Hybrids & Electrics

Six-Figure Super Hybrid Showdown: 2021 Polestar 1 vs. 2020 BMW i8 Roadster

It’s not just everyday vehicles that benefit from hybrid powertrains. Porsche, Ferrari, and McLaren have all created hybrid supercars, as has Lamborghini. McLaren’s even working on a follow-up. But there are some more affordable, but still luxurious, stylish, and sporty high-end hybrids available. For example, the Polestar 1 coupe and the BMW i8 Roadster. But what kind of substance lies beneath the style? YouTube team Throttle House decided to find out.

How the 2021 Polestar 1 and 2020 BMW i8 Roadster compare as hybrids and performance cars

A gray 2020 Polestar 1 coupe
2020 Polestar 1 | Polestar

The 2021 Polestar 1 and 2020 BMW i8 Roadster are both 2-door hybrids with lots of carbon fiber and all-wheel drive. But under the skin, they have a few notable differences.

An orange 2019 BMW i8 Roadster with its roof down and doors up by a harbor
2019 BMW i8 Roadster | BMW

For 2020, the BMW i8 features an 11.6-kWh lithium-ion battery, a 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine, and 2 electric motors. One motor is mounted between the front wheels; the second is connected to the mid-mounted three-cylinder engine, Motor Trend reports. The i8 also has 2 transmissions, a 2-speed for the front motor and a 6-speed transaxle for the engine.

The orange-leather interior of the 2019 BMW i8 Roadster
2019 BMW i8 Roadster interior | BMW

Together, the system gives the BMW i8 369 hp and 420 lb-ft, and a 0-60 time of 4.4 seconds, Motor1 reports. In pure electric mode, the EPA claims the i8 can travel up 18 miles, Car and Driver reports, and it tops out at 75 mph.

The rear 3/4 view of a white 2020 Polestar 1
2020 Polestar 1 rear 3/4 | Polestar

In comparison, the 2021 Polestar 1 has 3 batteries, with a combined total of 32-kWh, Roadshow reports. The GT coupe also has 3 electric motors, one in the front and two in the rear. And unlike the BMW i8, the Polestar 1 has a front-mounted 2.0-liter turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder engine, Road & Track reports, and just one transmission, an 8-speed automatic.

Combined, the Polestar 1’s powertrain components make 619 hp and 738 lb-ft. The BMW i8 may be about 1700 pounds lighter, Car and Driver reports, but it can’t make up the power difference. Polestar’s GT goes 0-60 in 3.7 seconds, R&T reports. And thanks to its extra battery capacity and motors, it can go further and faster in electric-only mode. Top speed in EV Mode is limited to 99 mph, and the EPA reports a range of 53 miles, Roadshow reports.

What are the Polestar 1 and BMW i8 Roadster like to drive?

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The extra power and range aren’t the 2021 Polestar 1’s only advantages against the 2020 BMW i8 Roadster. It has 2 more seats, fully-adjustable Ohlins dampers, and because of its dual rear electric motors, torque vectoring. All this means the Swedish GT rides and handles just as well if not better than the i8, MT reports. Though admittedly, the BMW i8 Coupe does offer rear seats, Roadshow notes.

That’s not to say the BMW i8 is a bad sports car, Throttle House reports. Unlike the Polestar 1, it’s designed to be a sports car from the start. The AWD makes for good traction, and in Sport Mode, the powertrain offers excellent acceleration. Plus, even if the batteries run out, it’s still lighter than the Polestar and feels like it behind the wheel. And while style is in the eye of the beholder, the i8’s looks are certainly striking. However, the Polestar is at least its design equal.

The white-leather interior of the 2020 Polestar 1
2020 Polestar 1 interior | Polestar

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In terms of interior quality, the i8 and 1 are roughly equal, too. The BMW’s cabin has a bit more plastic, but it also looks the part of a supercar’s interior. The Polestar’s interior has a few Volvo elements, but every detail feels finely crafted.

Which is the better choice?

The 2021 Polestar 1 and 2020 BMW i8 Roadster might be 2-door hybrids, but they’re not interchangeable. One is a luxurious GT, while the other is more of a sports car. As such, they fulfill different roles.

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Unfortunately, getting your hands on either one of them will be difficult. Polestar is only making 1500 1s, and only 450 are slated for the US, R&T reports. And the i8 has been discontinued—though BMW is working on a next-gen model, Car and Driver reports.

However, that does mean the BMW i8 will put less of a strain on your wallet. A brand-new Polestar 1 starts at $155,000. Originally, the i8 retailed at roughly the same price, Car and Driver reports. But now, it’s possible to find used examples for less than $60,000.

A yellow 2020 Acura NSX on a racetrack
2020 Acura NSX | Acura

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Though, if you want BMW i8-like looks with more speed, there’s always the Acura NSX. Which, incidentally, MT ranked above both the BMW and Polestar 1 in its hybrid comparison.

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