2020 Mercedes SL vs. 2019 BMW i8

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

© 1999 - 2019 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved. This vehicle comparison and all of the content in it are provided only by license from Advanta-STAR Automotive Research Corporation of America. If you are not a legally licensed user of this vehicle comparison, it is against federal law to access it, copy it, forward it or use it in any manner whatsoever. Any unauthorized use of this vehicle comparison is a violation of U.S. and international law and is punishable criminally and civilly. 6IUEX-0KENZ 45.55.47.189 2019/11/17

The SL’s pre-crash front seatbelts will tighten automatically in the event the vehicle detects an impending crash, improving protection against injury significantly. The i8 doesn’t offer pre-crash pretensioners.

The SL has standard NECK-PRO Head Restraints, which use a specially designed headrest to protect the driver and front passenger from whiplash. During a rear-end collision, the NECK-PRO Head Restraints system moves the headrests forward to prevent neck and spine injuries. The i8 doesn’t offer a whiplash protection system.

An active infrared night vision system optional on the SL helps the driver to more easily detect people, animals or other objects in front of the vehicle at night. Using an infrared camera and near-infrared lights to detect heat, the system then displays the image on a monitor in the dashboard. The i8 doesn’t offer a night vision system.

The SL’s optional lane departure warning system alerts a temporarily inattentive driver when the vehicle begins to leave its lane and gently nudges the vehicle back towards its lane. The i8 doesn’t offer a lane departure warning system.

The SL’s optional blind spot warning system uses digital cameras monitored by computer to alert the driver to moving objects in the vehicle’s blind spots where the side view mirrors don’t reveal them and moves the vehicle back into its lane. The i8 doesn’t offer a system to reveal objects in the driver’s blind spots.

The SL’s driver alert monitor detects an inattentive driver then sounds a warning and suggests a break. According to the NHTSA, drivers who fall asleep cause about 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths a year. The i8 doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

Both the SL and the i8 have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights and rearview cameras.

Warranty

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There are over 10 percent more Mercedes dealers than there are BMW dealers, which makes it easier should you ever need service under the SL’s warranty.

Reliability

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J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Mercedes vehicles are better in initial quality than BMW vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Mercedes 12th in initial quality. With 8 more problems per 100 vehicles, BMW is ranked 20th.

Engine

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The SL 550’s standard 4.7 turbo V8 produces 80 more horsepower (449 vs. 369) and 96 lbs.-ft. more torque (516 vs. 420) than the i8’s 1.5 turbo 3 cyl. hybrid.

Fuel Economy and Range

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The SL has 8.7 gallons more fuel capacity than the i8 (19.8 vs. 11.1 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups.

Transmission

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A nine-speed automatic is standard on the Mercedes SL, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only a six-speed automatic is available for the i8.

Brakes and Stopping

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For better stopping power the SL’s front brake rotors are larger than those on the i8:

SL

SL (opt.)

i8

Front Rotors

13.5 inches

14.2 inches

13.4 inches

Tires and Wheels

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For better traction, the SL has larger tires than the i8 (F:255/35R19 & R:285/30R19 vs. F:215/45R20 & R:245/40R20).

The SL’s 255/35R19 front and 285/30R19 rear tires provide better handling because they have a lower 35 series front and 30 series rear profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the i8’s standard 45 series front and 40 series rear tires.

Suspension and Handling

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The SL offers an available adjustable active suspension system, which counteracts cornering forces actively, limiting body roll and improving handling and stability. BMW doesn’t offer an active suspension on the i8.

The SL offers an optional automatic front and rear load leveling suspension to keep ride height level with a heavy load or when towing. The i8 doesn’t offer a load leveling suspension.

For better maneuverability, the SL’s turning circle is 4.2 feet tighter than the i8’s (36.2 feet vs. 40.4 feet).

Chassis

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The SL’s standard power retractable hardtop allows a seamless transition from an open car, to a completely sealed coupe. The i8 doesn’t offer a retractable hardtop.

Cargo Capacity

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The SL has a much larger trunk with its top down than the i8 Roadster (8.5 vs. 2.3 cubic feet).

With its convertible body style, valet key and remote trunk release lockout, the SL offers cargo security. The i8’s non-lockable remote release defeats cargo security.

To make loading and unloading groceries and cargo easier when your hands are full, the SL’s power trunk can be opened or closed just by kicking your foot under the back bumper, leaving your hands completely free. The i8 doesn’t offer a power or hands-free opening trunk.

Servicing Ease

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The engine in the SL is mounted longitudinally (North-South), instead of sideways, as in the i8. This makes it easier to service and maintain, because the accessory belts are in front.

J.D. Power and Associates surveys of service recipients show that Mercedes service is better than BMW. J.D. Power ranks Mercedes fifth in service department satisfaction. With a 23% lower rating, BMW is ranked 11th.

Ergonomics

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Unlike the driver-only memory system in the i8, the SL has standard driver and passenger memory, so that when drivers switch, the memory setting adjusts the driver’s seat, steering wheel position, outside mirror angle and climate settings and the front passenger seat also adjusts to the new passenger’s preset preferences.

The SL’s standard easy entry system raises the steering wheel, making it easier for the driver to get in and out. The i8 doesn’t offer an easy entry system.

In case of a sudden change of weather, the SL has a standard remote convertible top that can be raised from a distance to protect the interior of the vehicle from damage. The i8 doesn’t offer a remote top, so the driver will have to run to the car, get in, turn the ignition on and raise the top to prevent the interior from being damaged.

Heated windshield washer fluid is standard on the SL to defrost the washer nozzles and quickly clear ice and frost from the windshield without scraping. The i8 doesn’t offer heated windshield washer fluid.

In poor weather, headlights can lose their effectiveness as grime builds up on their lenses. This can reduce visibility without the driver realizing. The SL has standard headlight washers to keep headlight output high. The i8 doesn’t offer headlight washers.

To shield the driver and front passenger’s vision over a larger portion of the windshield and side windows, the SL has standard extendable sun visors. The i8 doesn’t offer extendable visors.

Optional air-conditioned seats in the SL keep the driver and front passenger comfortable and take the sting out of hot seats in summer. The i8 doesn’t offer air-conditioned seats.

To keep a safe, consistent following distance, the SL offers an optional Active Distance Assist Distronic, which alters the speed of the vehicle without driver intervention. This allows the driver to use cruise control more safely without constantly having to disengage it when approaching slower traffic. The i8 doesn’t offer an adaptive cruise control.

The SL’s optional Active Parking Assist can parallel park or back into a parking spot by itself. The i8 doesn’t offer an automated parking system.

Economic Advantages

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Insurance will cost less for the SL owner. The Complete Car Cost Guide estimates that insurance for the SL will cost $5300 to $8690 less than the i8 over a five-year period.

The SL will cost the buyer less in the long run because of its superior resale value. The IntelliChoice estimates that the SL will retain 37.78% to 37.93% of its original price after five years, while the i8 only retains 33.99% to 35.51%.

IntelliChoice estimates that five-year ownership costs (depreciation, financing, insurance, fuel, fees, repairs and maintenance) for the Mercedes SL will be $40388 to $47977 less than for the BMW i8.

Recommendations

© 1999 - 2019 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved. This vehicle comparison and all of the content in it are provided only by license from Advanta-STAR Automotive Research Corporation of America. If you are not a legally licensed user of this vehicle comparison, it is against federal law to access it, copy it, forward it or use it in any manner whatsoever. Any unauthorized use of this vehicle comparison is a violation of U.S. and international law and is punishable criminally and civilly. 6IUEX-0KENZ 45.55.47.189 2019/11/17

The Mercedes SL outsold the BMW i8 by 54% during the 2019 model year.

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