The BMW i8 and Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid are two of the finest petrol-electric hybrids on the market. What happens when we pit them against each other?

Some of us simply aren’t ready to go full electric and that includes the mainstream manufacturers. Full electric cars are on the way, but right now we have a wealth of stunning petrol-electric cars to choose from that offer sportscar performance, unheard-of fuel economy and complete practicality.

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There’s no range anxiety, you get the full support of an established car manufacturer and, if you want to pay the big bucks, you get the prestige badge on the bonnet.

The BMW i8 has made the biggest impact thanks to its outrageous looks, sportscar performance and outrageous claimed economy figures that never really told the full story. But it has a real rival in the Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid.

So what happens when you pitch these two high-end hybrids into battle? Let’s see.

BMW i8 vs Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid USP

The BMW i8 is the flagship for BMW’s environmentally friendly line-up. It is the champion for new production methods, a plastic chassis and a zero emissions future and it flies the flag proudly. What started out as a simple concept gathered momentum at such a rate that BMW almost had to make it.

It’s BMW’s first supercar since the M1, it’s a stellar piece of engineering and it’s a natural born star. It also paves the way for a full electric version that is on the way with three separate motors and more than 750bhp. That will be a beast that truly takes it to the likes of Ferrari, McLaren and Porsche’s 911 line-up.

The Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid is a different story. Porsche has refused to create electric 911s, because it claims the technology just isn’t sporting enough. Its bigger cars, though, are fair game. As for a USP, it gives you all the traditional Porsche qualities of exceptional engineering, perfect finish and reliability in a green package.

We’d say the BMW has a more compelling story to tell.

BMW i8 vs Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid Price

The Porsche is the cheapest of the two offerings and those aren’t words you hear very often. With an MSRP of ‘just’ $93,200, this is the bargain of this particular pair. The BMW costs a heavyweight $140,700, so even with the gas savings this is a serious chunk of car.

The Porsche is a viable alternative for its petrol-powered brethren when it comes to the financial side. The BMW is a spectacular lifestyle statement for early adopters, it’s a shouty, designer label hybrid that comes with a premium price tag.

BMW i8 vs Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid Design

This one just isn’t a competition. The BMW is a stunning, visual feast of a car. It’s got supercar proportions, angles, cuts and vents wherever you look and it’s basically the automotive equivalent of an Olympic athlete.

All those winglets, furrows and trenches help to channel the air and lower the drag, which helps with fuel economy and range. But who are we kidding here? It looks awesome and that’s the main point. There’s even an Italian feel to the styling, which is a radical departure from the German company’s more standard fare.

This one just isn’t a competition.

Under the skin the goodies keep on coming. The BMW i line is made from Carbon-Fiber Reinforced Plastic with an aluminum sub-frame. It’s designed to keep the weight down, it’s an expensive process and this is one of the reasons that the car comes with that hefty price tag. It’s an awesome fact for tech heads, though.

Now, what to say about the Panamera that hasn’t already been said? It’s a great car and the looks have got better over the years with each subtle revision, but it’ still a design horror show. There are rumours and theories to explain why, including a Porsche executive sitting in the back and demanding the whole roofline was raised. But whatever the reason, there’s only one good angle for the Porsche Panamera and that’s from behind the wheel.

This is not a car that sells on its looks.

It doesn’t look too bad at the front either, because it looks like a 911. But it all goes wrong in profile, despite the designer’s best attempts to conceal its bulk with those rounded windows and box-section sides. It’s infinitely prettier than the first incarnation, but this is not a car that sells on its looks.

But that hasn’t stopped the Panamera selling in huge numbers. Some people need four proper seats, they still want a sporting car and they love that iconic badge. So the Porsche sells on pure substance, not style.

BMW i8 vs Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid Power

For the i8, BMW took a 1.5-liter, three-cylinder engine, complete with a turbo, from the Mini Cooper. That was good enough for 228bhp and 236lb/ft of torque, but then the addition of a 96kW electric motor gave it an all-inclusive 357bhp and 420lb/ft of torque that turns a solid entry level sportscar into a serious contender.

Porsche opted for a 3-liter V6 for its internal combustion engine that produces 333bhp and mated that to a 70kW motor. That gives the Porsche 416bhp in total with 435lb/ft of torque, as well a decisive victory in this particular category.

BMW i8 vs Porsche Panamera Weight

Power is only one part of the equation, of course. The weight is also a vital ingredient when it comes to cooking up a performance car. The BMW i8 weighs in at a portly 3285lb, even with the clever weight saving tech.

That’s because this car essentially carries two powerplants on board and that comes with a price tag in terms of the additional weight on the hips.

But then we get to the Panamera and things get worse, much worse.

But then we get to the Panamera and things get worse, much worse. That’s because this car is a reworked version of the petrol-powered car, which wasn’t the lightest thing in the world to begin with. It has a bigger engine. With the electric and internal combustion engine it weighs in at a massive 4613lb.

So scrub the power advantage, it’s swallowed up and then some by the added baggage.

BMW i8 vs Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid Acceleration

Both cars come with a variety of settings to calm the fuel consumption, so we’ll consider those a wash and focus on the raw numbers.

It’s no surprise that the BMW comes out on top. It’s a much more sporting proposition and the BMW i8 0-60mph time of 4.4s would have been respectable for a supercar not so long ago. The much bigger Panamera takes longer to get off the line and doesn’t hit 60mph for 5.2s.

The lighter car will inevitably keep pulling through the mid-range, but there won’t be much to separate the two. The BMW comes with a six-speed gearbox, while the Panamera has an eight-speed gearbox to keep the car in the sweet spot. So these hybrid pace-setters will be separate by fractions when it comes to mid-range acceleration.

BMW i8 vs Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid Top Speed

Towards the outer reaches of the performance envelope, right at the top of the scale, the Porsche should finally stamp its authority on this particular battle.

the Porsche should finally stamp its authority on this particular battle

That’s because the Porsche has a top speed of 167mph, while the BMW is limited to 155mph in accordance with a gentleman’s agreement with Mercedes and Audi that stretches back years.

It isn’t always strictly enforced, though, so if these two cars went at it on a long straight road then the end result might actually be a shock.

BMW i8 vs Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid Economy

Remember when BMW spoke proudly of 134.5mpg that it achieved under the NEDC test? We do, but that has quietly fallen by the wayside after testers repeatedly failed to come close to that number and now it only publicizes the 76MPGe number. Independent tests, meanwhile, put the BMW’s returns at around 45mpg.

That’s still mightily impressive for a performance car of any kind and a new benchmark for the hybrid sector. It leaves the Porsche trailing in its wake and even though Porsche claimed a similarly ambitious 50mpg at the time of launch, it is now rated at 25mpg, with an MPGe number of 50.

The real numbers, though, still leave a little to be desired.

In electric only mode, the Porsche can handle speeds of up to 83mph and up to 15 miles of range. The BMW manages 75mph and can cover 22 miles according to the EPA figures before the engine kicks in to keep pressing on.

This is new technology and a massive step in the right direction. The real numbers, though, still leave a little to be desired.

BMW i8 vs Porsche Panamera S Hybrid-E Interior

The BMW is a step towards a brave new world. It isn’t quite the minimalist work of art that is the Tesla Model S, in fact it isn’t even as loud and proud as the lesser i3 inside, but it’s a much more advanced interior than the Panamera.

A TFT screen replaces the instrument binnacle and it joins forces with a second screen that pops out the dash and works with the iDrive that has improved with each passing generation. The first instalment was awful, now it works pretty well. As for the layout, some prefer this tactile approach of real buttons and dials and BMW does seem to have struck a healthy balance with the user interface.

The seating arrangement isn’t quite as impressive. It’s a 2+2, but only just and you’d struggle to get four adults in the car.

The Porsche is far and away the most practical of the pair.

The Porsche Panamera S Hybrid interior looks essentially the same as the base Panamera, because it is. It’s a staid and reserved interior that makes up for its lack of drama with sheer quality, but in this company the traditional binnacle and center console covered in buttons makes the Porsche feel second best.

The Panamera comes with four individual seats that could comfortably seat giants. There’s ample storage in the back, too, so the Porsche is far and away the most practical of the pair.

BMW i8 vs Porsche Panamera S Hybrid-E Exclusivity

This is, perhaps, the whole crux of this argument. The Panamera looks just like any other Panamera in the world. More than 1500 Hybrid-Es find owners every year and in its first year alone Porsche sold more than 25,000 Panameras worldwide. You’d have to sit and explain how the hybrid version stands out from this well-heeled crowd.

BMW sold 5,456 units worldwide in 2015. So the i8 is technically less exclusive, but perception is everything and the world just doesn’t see it the same way. The i8 is a novelty, a rarity and a car that draws stares. It’s the most desirable of the pair by a long way.

Wrap-up

This is a compelling battle between two of the finest hybrids on the market right now and we’re struggling to pick a clear winner. This one really depends on why you’re buying the car in the first place and what your actual requirements are.

If you want to make an impression, advertise your social conscience and still carve through canyon roads when nobody is looking, then the BMW i8 is the one to go for. If you want the prestige, a practical car that still makes a statement and new world technology in an understated package then the Panamera E-Hybrid will give you everything you need.

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Pure excitement and the novelty of the design tips the scale in the BMW’s favor, for us anyway, but this one really is a personal choice.

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