My Urban Car

Is the BMW i4 really better than the Tesla Model 3?

Both the BMW i4 and Tesla Model 3 are excellent cars so reviewers have perfectly valid reason to pick either as the better car.

Ginny Buckley and Nicki Shields from Electrifying believe the BMW is the better car although they did think it would be contentious so they wore hard hats just in case! Jack Scarlett from Fully Charged show agrees. Both prefer the BMW and why not.

Well we give you a chance to compare the opinions of 4 experienced reviewers from Electrifying, Fully charged, Carwow and R Symons. Both cars have different strengths and weaknesses and these videos lay them out for you. Finally R Symons finishes with the result of a direct head to head comparison on efficiency on the road in cold weather.

Before the videos though we think there is an elephant in the room for the reviews favouring the BMW that suggest it costs a similar amount to the Model 3. Does that assumption stack up and should the base model rear wheel drive BMW not be compared to the base model rear wheel drive Tesla anyway? Lets have a look.

Assumption 1 The rear wheel drive BMW competes not with the rear wheel drive Tesla but the more expensive Model 3 Dual motor

Tesla Model 3 RWD£42,990235 miles EVDB range,
0-62 6.1 seconds
BMW i4 40 RWD£51,905295 miles EVDB range
0-62 mph 5.7 seconds
Tesla Model 3 Dual motor long range£49,990300 miles EVDB range,
0-62 4.4 seconds

So that’s game over then surely? After all the i4 40 has a massive 80.7kWh useable battery compared to just a 57.5kWh in the rear wheel drive Model 3 and longer WLTP and EVDB range. The trouble is the RWD Tesla has just been updated with an iron phosphate battery pack. Early road tests suggest the new version is even more efficient than the old version with a cold weather range of around 240 miles. LFP batteries are also happy being charged to 100% every day rather than 80-90% recommended for dual motor Tesla’s or the i4.

We won’t know for sure till there are back to back tests of the 2 cars but the Tesla RWD has 2 chances of delivering similar day to day range because early indications are the BMW uses a lot more power than the Model 3 to travel the same distance.

Video 1
First test by R Symons of the real world range and charging of the new RWD Model 3

The £42,990 RWD Tesla also comes with more standard equipment like wireless phone charging, adaptive cruise with lanekeeping assist, dash and security cams, electric front seats with memory, glass roof, heated steering wheel and heated seats front and rear (standard on current spec but this varies). These are all expensive extras on the BMW despite it costing nearly £9,000 more.

If you don’t believe the rear wheel drive BMW i4 40 competes with the rear wheel drive Tesla, then the Long Range Model 3 is still £4,000 cheaper despite having 4 wheel drive. How much is 4WD worth? Well on EV’s with the same battery size, Kia and Audi charge about an extra £6k on the Q4 and EV6 while Polestar 2 AWD costs about £3k extra. Essentially the question here is.. If you agree the i4 is a better car then how much extra would you pay for it over the Tesla. If you want to match the specs then you’ll need to love the BMW at least £10,000 more.

All in all there are some swings and roundabouts but you are less likely to feel anything is missing from the standard Tesla spec.

Assumption 2 The All wheel drive BMW i4 50 competes with the Tesla Model 3 Performance not the cheaper Model 3 Dual motor long range.

Tesla Model 3 Dual motor long range£49,990300 miles EVDB range,
0-62 4.4 seconds
BMW i4 50 AWD£63.905280 miles EVDB range
0-62 mph 3.9 seconds
Tesla Model 3 Dual motor Performance£59,990285 miles EVDB range
0-62 mph 3.3 seconds

The stats actually suggest the BMW i4 50 fits between the dual motor Tesla’s, being 0.5 seconds faster than the Long Range but 0.6 seconds slower than the Performance. The comparison is muddied by the fact that until recently Tesla offered an acceleration upgrade on the Long range model via an app purchase although this isn’t available currently. If the upgrade does return it is likely to offer about the same acceleration as the BMW I4 50.

When BMW announced the i4 there were some rather absurd press claims that it would compete with the Tesla Model S. At least the discussion about which Model 3 variant matches which on the same cars is progress.

So over to the 4 videos. All have lots of experience driving EV’s but all come out with different takes. Strangest claims? From electrifying that a Model 3 has a maximum 400 kg weight allowance that limits its ability to carry passengers & luggage. If thats true I don’t think anyone has ever noticed. They also claim it can’t tow. well check this link for more info.

In the blue corner?

Video 2
Electrifying – Ginny Buckley and Nicki Shields

Video 3
Fully Charged – Jack Scarlett

In the red corner?

Video 4
Matt Watson from Carwow
Video 5
Comparison by Richard Symons who runs a Tesla Model 3 but has an i4 on order

How does the BMW i4 stack up against the Tesla Model 3

BMW i4Tesla Model 3
More relaxed mature & refined “feels bigger like a 5 series” Faster sharper lighter and more agile with astonishing acceleration on the Performance model
Excellent ride that soaks up the bumps esp with the adaptive dampers fittedfirm ride (especially on Performance)
Hatchback practicality especially for large items but no frunk & less overall storage spaceSaloon boot but big with useful frunk & extra space under rear boot as well
Excellent build and materialsGood build and materials
Many popular options cost extraShort option list most things as standard
optional opening sunroofbigger standard fixed glass roof
Optional real leather that lasts longer and is not plastic basedonly Vegan leather which is “animal free” but not green as it’s made from PVC, a petrochemical product that can be degraded or damaged by sweat or sunscreens
Made in GermanyMostly supplied from China
Button based interior controls like a blackberry Single screen based controls like an iPhone. good standard software and effective voice controls as long
does have Apple Carplay and Android auto unlike the Tesla
Big battery but heavier and less efficientSmaller battery but very very efficient
Heavy Weight 2,125kg to 2.290kgLight Weight 1,835kg to 1,919kg
Optional Excellent laser headlights & head up displayNot available on Tesla but it does get matrix LEDs.
Can charge 10-80% in 30 mins but much slower on most UK chargersTesla Superchargers offer fast, reliable good value chargers
You get the car you started withregular over the air updates to improve your car after you buy it
BMW software still doesn’t know about the chargers at Rugby Services that opened in 2021The car plans your journey with charge stops in seconds using live data
Lots of BMW options to make your BMW stand outNo one inside or outside the car will notice any difference between a RWD or AWD Model 3. Even a Performance just gets a tiny spoiler and extra alloys
Less suspension noiseless wind noise thanks to double glazed windows
Forward view obstructed by cosseting interior and the big bonnet Excellent forward view out thanks to minimalist interior and low bonnet
Should have good residuals based on base price but less so after buying optional extrasDoes have excellent residual value
Want to watch a film? Best go to a picture houseApps like Netflix and You tube build in to watch when the car is stopped. It also has google maps and Spotify as standard but data costs around £10 a month
Optional Dash camstandard dash cam with sentry security mode that now even lets you view your cars cameras on your phone

Real world range test in cool weather – BMW i4 50 versus Tesla Model 3 Performance v Porsche Taycan

Video 6
Real world range test – BMW i4 50 versus Tesla Model 3 Performance v Porsche Taycan

David Nicholson

David Nicholson Is the founder of Rivergecko Ltd & MyUrbanCar which provide consultancy and advice for drivers and fleets to speed the transition from dirty fossil fuel transport to clean vehicles powered by renewable energy on land water and air.

The @MyUrbanCar twitter feed is a source of news & reviews of electric & plugin cars and vans in the UK.
The @rivergecko twitter feed & websites bring news and opinion on cleantech transport including cars, vans, buses, trucks, shipping, rail & aviation as well as autonomous vehicles & renewable energy, air pollution & motor industry news.

David Nicholson has worked as an underwriter at Lloyd's of London since the 1980's. His interest in technology goes back many years including interactive mapping, apps, green tech, boats, solar and cars.