Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Why did Times writer compare BMW's hybrid sports car to the roomy Tesla?

The roomy Tesla Model S, above, would seem to have little in common with the low-slung BMW i8, below, except that both have four wheels. The Tesla is an all-electric luxury car with ample room for four, and the i8 is a plug-in hybrid sports car for two that is difficult to get into and out of.




By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Although hybrid and all-electric cars have been sold in the United States for 15 years, many automobile writers still don't feel all warm and fuzzy about them.

Can you blame them?

For years, writers for car magazines and newspapers have been obsessing over tire-burning acceleration, 0-60 times and how fast the model they are evaluating can lap a racetrack.

Impact on the environment? Who knew and who cared?

Many in the automotive media have been skeptical of green cars -- from the Toyota Prius gas-electric hybrid of a decade ago to the revolutionary all-electric Tesla Model S of today.


Times praises BMW i8

In October, The New York Times ran two stories evaluating the BMW i8, a new plug-in gas-electric hybrid that sounds and drives like a sports car.

With an MSRP of $137,500 -- nearly twice that of the Tesla Model S 60 four-door hatchback -- the i8 is high on excitement, low on practicality and is basically a green car that will keep you chained to the gasoline pump.

The low two-seater has scissor doors and a high sill, making it difficult to get into and a nightmare to exit, especially because it doesn't have a passenger-assist handle.


Not designed for women

No woman in a skirt could get out of the car and keep her dignity. In many ways, the i8 is a car designed by men exclusively for men.

Lawrence Ulrich, who reviewed the i8 for The Times' Automobiles section, mentioned the nightmarish ergonomics in passing, but didn't dwell on the car's many contradictions.

He noted the i8 is as "fast as a Corvette Stingray," and "opening the ... 'swan wing' doors brought gawkers running."

Ulrich can't help comparing the i8 -- favorably -- to Tesla's Model S in terms of acceleration, agility and range, noting the all-electric car can't "keep pace on a track or on twisty roads" with Porsches, Corvettes or BMW's own M3 and M4.

Of course, few cars of any kind can.

In an age of climate change, this speed-freak approach to automotive journalism, where every car is judged largely by its performance, seems juvenile.