Last year the Tesla Model S swooped onto the automotive scene earning a seemingly endless parade of accolades and awards from the motoring press. But there’s a new kid on the block named the BMW i8, and already some of the biggest names in auto journalism are drawing comparisons between these two green car titans.
Jake Fisher of Consumer Reports, who fesses up right off the bat that the BMW i8 is not the better car, though he then qualifies it as saying that these two cars are in entirely different categories. The BMW i8 is a supercar, while the Tesla Model S is a luxury sedan, and Fisher goes on to describe how BMW achieved a low curb weight and high performance from a three-cylinder plug-in hybrid (hint: lots and lots of carbon fiber). Ultimately though, Fisher walked away still feeling the Model S is the superior vehicle, a green car revolution rather than just another supercar contender.
Motor Trend was even less kind to the BMW i8, saying that the Model S is easier to live with and has more green car credibility than the Bimmer, which averaged 41.9 MPG in the city and 49.6 MPG on the highway. Once you dipped into the throttle though, fuel economy easily plummets into the teens, proving yet again that you can’t outrun a combustion engine’s eventual thirst for fuel.
The news isn’t all bad for BMW fans though, as on the track the i8’s hybrid drivetrain proved far more capable of racing for an extended period of time. While the Model S couldn’t even finish a single hot lap at Laguna Seca, the i8 managed to complete two full laps before the three-cylinder gas engine kicked in. if you’re looking to get your racing kicks in a green car, the i8 is hard to beat.
However, Motor Trend said that the 23-mile electric driving range is only possible with a featherweight foot. The BMW i8 also lacks much in the way of cargo space, especially compared to the much larger Model S, and despite a massive weight different (3,300-lbs for the BMW vs. 4,600-lbs for the Tesla) the two cars were neck and neck on the track. The Model S with the P85+ package cruised to a 12.5 second quarter mile, while the BMW i8 snuck past with a 12.4 second run thanks to a higher top speed. Off the line though, the Model S had the advantage thanks to the instant torque of its electric motor.
If you’re looking for a car to live with every day, the Model S is the hands-down winner. If instead though you’re shopping for a Ferrari or Porsche supercar, but one something more futuristic and cutting edge that will turn heads, the BMW i8 is the way to go.
These two drastically different green cars show how fun and exciting plug-in vehicles can be. You can save the world and still fly past everything on the road, including the gas station.