women all around and the fastest, most expensive cars on the planet? Well, of course not. There is all that and also a lot of sailing, because, well, boats are super cool and super expensive.

I spent one day at Palma de Mallorca with Prince Pierre Casiraghi and realised just how boring it is to be a regular person. Schedules, deadlines, school fees, housekeeping – not much fun really.

Pierre is co-owner of Team Malizia, a sailing outfit that competes in the world’s greatest events and which has recently taken up BMW as major sponsor. Hence, he was the formal host to the global press launch of BMW’s most special car of the 21st century: the new i8 Roadster.

After a spectacular breakfast overlooking the Real Club Nautico de Palma, a member of the International Council of Yachts Club, we were in for the wettest part of the programme, a 30-minute ride in Team Malizia’s racing catamaran. More expensive than any BMW on sale today, this boat is a thing of wonder and it was amazing to see the team at work, managing all the different aspects that make sailing a very, very fast boat a reality. Truly impressive, really.

Using the foil technology, which I would gladly explain if I knew how, at certain speeds, in certain wind conditions, the boat lifts off the water and simply glides over the sea, thus travelling at much higher speeds.

Okay, enough with the non-wheeled vehicles. The i8 Roadster. Wow. I mean: wow. Just look at this car. Is there a more striking object on sale with four wheels? This is right up there with a red Ferrari or a Kermit Green Lamborghini. Because it is such a novelty, I would say probably even higher for another year or so.

It took BMW six years from concept to reality but a convertible i8 is finally here and it is everything we petrolheads expected it to be. Bold, beautiful and the car BMW needs to show the world it still knows how to wow people.

It retains the same hybrid propulsion system of the Coupé, with a 1.5-litre petrol engine producing 231 horse power and an electric motor with 12 more horse power than the fixed roof model, at 143. Together, they produce an output of 374 horse power, which propels the Beemer to 100km/h in a mere 4.6 seconds. Of course, besides the ability to be a sports car, the i8 is also capable of offering a pure electric range of 53km. The lithium-ion batteries now have a higher capacity of 34Ah, up from 20Ah, but weigh the same as before, which means technology really is evolving at a very rapid pace.

The fabric hood keeps the weight penalty down at 60kg when compared to the Coupé, and can be operated on the move, provided you don’t exceed 50km/h. It takes 15 seconds to be automatically stowed behind the cabin. The integration of the mechanism into the i8 body is perfect, with the new buttresses adding a touch of drama to the shape. Not that the i8 needed any more drama, but they look fabulous. Better even in the launch colour of Copper Orange. After you see the car in this colour, it’s like there are no others in the catalogue.

The cabin has lost the two back seats, but really, they were so small it makes more sense to have some extra luggage space back there instead of seats you are never going to use. The futurist interior is still very appealing, and the new materials and textures BMW has brought to the range with the Roadster are fantastic. Again, E-Copper orange leather is the way to go.

I have driven the Coupé a while ago now, but the Roadster felt like a much more accomplished car. It steers better, it rides better, and it just performs better in every aspect of sporty driving. BMW engineers have tweaked the suspension, the steering and the chassis to make this car more engaging to drive. And they definitely succeeded.

The BMW i8 Roadster is a €165,000 car. That’s €15,000 more than the Coupé, which will get the same upgrades the convertible got from the start from June on. It goes without saying that, although this is an eco-friendly sports car, there are absolutely no rational excuses to buy it. This is a 100% emotional purchase. A dream car. A car fit for a Prince. And I am really happy that such a BMW exists.

By Guilherme Marques