Op-Ed: Perhaps A Better Comparison – BMW i8 vs. Tesla Roadster



BMW i8 And Tesla Roadster - The Future And The Past Compete

BMW i8 And Tesla Roadster – The Future And The Past Compete

OK, the webosphere is dying for comparisons. Like Volt and LEAF were stuck together for a couple years (and still are for some), it seems the some of the “Tesla vs. BMW” folks just can’t stop virtual battling…so here’s a better comparison for them:

Tesla Roadster vs. BMW i8
Oh sure – you and I know the Roadster hasn’t been in production since 2011. We also know i8 probably won’t hit our shores until 2015. We also all know i8 is an AWD PHEV/EREV and has a rear package shelf wherein the Roadster was a purist 2 seat sportscar.  But in the Volt/LEAF mode of “mine is better than yours!”, I’ll satisfy all that hunger out there to compete by offering that both of these are sportscars, both sold or will sell for over $100,000 and both possess pure EV driving capability with rapid 0-60 mph times.

OK? Are with me?


Its Hard To Argue Against The Performance Of The Roadster

Its Hard To Argue Against The Performance Of The Roadster

Roadster beats i8 to 60 handily. The last iteration of the Roadster would get you to that heralded speed in 3.7 seconds. We all know that is lightning fast, right? The i8 accomplishes this task in a reported 4.5 seconds, fast, but not world-shaking fast. BMW has said it hopes to match it’s M3 product’s 0-60 time with i8. If quick 0-60 is your goal, M3 does this much more affordably at $60,000, far less than HALF the price of i8.

As for top speed, the i8 should be able to kill you faster on the Autobahn, as its electronically-limited top speed is 155 mph vs. the Roadster’s 125 mph mainly limited by its single speed fixed gear.  Speed freaks would’ve definitely appreciated a top gear, but for me – neither car is a track machine and just how many tickets do you really want to collect, and how many lives do you want to endanger on public roads? 125 will do fine for me.  Americans do tend to buy things for what they are capable of, not how they’ll actually use them – so in that, I can see the “155mph!” as being important to some.


On the 300 foot skidpad, A Roadster Sport clocked in with a .95 – .98g depending upon whom did the testing. On public curvy roads, the Roadster was known to handle very well, but just a notch below, say a Porsche 911 or Lotus Elise due to its sheer weight. Even though the weight is low and positioned nearly directly above the rear wheels, enertia of all that poundage has to be handled. So over 1.1g skidpad results of, say a Corvette Z-06 or ZR-1 weren’t in the Roadster’s wheelhouse.

No Way To Argue That The German i8 Is Not Going To Be A Beast In The Corners

No Way To Argue That The German i8 Is Not Going To Be A Beast In The Corners

The i8 is still testing around the world in that paisely blue camo wrap (it will officially debut next month in Frankfurt), so nobody has been allowed to drive one yet, so we have to speculate here.   The i8 is AWD and also very heavy (3,285 lbs), even with it’s carbon-plastic bodyshell, and large amounts of aluminum. There is a whole lot goin’ on here with a gas 3 cyl. and the i3 electric motor on opposite ends, a large battery pack in the center and all wheels available for grip. AWD sportscars do tend to oversteer, but with exotic, expensive electronics, much of this behavior can be corralled. Add to this BMW’s vast R&D budget and cadre of engineers and I can only call this comparison a wash. I predict a skidpad result of under 1.0g, close to an exact match of Tesla’s Roadster’s result of .95g.

Around the curves on real roads I’d have to guess some exciting results for i8 as its uber-light construction up top and low battery placement will definitely afford a slot car-like experience.  Where the Roadster relied upon more conventional suspension parts and had earlier 2000′s tweaked, Lotus ICE parts, I’ll give this a slight win for the i8 – even though this is entirely speculation from experience at this point. AWD can claw out of corners and a proprietary BMW suspension with this center of gravity and points of enertia….

Toy value:

A Lot Of Bullet-Proof Fun Can Be Had In A Tesla Roadster

A Lot Of Bullet-Proof Fun Can Be Had In A Tesla Roadster

I think equal. BMW freaks drool over your carbon i8, EV fanatics and advocates’ make you wipe off your Roadster with a towel from all their slobber. Fun? Hey – they’re both fun as heck and will turn heads. I like the ability to shed the top and have in-the-hair sports driving – I know i8 Spyder is in the works, but even further out that i8 at this point.  The i8 Spyder will cost even more still – so we’re inching up to $200,000 and maybe 2 Roadsters. So…. I’ll give fun factor a wave to the Roadster.


Used Roadsters can be found from $75,000 up. Tesla has a few prime examples on their website and you can purchase a factory warranty for them as well. Roadster Sports garnered a bit north of $130,000 depending upon equipment, and “stripper” Roadsters could be had new for $108,000. i8′s pricing is yet to be announced, but many European and American car sites quote its MSRP much higher than that. So far, if you’re tallying up the “WOW!” factors – I’ll give this one to the Roadster..

Concept BMW i8 On Display At The Olympic Pavilion Last Year

Concept BMW i8 On Display At The Olympic Pavilion Last Year

Electric Range:

These are electric cars – and folks that even consider how these cars stack up will be interested in them primarily for that reason. If you live in Dubai, or have your own dot com, you may just opt for an exotic ICE  supercar that’ll blow either of these machines away. For the rest of us, we must compare these two for what they’re most reknown for – electric mobility.

The Tesla Is A Flat Out EV, So In This Regard Against An i8 There Really Is No Comparison

The Tesla Is A Flat Out EV, So In This Regard Against An i8 There Really Is No Comparison

For range, the Roadster’s stated range is 245 miles! Hey, it’s a sportscar, we all know as owner, we’d have our foot in it, showing our pals and associates the blinding EV instant torque, and elsewise just driving faster than we would in other, less sexy EVs. That said, nobody’s going to get 245 miles range in a Roadster, so let’s cut that in half for realism and give it 122+ miles of real-world AER. Tesla fans will point out a Texas man went 347.2 ( GPS ) miles on one charge in his Roadster, but that is the extreme. The i8? All electric, driving like grandma: 22 miles max.

OK, enough said, I think the Roadster dumps all the AWD, techno-complex-uber-expensive wizardry of i8′s 3cyl ICE ReX for just pure long range. With Superchargers popping up like weeds – I’ll take the Roadster here, hands-down.


So there you have it. Add to this comparison with facts and ideas of your own. I think this is a much fairer comparison than all those web headlines: “i3 vs. Tesla; i8 vs. Tesla Model S, etc”  In the end I’d take the Roadster. Even a used one. Its carbon zero and American. It will go hundreds of miles electric. It’s fast, exciting and a drop top.  The Roadster was slapped together by a few Silicon Valley computer-heads, some Lotus hardware, off-the-shelf Panasonic lithium cells and some old-school carbon fiber. Its tech is now nearly a decade old. And this comparison shows how amazingly it stacks up to this i8 product that is considered bleeding-edge technology by a billion-dollar German engineering icon of autodom.

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12 Comments on "Op-Ed: Perhaps A Better Comparison – BMW i8 vs. Tesla Roadster"

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The i8 just looks really, really cool. I’d buy it for that alone. The EV range is pretty sad. Its about what you’d get from a Cmax Energi. But it would still cover my daily commute. But who buys a car like that for commuting to work?

cheapest roadster sold was for $53,000

In that it looks really cool, there is no doubt. Surely the production version
loses all the black glass siding and gullwing doors in lieu of a bit more
conventional look and a simpler butterfly door arrangement.

Since it is a performance car, a 12-15 mile electric range seems accurate
enough, and in this exercise the EV factor seems more to boost the 3 cyl.
ICE mainly for performance.

If you have deeper pockets and are willing to wait, the i8 may just be the
next M1 ( 466 produced ). Where the M1 was made for homologation so
they could go racing against Porsches, this i8 seems to have foggier
reasons for it’s existence. It really has little practicality and performance
is a whisker off of Model S P85.

So buy it to be different, for certain, as there sure aren’t going to be many
on the roads.

A collector car for sure – yet so is the Roadster. I could foresee it becoming
the Cobra of tomorrow.

Here’s info on the M1

And note these Italian-design cues that made it onto i8

Gullwing doors are a possibility, albeit a less likely one than traditional doors. We shall see come September.

the bmw may look cool but it is literally a waste of money, would easily get 2 model s’s over it, or a roadster and a model s, i want all electric, not miniscule electric and majority gas

The Superchargers that are “sprouting like weeds” won’t help the current Roadster owners. But, Mr. musk has hinted that there is something in the works for Roadster owners (next year) and I suspect it will be Supercharger access.

Not only would it buy 2 Model S but as you know there is a new AWD coming and I suspect by the time the i8 comes the Model S will have an even longer range and a shorter charging time. This makes the i8 value less

The small battery in the i8 will only support extremely slow 0-60 in EV mode. Probably somewhere in the 14-20 second range. The Chevy Volt will blow its doors off with 9 sec. The Spark EV even more so at 8 sec. Any Tesla will completely destroy the i8.

I couldn’t care less what the performance is with the “emergency backup gasoline generator” on.


James Melvin?
Who is this masked man?
Hi James.
Good article!!
Tesla wins by a mile.

Ha Ha! Thanks George!

I’d agree that as the Roadster is an EV and i8 a PHEV the compare makes
about as much sense as Volt vs. LEAF. Volt vs. LEAF comparisons just
keep on coming though, even after all these years. In that these performance
cars exist in a more rarefied world of price and numbers produced –
I think the match is justified.

The I8 is just the basic model. I am sure BMW will come out
with a M or something that will blow the doors off of a Tesla. When you are
talking about price .. spending $80,000 and up is not a issue for people who
have money. People who lease a Tesla are wasting their money. Why not just buy a BMW M3
and blow the doors off a Tesla Model S.