The first part of any comparison test isn’t so much about what cars look like, but more about what they are powered by and how they perform. IN this case, the i8 versus the 911 we see a huge difference in their power plants and the tires used to connect the car to the road. In addition to this difference, these two cars offer a different body set up and even the driving setup is completely different from each other. With all these different features you might wonder why compare the two at all; two reasons, 1) because we can and 2) because it’s fun.
Starting off with the engines, the BMW i8 comes in with small electric-hybrid petrol powered engine that is really interesting. Even though its tiny fuel powered engine isn’t much to talk about, the i8 is actually as fast as the Porsche which still gets its power from the rear powered gas motor that has been part of the makeup of a Porsche 911 for over fifty years. The i8 does carry several hundred pounds of batteries and electric motors in order to be one of the most clean running engines on the planet. At the same time, the tires the i8 rides on are skinny, helping improve the performance of the power plant inside.
Even though the two power plants are vastly different, these two cars are very close in weight, within 150 pounds of each actually with the i8 being the heavier. The Porsche 911 has been known for decades for being a small, lightweight agile car and you would think with all the batteries and electric motors the i8 would be far heavier, but the i8 has some technology secrets it didn’t wish to share with the 911.
First of all, there are carbon fiber parts everywhere on the i8. This car shows up with the entire passenger cell being made from carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) but that’s not all the weight reduction techniques used here. The instrument panel support is made from magnesium, the air vents take advantage of foam technology and the chemically hardened glass brings the weight down as well. Finally, the engine, of a powerful car such as this one, only has three cylinders, keeping the weight down even more.
With only three cylinders how does the car stack up to the best sports car in the world? It appears to actually do pretty well. This car shows up with 357 horsepower, 420 lb.-ft. of torque and the ability to reach sixty mph in less than 4.4 seconds. The Porsche 911, on the other hand, has a 3.4-liter Carrera spec engine, which has lower power numbers, but the time to sixty mph is identical.
With these kinds of numbers tossed at you, which one of these cars is better on your wallet? It seems that even though the i8 will get a discount for being a hybrid and clean burning car, the price is still considerably more than the Porsche, making the i8 a commitment to cleaner fuel, unless you look at the fuel mileage. The i8 actually shows up to be nearly 300% efficient during urban driving than the direct competition, making it a much better choice to drive when that is the consideration. Over time, the i8 will certainly make up the difference in fuel mileage versus the price you will pay to have the Porsche.
As far as style and looks go, both cars are extremely sporty and exceptional to drive. With a convertible top the Porsche becomes the even stronger version of itself that we all love, but we have all seen the 911 for a long time and while it is still the king of sports cars people can’t help but stare at the i8 as it passes by. This awesome new car with its attractive features and great looks makes a scene wherever it goes and if you want a car that screams “look at me”, the i8 is certainly the car between these two that will do that for you and more. Whether it’s because the i8 is so new and rare, or because it is a symbol of the new sports car, the look and style simply catch your eye as if it was something you hadn’t ever seen before, and for most of us, that is certainly true.
The i8 is a clean sounding ride as much as it is a clean burning one. We do love the roar of a powerful engine, but can also marvel at the quiet of one that is hushed but still gives the power we need. This is where the i8 makes its living. When the engine is not running at all there is a calm silence to the car as it takes over in front-wheel drive which turns out to be superb. With the engine running it is only a hushed noise that doesn’t even cause you to turn down the radio, making you wonder how you can get so much power from a car that sounds this quiet.
On the flip side, you choose how much of the Porsche engine you hear. Knowing the engine is in the rear, when the top is down and the radio is off you can hear the roar of power that is finely tuned and ready to take you where you need to go. With the top up, you don’t hear the car do much more than give you the smoothest shifting and increases in power that go fully in conjunction with the awesome speed you can gain from this car.
Both cars offer you the luxury interior you would expect them to, so I won’t spend much time there. When these two are driven on a canyon run, the smaller tires of the i8 gave a bit less confidence in the twists and turns while the Porsche 911 held strong and asked for more. This was certainly one area the i8 has issues, but on a straight section of road this car had no problem keeping up with the 911.
Overall, the victor in this would be the Porsche. Even though I talked a lot about some of the great features of the i8, the proven engineering, amazing power, and awesome ride of the Porsche 911 has stood the test of time and continues to be the leader in this class. Certainly the i8 is one awesome car and my hat is off to BMW for this feat, but let’s keeps in mind Porsche has their own version it’s called the 918 and it will smoke both of these in any run.