Soooo….life is going well and you’ve got some spare cash to trade in your old car for something a little more modern. Nice! But what are you going for? Well, it’s going to be all-electric of course! Isn’t it?
Platforms & Variants
You can have a Tesla Model 3 in three variations: what used to be called the Standard Range+, so that’s just your entry-level model. Then there is the Long Range and the Performance. With the BMW you only get two options. There is the entry-level eDrive40, and then the much faster M50.
But let’s go back to basics for a second because these two cars were conceived in very different ways! We want to talk about Platforms. Tesla is an EV manufacturer through and through, but BMW has been building combustion for decades. So Tesla had no compromises to make there…they just got on with building the best EV they could. But BMW had a choice to make, do they make a ground-up EV, or do they make a compromised EV platform that you can stick either an electric motor or a combustion engine in. They went for the latter.
Now…that’s not to say that you can’t make a good EV if it’s not ground-up. The likes of the Hyundai Kona and the Kia e-Niro prove otherwise. But in general, you get to do so much more with the car if it’s on a dedicated platform.
Design & Styling
Let’s talk about styling before we move to the good stuff like power and range.
The first thing to say is that even from the design stage, there is a cultural gap between these two manufacturers. There is a difference in approach to styling…and this affects things like fabric choice and cabin layout. Although you might prefer one over the other, it doesn’t necessarily mean one is wrong. They’re just different, and they’ll cater for different tastes.
On the outside, the i4 will be very familiar to BMW fans, and it’s almost indistinguishable from its combustion 4 series counterparts…to the untrained eye at least! The M50 gets a few design tweaks to make it a distinctively German brand fast coupe, with much more aggressive styling.
On the other hand, the Tesla looks more like it was born in a wind tunnel. It’s much simpler and cleaner. The front end starts lower and rises gradually. Unless you know to look out for the wheels and a small spoiler at the back, it’s hard to say which Model 3 you’re looking at.
On the inside, it’s the BMW finish exactly as brand fans would like. The long curved screen that stretches across the dash is a nice touch and is in stark contrast to the Model 3 which has a more protrusive, rectangular screen. The lack of buttons on the Model 3 gives it a futuristic and minimalist feel. The BMW is much more traditional and does nothing to upset the sense of familiarity that many have come to expect. The materials will be much plusher with a lot more soft leathers.
The dimensions aren’t exactly the most glamourous topic when looking at these cars, but it is important to mention because it may well be a deciding factor for some people. Both are low and sleek. In fact, they’re pretty much identical in terms of length, width and height. Although to look at, the BMW’s front and back ends do seem to sit a little higher.
On the inside, the Model 3 feels that bit airier thanks to the glass roof that sweeps all the way back to the boot. The benefits of building an EV on a bespoke platform start to shine through. There is a little bit more space in the back for 3 adults, and the lack of a transmission tunnel means that centre passenger won’t be in agony after a few minutes of driving. You also get a lot more space in the centre console. The extra bit of space continues in the Model 3 with its frunk and generous trunk/boot. Some people criticise the Model 3 for the size of the opening, but it’s still a really good space for a car of that footprint.
Battery & Range & Charging
Let’s move on to batteries, range and charging…and we’ll start with batteries. What goes into these two cars?
Let’s look at Tesla first, as talking batteries here gets a little complicated. You see, Tesla doesn’t officially release battery sizes so we have to extrapolate what they are. Also, they don’t go through typical model year cycles, instead, they make small improvements all the time. One of those is switching some of the Model 3s to an LFP battery pack with a higher capacity. So you can now get the entry-level Model 3 with a 57.5kWh battery which will be good for a solid 250 miles in the real world. But let’s kick on and compare the other two variants as they’re more of a like-for-like in pricing.
Let’s put the eDrive40 up against the Long Range Model 3. The BMW has a usable battery of 80.7 kWh compared to the Model 3 that you can now get with a 75 kWh usable. So that’s a small win for the BMW in size…but will it get you more range? The WLTP figures slightly favour Tesla, and we reckon in the real world there is very little difference, although if forced we’d bet on the Tesla to take it. We think both of these cars are good for 300 miles in the real world. A little bit less in winter, a little bit more in summer around town.
But what about if you want a little speed and have to decide between the M50 and the Performance? Both cars are still coming with the same battery packs. And both the official ratings and our real-world estimations reckon that Tesla takes it by a very small margin.
It certainly looks like the Tesla is the more efficient car as it gets more out of its battery pack. But that’s not hugely surprising considering the BMW weighs a good 200 kg more than its rival here.
So what happens when you want to charge them back up. It’s safe to say that they’re both pretty good options!
Let’s start with AC charging where all of these cars will take 11 kW. On DC it’s pretty good also. Even the entry Model 3 will hit speeds of about 175 kW on DC. As for the BMW, both variants will peak at 200 kW. Both the Long Range and Performance variants of the Model 3 will peak at 210 kW. So it’s as good as a draw here again. But we’re going to give the win to the Tesla as you just get a little more range out of the energy that you put back into its battery. You also get unbridled access to the Supercharger network.
And now it’s on to the good stuff…Performance! So let’s get the entry-level Model 3 out of the way and say that it has a very respectable 239 kW of power that will do the 0-62 mph sprint in 6.1 seconds.
Let’s put the eDrive 40 up against the Model 3 Long Range. With the BMW carrying an extra 200 kgs or so, it’ll need a good bit of power to beat the Tesla. With 25 0kW, the BMW will get you to 62 mph in 5.7 seconds. So it’s faster than the entry-level Model 3 but gets well beaten off the line by the Long Range which takes a mere 4.4 seconds to hit 62 mph.
Now let’s have a look at the i4 M50 up against the Model 3 Performance. Both cars have all-wheel drive, so there will be no problem with getting traction off the line. The BMW has 400 kW of power and 795 Nm torque. In terms of power, the Tesla just pips it with an estimated 413 kW, but loses out on torque with 660 Nm!
So what does that mean when you plant your foot on the accelerator? The M50 will do the 0-62 mph in 3.9 seconds, compared to the Model 3 Performance’s blistering 3.3 seconds. But it’s worth noting that German manufacturers have a bit of a reputation for under-promising and over-delivering at times. So we think that the 0-62 mph and ¼ mile times of these two cars will be close to identical. The Tesla will likely jump off the line a smidge faster, but the greater torque may see the BMW be that little stronger pulling through speeds on the Autobahn.
So what separates the two cars? And why would you buy one over the other?
In terms of pure numbers the Tesla will pip it…a fraction faster, a little bit more range, better efficiency, better charging, more internal space. But as we all know, it’s not just a game of numbers when you go to buy a car. It’s what grabs your heart. And for some people that feel of the cabin in the BMW will win out every day. That and the sense of familiarity of being in a premium German brand. For others, the tech superiority of the Tesla and the Supercharger network makes it an easy choice.
It's unlikely that the purse strings will sway buyers either way. Depending on where you live and what type of incentives are available, these cars largely match up in price. Even if there are a few thousand between them, someone who can afford one is likely to be able to afford the other anyway.
Either way isn’t it a great problem to have…arguing over which of these two fantastic cars is the better purchase!
So, let us know what you think in the video comments. Two exceptional cars are featured today.
Which would you go for?
Or maybe neither float your boat and you’ll be going for something like a Kia EV6.
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