Motor Trend: BMW i8 vs. Tesla Model S

by Bernie McGroarty on August 26, 2014, 1:08 pm
”i8 v. tesla”

BMW might tell you they are not competing*against*the Tesla Model S, but Motor Trend doesn't care. *It should come as no surprise the newest, hottest electric (OK the i8 is a hybrid) vehicles were going to get put head to head. When optioned up, the Tesla is within $10k of the i8’s $126,520 test price, so why not? Maybe BMW was a little afraid of how the results would shake out, so they tried to preempt a loss by saying they didn't want to play? *Sorry BMW, take your ball and go home or setup up and play with the current big boy (Tesla).

So, how does the i8 hold up against the Tesla Model S? Given that the i8 weighs 3378 pounds to the Tesla’s 4633, you would think the i8 made short work of the Model S but not so much. The 0-60 sprints for each, as well as the quarter mile times were extremely close. BMW’s i8 put up a 3.8 0-60 to the Tesla’s 3.9 and in the quarter, the i8 was still ahead of the Tesla by just 0.1 at 12.4 seconds. Not bad considering the Tesla is running a single speed. Going the other direction, 60 to zero turned the tables for the Tesla, stopping in 102 feet to the i8’s 103. However, when it came to the turns, the i8’s lightweight really started to shine through. ‘The lighter (more evenly weight-balanced) i8 takes the lead, generating 0.94 g of lateral grip to the Tesla's 0.91. That cornering advantage allowed the BMW to carry a bit more speed through the ends of our figure-eight course, while the AWD helped it claw its way out more quickly, carrying a 4-5 mph advantage on the Model S at corner exits.This added up to a scant 0.2-second advantage (24.6 to 24.8) with a tie in overall average lat/long g at 0.80.’ That's really close, looks like a tough comparison ahead.

”i8 v. tesla”

Check out some more interesting bits from the Motor Trend comparison to see how the comparison pans out.

I love the effect that super-rigid carbon-fiber tubs have on a car's steering. Slop is simply reduced. In terms of steering feel and accuracy, the i8 is as good as most sports cars. little or no cost to ride quality. Bumps are absorbed with an uncanny suppleness.

We continue to be impressed by the Tesla's better-than-BMW-M5 braking, handling, and 0-60 performance. However, the Model S "feels top heavy" by comparison. Brake feel on the Tesla was judged superior to the i8's, largely because there's no regen from the pedal. But some of the Tesla's handling prowess is earned by its low-profile 21-inch PS2 tires, which degrade the ride on lumpy surfaces to "rough and rocky,"

On straight, flat, traffic-choked roads, that rigid carbon-fiber Life Module transmits a whole lotta road noise, making the Model S interior sound like the Vatican library by comparison.

There can be no argument that the Tesla, rated at 88/90/89 mpg-equivalent by the EPA, with a 265-mile electric range, still trumps all comers. By comparison, the i8 looks to be about half as efficient, our preliminary Real MPG results point to a 41.9/49.6/45.0 for city/highway/combined.

The BMW is more fun to drive; it'll turn more heads, and you can drive it from Prudhoe Bay to Tierra del Fuego. But Lieberman summarized our findings this way: "Do I like the i8 better than the Model S? Yes. Am I as blown away by it as I was by the Model S? No. As nifty as the i8 is, the real revolution is the Tesla Model S."

The final:

1st Tesla: Still an outta-the-park, green-car home-run capable of wowing 4-6 passengers at a time.

2nd i8: The Earth-firster's guilty electric pleasure -- a ball to drive, if you can ignore the trip computer's low mpg rating.

What are your thoughts on the outcome of the i8/Models S comparison?

Check out the full comparison from MotorTrend here!

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7 responses to Motor Trend: BMW i8 vs. Tesla Model S

OBS3SSION commented:
August 26, 2014, 3:59 pm

Bah, I say the ultimate garage is one of each!
Carac commented:
August 26, 2014, 5:44 pm

I'll just leave this here.

Dear Everyone, Stop Comparing the BMW i8 to the Tesla Model S
bvhbmw commented:
August 26, 2014, 7:46 pm

I drove a Tesla. It was NOT at all fun to drive. Fast? yes. Fun? NO WAY.
eric9610 commented:
August 26, 2014, 11:47 pm

i too have driven a model s p85 and i was not impressed for the price there are so many more cars i would rather have. Not to mention the i8 will be far rarer than the model s is. i can't wait to drive an i8. its on my short list of cars right now. I am having a hard time deciding between an i8 and M3
///M-Furby commented:
September 2, 2014, 11:21 am

I test drove the tesla. Yes it's really fast, but it felt top heavy (weird since all of the weight is on the bottom battery). Literally it felt like it was going to fly off the road (sharp turn on the crest of a hill). I also do not like not having a transmission which allows me to tell roughly how fast the car is going. The Tesla is a fast car, and if you are not careful you look down and realize you are doing 100 MPH (and climbing) - but can't really tell. At least in a combustion engine you can tell by the sound of the engine/transmission how fast the car is going.
namelessman commented:
September 2, 2014, 11:58 am

Model S with active air suspension is quite competent. However, performance on electric cars(at least nowadays) seems to be an illusion, e.g. Model S won't sustain 20 back-to-back "WOT" 0-60 without dropping back to power conservation mode, while gasoline engine can keep pulling until the last drop of gas.
bredi commented:
September 2, 2014, 5:53 pm

The fact the Tesla can even compete with a car like the i8 is unbelievably impressive. Its a much bigger car! Its a 4-door sedan that seats 7 and has as much trunks space as an SUV.
Yes. I'll take one i8 and one Telsa Model S please. Then I'm done.