BMW i8 vs Porsche 911

The BMW i8 hybrid looks stunning and has the potential to be amazingly cheap to run, but is it a better sports car than the Porsche 911?...

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What Car? team
22 Mar 2017 09:00 | Last updated: 14 Jun 2018 00:03

The Contenders

BMW i8

List price £104,660

Target Price £100,160

Combines a lightweight carbon fibre body and electric power for a futuristic take on performance


Porsche 911 Carrera S PDK

List price £89,818

Target Price £89,818

There's nothing old hat about the 911. It's our sports car benchmark at this price point


Worried that sports cars of the future are going to be dull? Fret ye not. BMW’s i8 is a window to what things could be like, and the view is good. Its petrol-electric hybrid power helps it crack 62mph in less than 5sec, yet (officially) return 134.5mpg and emit just 49g/km CO2. By any measure, that’s remarkable.

Performance is one thing, but handling is just as significant, something that the Porsche 911 has excelled at for years. To improve efficiency Porshce has fitted it with a downsized turbocharged engine, plus the 911 is £15,000 cheaper. So, is the high-tech BMW capabkle enough to justify the extra.

BMW i8 vs Porsche 911

What are they like to drive?

Push the i8’s starter button and you’re greeted with absolute silence. Its default Comfort mode (one of five) flits between the 228bhp three-cylinder petrol engine and 129bhp electric motor, depending on your speed and throttle input, to achieve the best possible fuel economy. Hit its E-drive button and power is electric-only, providing near-silent, punchy performance up to around 75mph. Our real-world range test showed 15 miles on battery power is easily possible. 

Knocking the i8’s gearlever to the left activates Sport mode, which makes its engine and electric motors work together. With the two power sources the i8 is seriously quick, and its strong, immediate acceleration is thoroughly addictive. The three-cylinder petrol engine sounds rorty, and the six-speed auto gearbox also impresses, changing gear the instant you pull one of the paddles behind the steering wheel.

The 911 is unapologetically old-school by comparison: turn the key and its 414bhp six-cy

BMW i8 vs Porsche 911

BMW i8 vs Porsche 911

The i8 deals pretty well with corners: body roll is negligible, and it’s four-wheel drive, so has decent traction out of tight turns. It’s a shame, then, that its steering feels light and its brakes weaker and less consistent than the Porsche’s. The i8’s huge turning circle makes it cumbersome in tight town manoeuvres, too.

The 911’s steering is also more involving, and there’s more bite at the front end when turning in. Traction is even better out of slow corners. 

Our test 911 was fitted with optional (£1133) PASM adaptive suspension, which gives you the option of stiffening and softening the dampers at the touch of a button. In its most comfortable setting, even big bumps are soaked up well. Meanwhile, the i8’s 20in alloys (Porsche fits 19s) partly explains why it never settles over broken Tarmac in town, and tends to thud over expansion joints that the Porsche remains composed over.

Both cars suffer road noise at higher speeds, but there’s more wind noise in the 911.

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