Motor Trend Comparison: Tesla Model S Versus BMW i8

AUG 26 2014 BY STAFF 28

MotorTrend takes the new 2014 BMW i8 and compares it against “the reigning green-car champ” high-performance, fully electric Tesla Model S P85+.

The top-of-the-line P85 comes with with 416 hp, 443 lb-ft of torque at 0 rpm, some handling tweaks, a jumbo 85 kilowatt-hour battery pack rated at 265 miles of range per charge, and a starting price $95,740.

*Editor’s Note: This post appears on BMWBLOG. Check it out here.

BMW i8 uses a plug-in hybrid system consisting of a turbocharged three-cylinder BMW TwinPower Turbo petrol engine and BMW eDrive technology in the form of an electric drive system. The 1.5-liter combustion engine develops 170 kW/231 hp and drives the rear wheels of the BMW i8, while the 96 kW/131 hp electric drive sends its power to the front wheels and allows an all-electric range of up to 35 kilometers (22 miles) and a top speed of 120 km/h (75 mph).

Let’s find out which one is a better car:

We’ll grant you that comparing an upright 5-7-seater with a low-slung 2+2 is unconventional, but then so are the cars. And with as-tested prices that fall within 10 percent of each other, these green-tech marvels are aimed at customers with similar demographic and psychographic profiles. Mind you, the base prices are further separated — $94,570 for the Tesla, $136,650 for the i8. But by the time a Motor Trend-grade car enthusiast runs through the Tesla options list speccing must-haves such as the $8750 performance-tuned air suspension, the $4500 21-inch gray performance-plus wheels shod in Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires, $2500 worth of performance seats, and a few more sybaritic options, the price can escalate quickly, as ours did, to $126,520. The i8 comes pretty fully loaded with only three option packages — Giga World ($2000 — our test sample), Terra World ($3000), and Pure Impulse World ($10,800). Each package upgrades the width of the staggered-fitment 20-inch wheels and ups the interior opulence.


It’s hard to believe that a low-slung, 3378-pound carbon-fiber car with a turbo engine, all-wheel drive, and two electric motors lugging just 9.3 pounds per total system horsepower plus six gears’ worth of torque multiplication couldn’t just run away and hide from a big, upright, 4633-pound (11.1 pounds per horse), rear-drive electric hatchback with a one-speed transmission — but in fact it can’t.

The Tesla’s peak torque at 0 rpm makes for a great hole-shot, and it travels just 20 inches farther than the i8 to reach 30 mph. It actually reaches 60 mph 8 inches ahead of the i8, though 0.1 second slower than the i8′s 3.8-second time. By the quarter mile, the Tesla is running out of leverage from the one-speed, so its trap speed trails the i8′s, but the time is still close: 12.5 seconds at 108.4 mph compared with the i8′s 12.4 at 112.1. In the grip department, the Tesla continues to amaze, managing to halt from a 60-mph clip 1 foot shorter than the BMW (102 feet versus 103).

Bend them into a turn, however, and 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. Again, unimaginably close performance for such disparate vehicle types. Let’s give the advantage to BMW, by the slimmest of margins.

Model S Wins

Model S Wins

You’re definitely going to enjoy reading the full comparison…

Full review on Motor Trend

Categories: BMW, Tesla

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28 Comments on "Motor Trend Comparison: Tesla Model S Versus BMW i8"

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I can’t wait to see the AWD Model S’ performance numbers.

*Editor’s Note: This post appears on BMWBLOG

Why? If I were a BMW enthusiast I’m not sure I’d like this article very much. I’m with you AddLightness and figure AWD in the next year Tesla is going to make it even more amazing.

Yet one of them uses gas

One of these cars fits 5 people and lots of luggage – it is not only fast, it is also a very competent, well rounded daily driver

One of these cars is the greatest car ever made and the other is just a half *** ev made by one of the most overrated car brands amongst young people’s minds that think their cool if they drive one…

i8 has an ugly rear btw, look how clean the tesla is and how much it stands out compared to the i8’s messy ***

Did Tesla ever reach the “cutting power back” condition during the test?

This test was probably paid by Tesla. Why not keep going after 60 mph? Model S would have lagged far far behind. The test does exactly where electric cars excel – low speed torque.

And even with Model S losing out on some aspects, it is placed first! Nonsense!

Did you read the article? They compared time and speed to the 1\4 mile with the Tesla at 12.4 sec./108 mph and the i8 at 12.5 sec./ 112 mph. That’s not far, far behind.

It’s actually quite embarrassing for the i8 since it’s designed primarily as a lighter weight 2+2 sports car with no luggage space and the Tesla is a 5 passenger luxury sedan with as much luggage space as some suvs.

Actually a 4mph trap speed differential is quite substantial. The Tesla would need 450+ hp just to equal the trap speed of the i8. So yes, it the throttle at 75mph (typical freeway speeds) and the Tesla will get walked. And yes, around the track, the i8 would pull away, assuming the Tesla doesn’t go into limp mode. Try and do 150mph on the Autobahn, and the I8 will run away from the Tesla. The technical sophistication of the i8 is far higher than the Tesla. Different cars for different folks.

I’ll tell you why the Tesla wins this comparison. Ask the following questions to the thousands of owners of Teslas and eventually the thousands of owners of the i8. How often do you go from 0-60 in everyday driving? All will answer a lot. Tesla wins. How often do you drive flat out on the autobahn or around a race track in everyday driving? A few dozen might answer yes the 10s of thousand of others never will and don’t care. Tesla wins. How often do you carry luggage, groceries or family members around in everyday driving? Most do. Tesla wins. How often do you want to drive your performance car, that you specifically bought because of its electric drive train technology, under electric power without compromising its performance in everyday driving? Tesla wins as the i8 owners putt around town in EV mode. The fact is if you want a car that outperforms a Tesla on the track or autobahn while burning gas there are a lot of better options for less money. Tesla is not a track car. It knows what it is. A unusually high performance, high tech luxury sedan that occasionally will outperform dedicated sports platforms… Read more »

Also this. How embarrassing.

“there will also be artificial Active Sound Design audio systems both inside and outside of the i8…for the production car there’ll be three different “tones” of virtual engine sound pumped into the cabin depending on whether the car is in Comfort, Sport, or Eco Pro drive modes. On the outside, meanwhile, there’ll supposedly be another ASD system. While the right exhaust will be used in the usual way for the gas engine – a 231 HP three-cylinder example, using BMW’s TwinPower Turbo system – the left will actually contain a speaker.”

How phony. Vroom, vroooom.

You sound like a hypocrite to me. You talk about performance aspects of Model S. But when it comes time to race it on tracks or drive it on Autobahn, you run for cover. Model S could not complete ANY race track.
Model S is a family sedan, a commuter car. No need to compare it to performance cars. It should race against the Volts and Leafs to stay happy and healthy.

If you asked most people which car they would take to a red carpet event tonight, I would venture most people would pick the i8.
Just by its exclusivity alone, the i8 is more desirable to many. Tesla’s are seen everywhere now. An i8 will be limited production by comparison.

Again, how many red carpet events will the average consumer be going to? Is it before or after their daily time on the track? Again the point is as an everyday comfortable luxury car that also has more performance and technology than any car in its class the Tesla wins hands down. If you want a flashy, phony, faux track car that has less performance than comparably priced sports cars, that’s not practical in any way and you need it to drive you to your red carpet event then the i8 is for you. Oh, also it plugs in.

Actually it is not a big difference when viewed at the end of the 1/4mile. 1/10th of a second is nothing. The extra trap speed carried by the i8 just means if they were to keep racing the i8 would increase the lead but for all practice purposes this is useless since most races occur at speeds well below 100mph and rarely go above 100mph unless you’re a dedicated street racer with something to prove.

More of your conspiracy theories? *eyeroll*

I suppose these “shootouts” between totally unrelated cars is something we’ll have to just accept for awhile until EVs and PHEVs sell enough to have real segments.

Volt vs. LEAF were all over the internut for a year after both were introduced, even though the cars are totally different and appeal to separate markets. I think all Volt vs. i3 ReX comparos are lame, especially since one costs nearly $20,000 more than the other. Even funnier are nearly everyone quoting an i3 ReX as costing “$46,000”. Anybody try buying one for that much?!

Why not compare equal category cars with their competitors at equal price? Model S is whomping Mercedes S Class and BMW 7 Series at
equal MSRP. Even Panamera S Hybrid comparisons don’t make much sense as one is a hybrid and the other isn’t – one seats 4 and has a trunk for golf clubs…and the Model S can be the only car for nearly all of us.

Today – carheads think- “Yeah, hey, they both have some sort of electric motor thingie, let’s do a shootout!”….Pffft

I think the comparison makes some sense. People who are looking to buy such cars can check the specs they want.
But this test is incomplete at best. There was no comparison of the high speed performances.

I agree with you See Through; the test IS incomplete. There’s no mention of how the BMW performs after perhaps 20-25 miles of performance driving, when the tiddly battery runs flat and your 4WD supercar becomes a rear wheel drive, underpowered shopping cart. Oh wait!, there’s no room for the shopping!

Yes, that would have been an interesting data point. Although I don’t think you need a lot of power to just maintain the top speed. But it could be interesting.

I would be Very interested to see an i8 lap at Nurburgring.. Regen fills the battery slamming to the hairpin, but enough to hole-shot the exit via electric.. to not be pounded by others, stuck with the 3-cyl turbo only? hm..

I believe someone made a comparison to the Camry’s performance at some point..

Yes, I compared Model S to S550 and felt the Tesla wasn’t worth the price due to the interior materials quality.

I ended up buying a BMW i3 BEV with all the options for $35k (after tax incentives) vs $77k (after incentives) for a fairly loaded Model S. The i3 will hold me over until there is a proper luxury EV.

I don’t need the range of the Model S since the furthest we drive is about 30 miles to the airport. We thought the Model S was too big for only one person driving to work and two people on the weekends. It’s hard to park in tight Atlanta/Buckhead parking garages where they have only compact spaces. Model S is also missing some tech that you would find in larger car companies like adaptive cruise control, collision warning, automated parking, that are even on my i3.

It is interesting you found BMW i3 interiors to be of better quality than model S interiors. I have not driven a BMW i3, so I don’t know about this.
Yes, the price tag of Model S is massive. You can buy a lot of fun things with the money you saved. You got better value overall with your i3.

Your posting appears to be a plant. Go to and type in unlimited for the range of dealerships, then type in price ceilings of $40,000 and then, $45,000 for a BMW i3 BEV. For $40,000 you’ll pull up ONE in the USA and, for $39,000 it reeks of bait-and-switch. Type in $45,000 and you’ll see 299 entries for all of the USA, with a couple mislabeled ReXs mixed in – I assure you, you’re not gonna get a base ReX for $44,000. So now you’re left with around 280 BASE i3 BEVs listed, most for $44,500 and up. So tell me, Tummy – just how you managed to get a just-out i3 out the door for $47,000 before tax refund? As you said, yours has all the options. I say BEEE ESSS.

EDIT: OOPS! Tummy said he got his loaded i3 BEV for $42,000!!!! LOL!

Something’s loaded alright…But it’s not an i3 for $35,000 after tax refund!


What’s your point, James? Check Tummy’s location – Georgia. It has $5K rebate, then add $7500 IRS tax credit. Also, Tummy bought i3, not i3 REX.
It’s not clear, if he included sales tax. But you get the idea – (s)he saved tons for what is needed.

Here are the numbers James.

Sticker price was 52,200 for BEV with every option. I negotiated the price down to ~$48k. Federal tax incentive is $7,500. Georgia ZEV tax incentive is $5,000. Total approximately $35,500 after tax incentives.

Excluding sales and registration tax, same as the Tesla price I listed excluding taxes.

Prove me wrong. You can’t because this was the deal I got.

You can actually get one for as low as around $28,000 after incentives if you get a base model with no options and can negotiate a bit.