Comparison: 2014 Tesla Model S P85+ vs. 2014 BMW i8

BMW i | August 11th, 2014 by 3
2014 bmw i8 tesla model s front end in motion 750x500

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 …

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.

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).

2014 bmw i8 tesla model s rear three quarters 750x498

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.

Full review

3 responses to “Comparison: 2014 Tesla Model S P85+ vs. 2014 BMW i8”

  1. jonathan says:

    First, you spent 4500 dollars on the Tesla wheels and got all the exaggerated options to up the price. On the BMW you seem to have settled for no more than the lowest of the interior options. this resulted in a 10,000 difference on what could have easily been 30,000+ dollar difference. Tested purchased car for 0-60 clearly went to Tesla again. The BMW is a gorgeous looking car and I love how neither have door handles when driving. The BMW seems to be quite the car, but comparing the two dollar for dollar, style, agility and speed. I say “Let’s give the advantage to BMW, by the slimmest of margins.” is a very false statement. I say give the advantage to the other side by a, although small, ‘noticeable’ margin. However, for the market, both seem amazing.

  2. Teki says:

    The i8 is quite ridiculous, a fossil car with a some kilometer battery, to leave the own garage silently and then burn fuel like ever before. The i8 could be a car for collectors, who have some EUR 150.000,00 left to add it to their collection.
    The design is futuristic, but i wouldn’t dare to drive around for business with the car, would give someone a touch of redlight business :)
    Sorry, BMW, neither the i3 nor the i8 is even something like competition for the Model S.

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