Will BMW's i8 Hybrid Sports Car Steal Tesla Motors' Model S Sales?

BMW's i8. Photo: BMW. 

It can go 0 to 60 in 4.4 seconds, has a TwinPower Turbo 3-cylinder combustion engine situated at the rear axle, sports a front-wheel situated electric motor -- which produces a combined system output of 362 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque -- and gets an estimated 94 mpg. What is it? It's BMW's new i8 plug-in hybrid sports car. More importantly, it could be the first "serious contender" for Tesla Motors' Model S.  

BMW's i8 interior. Photo: BMW.

BMW's i8
From the outside, the i8 is a breathtaking, two-door sports car that boasts a drag coefficient of 0.26, close to 50:50 weight distribution, and, thanks to the use of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic, a curb weight of 3,285 pounds. However, thanks to its 2+2 seating layout, the i8 can seat four adults. Further, with the combination of an electric engine in the front and combustion engine in the back, the i8 is all-wheel drive. Of course, for those that want it, the i8 can go 22 miles on pure electric with a top speed of 75 mph.

The bad news is the i8 has a starting MSRP of $135,700 -- before destination and handling, and before federal tax credit, so it's a bit more expensive than most will be willing to pay. The good news is that plugincars reports that BMW expects total volume to be between 5,000 and 10,000 units a year. Moreover, Edmunds states, "At $136K, the BMW i8 will be the first serious contender for the Tesla Model S that has drawn plenty of attention from wealthy buyers who want a green image." 

Tesla's Model S

Tesla Motors' Model S. Photo: Tesla Motors.

The Model S is a stylish four-door sedan that can go 0 to 60 in 5.4 seconds with the 85 kWh Battery (4.2 seconds if you upgrade to the 85 kWh Performance edition). Plus, it sports a drag coefficient of 0.24, a 48:52 weight distribution, and a curb weight of 4,647.3 pounds. Further, it can comfortably seat five adults, and unlike the i8, is a rear-wheel drive, pure electric vehicle that has an EPA certified range of 265 miles for the 85 kWh battery, or 88 MPGe city, 90 MPGe highway.

Tesla Motors' Model S interior. Photo: Tesla Motors. 

The MSRP for a 60 kWh Model S starts at $69,900 -- before destination and regulatory doc fee, and federal tax credit, while the 85 kWh Model S starts at $79,900, also before fees and federal tax credit. However, according to Investor's Business Daily, the average selling price for a Model S is over $90,000. 

What to watch
When it comes to price, the i8 is definitely the more costly of the two vehicles. However, when you look at base specs, it's also the most impressive. More importantly, Edmunds predicts that the i8 is the first "serious contender" for the Model S. Unfortunately, the i8 isn't expected to hit showrooms until spring of 2014, so we'll have to wait and see if that prediction turns out to be true. Regardless of whether it steals Tesla sales, the i8 is an impressive vehicle, and was conceived from the ground-up as a plug-in hybrid sports car. Additionally, it's one of the most widely anticipated cars in BMW's history. Consequently, when it comes to high-priced car sales, the i8 is one to watch. 

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The article Will BMW's i8 Hybrid Sports Car Steal Tesla Motors' Model S Sales? originally appeared on Fool.com.

Katie Spence has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends BMW and Tesla Motors and owns shares of Tesla Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Chandy Pand

This i8 does not even come close to the overall value of the Model S. It is a combustion engine car with all the management overhead asdociated with it. At $135k? It makes me laugh. This car does not even deliver stunning performance for a two door coupe.

Do you know what I like:
In these days of the Internet of Things, people are so better informed that name badges alone cannot fool manypeople anymore. I am sure some who buy based on the name badge can still overpay for this car, but the recent result of the brand perception survey has proven what an excellent product can do without advertisement.

February 09 2014 at 12:44 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Samuel H

They're no in the same class, so I don't consider it Model S competition. The BMW i8 will not sell nearly as well as the Model S for the simple reason that it's a sports car, and the Model S is a luxury/sport sedan. It's also more expensive and more exotic. And NO; it cannot seat 4 adults just like the Porsche 911 can't seat 4 adults despite having 4 seats. It's a 2+2 which means you must have no legs to fit in the back, be small, or very skinny.

The BMW i8 will handle better because of its smaller size and lighter weight. The only other thing it has on the Model S is looks. That's it. Range is a non-issue since no one travels in their sports car which lacks space for those suitcases.

A Model S P85 which does 0-60 mph as fast as 3.9 sec (faster than the i8) starts at $93,400 before any tax credits. Add the $6,500 sport plus package which enhances handling, and the price is $99,900; a bargain compared to the i8.

It's a practical car that can seat 5+2 with the $2,500 child seats, has a simple, easy to use touchscreen interface as well as voice control, and it has a total of 63.4 cubic feet of storage space for all your stuff (almost as much as an SUV). The Model S makes sense; the i8 is just a toy like the Roadster was.

Because it's all-electric, you don't have to even think about gas stations. Every morning you wake up with a full charge which is the ultimate convenience. Also, with Tesla's expanding Supercharger network, you can travel the country and even Europe for free. Because of the i8s limited electric range, the average driver would burn 13 miles worth of gas a day. According to Chevy Volt owners, it's irritating when the gas engine drones while recharging the battery.

February 09 2014 at 12:59 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Samuel H's comment
Chandy Pand

Exactly, honestly the looks of the car is too exotic to me. Doors are not practical. I would not be happy trying to look cool but appearing as a weirdo with these doors and car in public. If these are i3 and i8 are what BMW has to show against Tesla in the next three years, Tesla is all set.

February 09 2014 at 12:48 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I couldn't have said it better! Excellent comment.

February 09 2014 at 5:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tony Stark

I don't consider it a competition for Tesla...yet. If they came down in price or extended the electric range on it then maybe. A maxed out Tesla Model S will set you back 123k but gets you 0-60 in 4.2s, 416hp, and 265 miles of all electric driving. Tesla's main customers right now are in the luxury market but are also more concerned about the environmental factors.

February 09 2014 at 12:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply