BMW i3 vs. Tesla Model S: Which Is The Top Electric Car?

BMW i3 vs. Tesla Model S: Which Is The Top Electric Car?
Blomst / Pixabay

With traditional automakers increasingly indicating their intention to move into the electric car niche, it is interesting to compare the BMW i3 vehicle to the market-leading Tesla Model S. Tesla certainly has a major advantage as the corporation has already established itself as the major player in the electric vehicle marketplace. But BMW has a huge amount of experience and prestige, and this could certainly assist the company in penetrating the electric car niche.


Although the acceleration capabilities of the BMW i3 have been praised, it still comes second best to the Model S in this department. Despite the undoubtedly sporty feel of the BMW i3, the Model S is simply an outstanding vehicle in performance and power terms, with the notorious CEO and founder of the company, Elon Musk, having boasting about its capabilities before its release. Nonetheless, it is not uncommon for drivers to favor the BMW i3 owing to its sporty driving style, with the Model S particularly well suited to longer road trips.

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Model 3 plus points

The Tesla Model S is reckoned to be the definitive electric car by many, and has several advantages over the BMW i3. The first of these is that the vehicle is considerably more spacious for those people wanting to ferry around passengers and cargo. This possibly makes the Model S the more practical of the two vehicles.

The Model S should also be commended for its charging capabilities. Firstly, the vehicle has a significantly longer range than the i3, which obviously makes it efficient in comparison to the BMW vehicle. The Model S also benefits from supercharger access, meaning that charging the vehicle is made even more convenient.

One of the most lauded Aspects of the Model S is the extremely sophisticated and useful autopilot feature. This has received a strong critical reception, and has also attracted praise from consumers, with the function making the Model S an easier vehicle to drive than many of its competitors.

This feeling of ease of use is also enhanced by the outstanding infotainment and navigation systems included in the vehicle. The days where it was simply good enough to deliver a road car that gets people from A to B are long gone, and entertainment features and technological innovations are now a central part of every major vehicle. Tesla has set the bar very high in this department, yet the corporation has also been in talks with Apple, seemingly with the intention of improving its in-car technology even further.

BMW i3 advantages

But despite the fact that the Tesla Model S is one of the finest vehicles on the market, not merely an outstanding electric car, there are also advantages to the BMW i3 model. Although the Tesla Model S is generally reckoned to outperform the BMW i3, the latter of the two vehicles does excel in some departments. It is tough to take on such an outstanding vehicle as the Model S, but BMW is an extremely experienced automaker, and has delivered a vehicle with many superb features.

Firstly, and somewhat ironically, it is generally regarded that the BMW i3 is the greenest car available on the market. This is surprising considering the green credentials of Tesla, but the lack of emissions produced by the BMW i3 ensures that this is the ideal product for anyone wishing to be kind to the earth. This environmentally friendly quality of the vehicle is enhanced by the fact that it is also the most efficient car on the market.

The fact that the BMW i3 is also a subcompact car appeals to many motorists, and the regenerative braking system included in the vehicle has also been praised by many drivers and car critics alike.

Finally, one of the most obvious advantages of the BMW i3 is that it is the more economical of the two vehicles, often by some distance. Whether one is willing to pay the extra money for a Model 3 vehicle that certainly seems to deliver additional quality is dependent on the individual, but thrifty motorists will certainly relish the BMW i3.

Safety advantage

Nonetheless, although there are disadvantages to the Model S, perhaps the decisive factor in its favor is that it is such a safe vehicle. While all motorists wish to avoid accidents, it is well established that the Model S is one of the very safest vehicles on the road. Coupled with its phenomenal performance parameters, this does seem to give the vehicle the edge over the BMW i3 at this point in time.

It is clear that the electric car marketplace is about to get a massive boost, with BMW having announced the i6 for later this decade. Well, when one says it later this decade, it should perhaps be more accurately described as early next decade. Although the BMW i6 is expected to be unveiled in 2019, a more likely release date for this new electric vehicle is 2020, and even that may prove to be optimistic.

BMW has clearly decided that the electric car space will be an extremely profitable niche in the future, and possibly the major global political agreement on climate change will contribute to this impression. It is perhaps the ideal time for the luxury car manufacturer to be moving into the electric car niche, with its obvious German rival Volkswagen having experienced such malaise recently.

Nonetheless, BMW will be up against some absolutely outstanding Tesla vehicles, as well as an Apple Car, as the consumer electronics giant continues to work on developing this product range. The Apple Car could truly be a disruptive piece of technology, and considering the rumous that Tesla will team up with Apple in some respect in the coming years, it does intensify the need for traditional automakers to move into this marketplace now.

The BMW i3 is certainly an excellent attempt to do this, but for the time being the Model S remains the definitive vehicle in this class.

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  1. Well when I was out shopping I could not avoid comparing the i3, Leaf, and Model S…I test drove them all, I looked at their performance, I looked at how I could buy one, I looked at warranties, I looked at response to my intention to buy, researched charging requirements and availability, of course I looked at cost (this was not easy with rebates, fuel savings, insurance savings, registration incentives in AZ, dealer discounts, factory discounts), and most important I compared each car to how they would meet my driving needs and driving preferences. Well in the end the BEV i3 got the highest score for my actually won the comparison hands down for me.

    I got a three day test drive which was critical to understanding the car, and evaluating its range for my driving needs, got the dealer to discount the top of the line i3 by $4,500 plus a $1,000 factory incentive, state registration fees savings for BEV model only, dealer provided the lowest cost loan, the insurance company gave extra discount for BMW owners, the i3 charges just fine with the provided level-one charger and with three level of intensities, the size, handling and “whisper” quiet performance was outstanding, and it was the most comfortable car to sit in along with all the room I needed in the back with rear seats up or down. Tesla was over kill and they could care less if they sold me a car or not ( I got a call back after my one mile test drive three months later) , and the Leaf just didn’t measure up at any level.

    And the biggest surprise came when I got my state renewals forms with the option to register the car for 5 years at a TOTAL cost of $65. I’m more than happy with my i3! And yes I power the car for free with the absolutely clean energy being generated from my rooftop solar panels.

  2. thats great that you like the quiet. what a truly boring world it would be if we all liked the same things. myself, i love the sound of 5 huge supercharged V8’s at the tractor pull, the menacing burble of a V8 just at idle. being a motorsport fan i tried watching formula E but the lack of sound was it’s downfall. funny how sound can invoke so much passion, remember last time they changed the engine spec in F1 and fans all over the world complained that the beautiful F1 engine note had changed. but at least we are lucky enough to have many vehicle options to cater to all our different tastes and needs.

  3. So glad you bring up the noise of ICE..I’m reminded now of tractor pulling contests when I hear an ICE..the elegance of BEV stands out with the silent power they demonstrate…it is probably the one main factor that brings me to say I’ll never drive an ICE again..the silent power and torque of a BEV is incredible…quiet at the red light, and when accelerating ( oh yes the whin heard is like a jet engine). Perfect, uncomplicated, inspiring..yes I’ll look seriously at a second hopefully a Model 3 if production ramps up in what that youngster Ken hopes will be two years ( if they get serious about building BEVs, and not just playing around with all that technology, rockets, hyperloop trains and traveling to Mars)..but I’m not honestly holding my breath!

  4. Wrong. People stopped and crowded around Model S for years and are now doing the same with the Model X. I’ve had a Tesla since 2009.

    Teslas get over 90 mpg so they are extremely green.

    The i3 is a sales failure. It is too small and cramped and has a laughably low range to be useful to the vast majority of drivers.

    You are also not intelligent enough to understand basic spelling. Too bad – not ‘to bad’, dumb-dumb.

    Get a 4th grader to help you with your posts.

  5. ?

    Yes, this article is crap, no research was done. It is my understanding the only category the S beat the i3 in was pedestrian collisions due to the i3’s short hood. CFRP impacts displace/absorb energy. Also one section headline in this article says “Model 3 Plus Points.” What? Did he not even proof read it? I only skimmed but I bet it is littered with other errors, that one caught my eye as it is a heading/section title.

  6. i3 is an unique vehicle that has no equivalent.

    but for the sake of US based readers duped into reading this worthless comparison article, I think it is very reasonable to bring up X1 vs the S class as the ICE equivalent. No one would ever write an article comparing these two, that’s the original point.

  7. Closer to the (not sold in the US) 1 series hatch or a FWD Mini. An X1 is huge, I’ve had several as loaners, once now while my i3 was getting a software update.

  8. I agree, it isn’t a SUV. Just saying if you look at the BMW ICE lineup, the most equivalent vehicles within that vast BMW lineup would be those two, probably more the X1 more than X3 as the X1 is more of a crossover SUV.

    The point was to find an ICE equivalent for both the i3 and Model S to show the absurdity of the comparison.

  9. yeah thats why I saw the solar orange BMWi3 and went so gaga over it I swore to get one if it was an efficient car I’d been waiting for, and people stll take pics of it and stop us all who own one like you have no idea what it is to have one. Tesla is rad by far, but never even noticed one on the road before even tho there were tons around me but its still has its huge cons yet not as “green” as my standards or that “look” that turns heads in awe. I got mine and you will never know what that means, to bad.

  10. Get a mature clue! All ev’s deserve credit not which is better or not bc all do have pros and cons. As far as your comments they are just naive. No one has seen nothing yet until you learn the facts: watch it all an be prepared to be fascinated you will be dumbfounded at your comment.

  11. What a strange comparison. The i3 is essentially the EV version of the X1 or X3. The Model S is essentially the 7 series or the S class. Even the price point is about the same, 30k-ish for the i3 after incentives and 70k-ish for the Model S.

    Have there ever been a comparison made between the S class vs the X1? Why not? They are both Powered by internal combustion engines!

    What is even more weird are folks that actually took this article seriously and started arguing amongst each other about the Model S being better than the i3 or vise versa. Would any of you ever lock yourselves into a debate between whether the X1 or the S class is the better car?

  12. You keep proving yourself an idiot again and again. The Model X was a much more complicated car than the Model 3.

    The Model 3 is on schedule.

    Get a 5th grader to teach you how to do proper research before you post and maybe you won’t keep making such a complete fool of yourself, dopey.

  13. As I recall..In Feb. 2012 intially Tesla planned for Model X deliveries to commence in early 2014. However, in February 2013, the company announced that deliveries had been rescheduled to begin by late 2014 in order to achieve its production target of 20,000 Model S cars in 2013. In November 2013, Tesla said it expected to begin Model X high volume production the second quarter of 2015. In November 2014, Tesla again delayed and announced that Model X deliveries would begin in the third quarter of 2015.

    Finally deliveries for SPECIAL PEOPLE began on September 29, 2015. Unfortunately..we’re not that special so we’d have to wait to 2016 … Only special and wealthy get to waste their excess wealth on Tesla….us ordinary folks will have to wait until 2019…after we hear all their reschedule delays… to buy an affordable Tesla EV.

  14. You just made a fool of yourself again.

    The i3 is a sales failure because it appeals to virtually no one. A car that appeals to virtually no one means it is not a car for the people.

    Since the Tesla outsells the i3 by as much as 4 to 1, it is the Tesla that has proven to be, much more, a car for the people.

    In March, Tesla will unveil a mass market priced, 200+ mile range EV. That will be the mass market car for the people. That has always been the entire point of the company.

  15. OH I totally agree Tesla along with government mandates, and Obama’s encouragement started the EV revolution but Tesla did not produce a car most folks could afford..the wealthy got an EV but it was BMW that made an EV for the people.
    With all my savings I will be paying about $20K vs $65K for a model S and its savings back in 2014.

  16. Wrong. BMW saw no light. They were forced to make compliance cars by government mandates. They are, at least, 5 years behind Tesla. Their compliance i3 has been a sales failure because it is so far behind in tech.

  17. I needed a car in 2014, and yet still not 90 miles all electric range, and no state registration fee saving with that “real Charge sustaining” ICE ..a Volt may be better for you but still not for me. However I will agree that GM is finally seeing the light that BMW saw two years ago…

  18. You just proved yourself the idiot. BMW is not a green car company in any way. They only make compliance EVs so they can sell their extremely dirty cars which make up the vast majority of their products. The amount of clean cars they sell is insignificant – especially because the i3 has been a sales failure with the Model S outselling it by more than 4 times as much in some months. Only an idiot would thank a car company like BMW for causing cancer and global warming. There is no comparison to which car company is green and which is a criminal polluter. Get a 5th grader to explain it to you, genius.

    Great job, dumb-dumb.

  19. Old news, The new Chevy volt won the green car of the year award THIS year, 50 mile all electric range plus a real charge sustaining engine to take you anywhere you want to go … Unlike the toy engine in the bmw or Teslas limited 200 mile range at twice the price !

  20. I own an i3 and never would say one car is “better” than another..every driver has individual needs..I needed to go at least 80-90 miles on ALL electric power cause I have solar panels that are giving me a wealth of free electricity that I want to use..I live in an area that had the choice of five Volts to purchase from local dealers..BMW had at least 75 i3’s available, and the i3 gives me unmatched performance that improves the car’s safety. I got three days to test drive the car to be sure it fit, and if I need to go on an extended trip I can get a BMW ICE at no cost. I live in a state that rewards me with registration fee savings for driving an ALL EV (hybrids don’t qualify, sorry) to the tone of $2000 over 5 years.

    As I see it, for my needs, the BMW was the most affordable “better” car available, and I am totally delighted with it now that I have driven it for more than a year with less CO2 in the air and more $$$ in the pocket.

  21. “only an idiot” would disregard the world’s most green production car that has won award after award for innovation, performance and design.

    ..the winner hands down is BMW i3 when you don’t need superchargers, don’t needs ICE styling at the cost of efficiency, don’t need the all the added expenses of more and heavier batteries, don’t needs less efficiency in driving unnecessary performance..sure if you’re willing to pay $100K for all that UNNECESSARY extras then go idiot and waste your 2014 I needed a ALL EV that I could afford to use excess solar energy for strictly urban driving..hay idiot how many Americans need a car to drive cross country and how many Americans can afford to waste $100K…You can dream about Ferraris and Teslas..but in the real world its BMW i3 and Leafs that fits the bill…

    And hey idiot maybe you can have some respect for folks who see things different then you.

  22. In 2014 I purchased my ALL electric BMW i3…not having to wait til 2018 for the Model 3. BMW was showing genius in its innovative i3 design…All EV for those who were happy with 90 mile range, and range extender for those who need more. Putting in more batteries for more range would have increased size and cost.. Thank you for doing EXACTLY what you did BMW!

    One car can never met the needs of all drivers… But BMW took the leadership from Tesla and Nissan in building the world first modern ALL electric vehicle…not a converted ICE design but a car built to be eleftric from the ground up and putting it on the road in 2014 around the world! Amazing!

  23. Two more Americans seduced by the auto / oil / opec industry to evaluate transportation vehicles as sleek overgrown race cars.. Wasting gas, polluting the environment, and pumping up egos.

    I maintain my postion..screw ICE auto design.. With no engine in front EV design experts could focus on safety and efficiency building the futuristic i3 ALL EV.

  24. This comparison is similar to comparing a new Ferrari to a Bmw two seater sports car. Of course the Bmw costs less and thus wins the comparison with sticker price, but the Ferrari will destroy the Bmw in in virtually every other relevant category. Why bother making the comparison? Few people (if anyone) who can afford a Ferrari sports car would ever consider the Bmw to be an an equivalent or adequate alternative or replacement. Even if the i3 were not an ugly, boxy, tiny car, with a short range, those of us who are regularly drueling over the Model S would never be satisfied until we get a Tesla. A Bmw i3 is so inferior in every way (other than cost) that it would simply be an interim purchase (like my more attractive Volt) until we can get Model S or X. Even though many electric car owners wish to drive green, this abstract notion that Bmw i3 is supposedly “greener” than a model S truly immaterial; only an idiot (who could afford Model S) would disregard the much better styling, acceleration, interior space, range and free nationwide Supercharging stations and decide to pick an inferior car because somebody labels it “greener.” More and more use solar panels to charge their Model S, making it in fact the greenest vehicles on the planet at the same time it is one of the fastest, most beautiful, safest with the longest electric range around. Tesla is the winner, hands down, against the i3 and every other car on the planet (electric or gas). Test over.

  25. Clearly the author of this article doesn’t know anything about either the i3 or the Model S. What a poorly researched and constructed article. It’s an embarrassment to both cars, not properly talking up each car’s selling points, while instead mindlessly placing attributes of each in a “pros” and “cons” column… and doing it incorrectly.

  26. “Bald-faced LIES!” …they must think “everyone is REALLY STUPID!

    the BMW is the “greenest car” …COME ON…

    a. the TESLA is “pure electric” NO “internal combustion engine” …WHAT-SO-EVER! …that means NO “AIR POLLUTION” at all…

    b. NOW …the BMW I3 “IS A HYBRID! …meaning it has a “very limited electric motor” WHICH IS “CHARGED FREQUENTLY” by the “AIR POLLUTING assistive/charging INTERNAL COMBUSTION ENGINE…

    “big guzzler mfrs AND THEIR “PAID SHILL SUPPORTERS” are “SO DESPERATE”…they LIE …”right to your face”

    it’s unbelievable …that “THEY THINK” the average person IS “THAT STUPID!”

    I’m not saying that the “hybrid BMW I3” doesn’t make less “air pollution” with it’s “mini-gasoline burning engine” …it is “a TOKEN IMPROVEMENT”…but it comes at the expense OF BEING “UNDERPOWERED compared to “a PURE GASOLINE engine” vehicle…and TOO BOOT …you pay about 10k more for it compared to say a HONDA CIVIC SI…etc.
    …so “a bit greener” …YEAH…but at “what price???”

    at least the TESLA at 30k more… well YOU WILL over the life of the car …do better… NOT HAVING to pay for all that EXTRA SERVICING/MAINTENANCE… that is built into A MUCH MORE COMPLEX “ICE” (internal combustion engine) vehicle…plus the “huge savings” on no gasoline”…plus you DON’T HAVE TO STOP AT GAS STATIONS…anymore… you JUST CHARGE THE TESLA “overnight from the wall-outlet IN YOUR GARAGE…
    …with the TESLA you:

    a. save time

    b. save money on gasoline
    c. there are “far more garages” than gas stations
    d. low life-of the car servicing and maintenance…
    e. electric motors will get “hundreds of thousands” of iles on the motor… (compare and elec leaf-blower to a 2cycle smelly, noisy “ice” leaf blower…) I have a real powerful elec now…does the job… and no “screaming 2 cycle noice and SMELL, ETC….PLUS IT STARTS “year after year” with IT’S SIMPLE PURE ELEC MOTOR…
    …I have “ice ones too” good WHEN THEY are NEW with fresh fuel…but leave them SIT A WHILE …like thru the WINTER.. and come Spring… well LIKE STARTING RUNNIN’ ISSUES…etc. …THE “PURE ELEC” leaf-blower just starts right up…every time…NO TINKERING …mixin’ fuel, etc.

    anyway THE BIG PROBLEM FOR THE “BMW I3” …IS PRETTY SOON “TESLA IS COMING OUT WITH THE “TESLA MODEL 3” …in roughly the same price range as the BMW I3… and 3….AND THAN IT’S “CURTAINS FOR THE BMW models both “gasoline and hybrid”…

    so THESE ARTICLES that are basically “BALD FACED …DESPERATION… LIES… by “big polluting GAS-GUZZLER MFRS”…are JUST THAT …

    they really ARE INSULTING even to “the average guy’s intelligence”

    like the PUBS… being in “climate control DENIAL” …JUST WATCH THE “WEATHER CHANNEL” and all the flooding, erratic weather, droughts…ETC.


    look what VW diesel RESORTED TOO…AND GOT CAUGHT! and now they “try to DAMAGE CONTROL”

    and expect YOU to buy into …”oh it was just A FEW ROGUE ENGINEERS or some-SUCH that new about THE “AIR POLLUTION CONTROL TAMPERING AND LIES”…
    YEAH “YOU REALLY BELIEVE THAT “THE BIG HIGH MGMT” DIDN’T KNOW… come on “hey I got a bridge “in Brooklyn” that I CAN GET YOU FOR “ON THE CHEAP”…going fast…so get your checkbook out…before “someone” else gets it…LIKE THAT, ETC.

    even “non-tech” people when they actually BUY A CAR…do enough research, etc. TO SEE THE BS…
    …why do you think VW did what they did …BECAUSE THE “BS” is gettin’ LESS AND LESS EFFECTIVE… so you “got to OUTRIGHT RESORT “TO REAL DECEPTIONs THAT CAN STILL TRICK even the fairly informed, etc.

    anyway…just use common sense… THAT GUY TRYING TO SELL YOU “THE CAR” isn’t REALLY YOU’RE BUDDY! …

    so me I either go TESLA …or if I can’t afford it YET…

    go HONDA CIVIC SI…or somethin’ like that…THAT AT LEAST YOU “can BEAT THE PAPERBOY” at the “next traffic light! …etc. (just EXAGGERATING LIKE GUZZLER”… only I’m only doing it for fun… I’M NOT “BALD-FACED LYING TO YOU” …to get YOUR MONEY!…

  27. Crap article. Just happened to forget to mention the 2:1 price differential??? What a toad. Clear bias. Poor grammar. Stick with Space Invaders newbie. “Nonetheless” 3 times? “Reckoned” twice. “perhaps”….Perhaps you reckoned nonetheless.

  28. Both are wonderful cars. The i3 with the backup engine works pretty well and compensates for the 80mi range. The Tesla’s performance is in a class of its own, but, the i3 is no slouch.

  29. The BMW is an ALL electric car in every aspect from manufacturing, to design, to performance..the first of its kind and Tesla can not compare. BMW has to be praised for its innovation and genius in putting it on the road.

  30. It doesn’t seem fair comparing a $40k+ car with a $70k+ car. Even though the model S wins at the end, it’s an insult just to compare.

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