With the death of the internal combustion engine looming on the horizon, it is no secret that most current auto manufacturers are trying to strike early with some new hard-hitting models, BMW included. While Tesla jumped in head first, dedicating all of their resources to their electric vehicle endeavors, BMW has obviously been splitting their attention towards multiple different segments.
As a result, it is clear that BMW has been fighting a losing battle on the EV front since they released their first mass-produced EV, the BMW i3, in 2013. The numbers back that up, with the Tesla Model 3 selling over 645,000 units over its production so far compared to the 191,000 BMW i3s sold since it was released. However, BMW has learned a thing or two about EVs since 2013, leading to the introduction of more purely electric vehicles in their fleet, one of them being the i4 which released in 2021.
While the i3 served as BMW’s EV entry in the interim, the i4 is a much better benchmark to compare to other medium size EV offerings from other competitors, including the Tesla Model 3. It also joins BMW’s other current EV offerings, including the iX, i7, and i5. In this article, we’ll provide a full BMW i4 vs Tesla Model 3 comparison, looking at every aspect of both models from their exterior styling to their range and overall performance.
BMW i4 vs Tesla Model 3 Overview
|BMW i4||i4 eDrive35||i4 eDrive40||i4 xDrive40||i4 M50|
|Battery/Range||66-kWh/256 miles||81-kWh/301 miles||81-kWh/307 miles||81.5-kWh/271 miles|
|Horsepower||335 hp/317 lb-ft||335 hp/317 lb-ft||396 hp/443 lb-ft||536 hp/586 lb-ft|
|0-60mph||5.8 seconds||5.4 seconds||4.9 seconds||3.3 seconds|
|Drivetrain||Rear-wheel drive||Rear-wheel drive||All-wheel drive||All-wheel drive|
|Charge Time||8h at 220V||10h at 220V||10h at 220V||10h at 220V|
|Tesla Model 3||Rear Wheel Drive||Long Range||Performance|
|Battery/Range||60-kWh/272 miles||82-kWh/333 miles||82-kWh/315 miles|
|Horsepower||271 hp/310 lb-ft||425 hp/475 lb-ft||450 hp/471 lb-ft|
|0-60mph||5.8 seconds||4.2 seconds||3.1 seconds|
|Drivetrain||Rear-wheel drive||All-wheel drive||All-wheel drive|
|Charge Time||8.5h at 220V||11.5h at 220V||11.5h at 220V|
Both the BMW i4 and Tesla Model 3 are available in a number of different trim levels, with the i4 offered in 4 different tiers and the Model 3 offered in 3. Both models are offered with either a single-motor rear-wheel drivetrain or a dual-motor all-wheel drivetrain depending on your needs. The Model 3 is the less expensive of the two models with the base price of the Model 3 RWD at $40,240 compared to the i4 eDrive35 which starts at $53,195. While the base i4 has a larger 66 kWh battery than the corresponding Model 3, the higher-tier Model 3s have a slight edge in battery size at 82 kWh.
Ultimately, the Model 3 and i4 edge each other out in different areas. The Model 3 has superior range to the i4 thanks to Tesla’s headstart in the battery development field, although the i4 isn’t trailing too far behind. While the Model 3 accelerates faster, the i4 has the edge in terms of cornering and handling. While both cars have good build quality overall, the i4 is truly the only one that can be called a true luxury car, built with higher quality materials and with a better fit and finish.
BMW i4 vs Tesla Model 3 Trim Levels
If deciding whether a BMW i4 or Tesla Model 3 was already overwhelming, now it’s time to introduce even more factors. The i4 and Model 3 are offered in several different performance trim levels that introduce additional standard features, range, and overall performance. In total, the i4 is offered in 4 different trim levels, while the Model 3 is offered in 3.
BMW i4 Trim Levels
The four BMW i4 trim levels are called the eDrive35, eDrive40, xDrive40, and M50. With more options to choose from, the BMW i4 provides more variety than the Model 3. However, the first few i4 trim levels are pretty comparable to the base Model 3 trim levels. As is the norm with BMW nomenclature, all of the eDrive models represent rear-wheel drive options, while all of the xDrive models represent all-wheel drive models.
The i4 eDrive35 is the entry model into the i4 line and unsurprisingly comes equipped with the lowest output 66 kWh battery, the least standard features, and the shortest range. It is also rear-wheel drive, so it might not be the best option for those that live in fluid climates.
The next step up is the i4 eDrive40, which introduces a larger 81 kWh battery, more horsepower, and more range. Following that is the i4 xDrive40, which features the same overall equipment as the eDrive40 but adds an additional front motor and BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system to the mix.
The final trim is the beastly i4 M50. The i4 M50 is quite the step up from either of the prior models, with an $8,000 discrepancy between it and the xDrive40. However, that money is going towards pure performance. The M50 is the M-variant of the i4, equipped with 536 horsepower supplied by both the front and rear wheels. We’ll talk more about the M50’s performance in a later section.
Most i4 buyers will find a nice middle ground in the eDrive40, given that you can live without all-wheel drive. With a base price of $58,295 and a respectable 301 miles of range, the eDrive40 is our recommendation for the best i4 trim level.
Tesla Model 3 Trim Levels
Tesla used a less clinical naming scheme for the Model 3 variants, with the three models called the Rear Wheel Drive, Long Range, and Performance. In the Tesla lineup, expectedly, the Rear Wheel Drive model is exactly that: rear-wheel drive. All of the other models are powered by two electric motors, driving both the front and rear axles.
The Model 3 Rear Wheel Drive is a very tempting option, given that it is insanely affordable with its $40,240 MSRP. The Model 3 RWD also puts some respectable figures on the board, providing 272 miles of range and a 5.8 second 0-60 time. However, it also has the smallest battery on this list and the least power.
Moving on from there, the next Model 3 tier is the Model 3 Long Range, which was specially designed to accomplish what its name entails, and extend the drivable range of the base Model 3. With a larger 82 kWh battery, the Long Range ups the distance that you can cover on one charge to 333 miles. That makes it one of the furthest-range EVs currently on the market.
Rounding out the Model 3 lineup is the Model 3 Performance and there’s certainly no shortage of it here. With 450 horsepower on tap from a dual-motor all-wheel drive system, the Model 3 Performance can catapult itself from 0-60mph in 3.1 seconds. It doesn’t sacrifice much range doing so either, as it can still take you 315 miles on a single charge.
The Model 3 Long Range is our no-brainer pick when it comes to Model 3 trims. Range anxiety is very real, so it only makes sense to go with one of the longest-range EVs on the market. Its inclusion of AWD doesn’t hurt either.
BMW i4 vs Tesla Model 3 Interior
Ultimately, the i4 and Tesla Model 3 have very different approaches to interior design. If we’re being honest, Tesla’s build quality has never been anything to write home about. As a result, interior design is definitely an area where the i4 shines.
Tesla Model 3 Interior
In terms of the overall look of both interiors, it is clear that Tesla took a far more minimalist approach. Upon stepping into a Model 3, you’ll notice one thing, there isn’t much in there. The main standout feature of the Model 3’s interior is the massive 15.4” touchscreen mounted centrally on the dash between the driver and passenger. We’ll go into further detail about the screen later, but it acts as the central control hub for nearly all of the Model 3’s features.
Other than the screen, there is seating for 4 normal-sized adults and an additional seat for someone to squeeze into. Inferior build materials are truly what let the Model 3 down in the interior department. That isn’t particularly surprising, given that the base model Model 3’s MSRP is over $13,000 less than the i4’s base model. As a result, the Model 3’s interior materials are good but not premium. Many Model 3 owners have complained about their vegan leather seats and steering wheels degrading quickly, especially when exposed to heat.
BMW i4 Interior
It’s no secret that BMW has been killing the interior game for quite some time now and the i4 is no exception. As with most of the current BMW lineup, the i4’s interior is a true representation of luxury, complete with leather seats, a new 14.9” wraparound display, brushed aluminum accents, and satisfying tactile buttons. The i4 shares almost all of its interior details with the gas-powered BMW 4-Series, which has been praised for its attention to detail as far as its interior design is concerned.
Like the Tesla Model 3, the i4 has ample seating for four adults, and a central seat in the rear is really only suited for a kid. The coupe-like roofline can be a bit challenging for taller rear passengers, providing only 36.6 inches of headroom. Most of the i4’s additional length goes towards supplying the massive trunk with more space. The i4 has 16.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind its rear seats and 45.6 cubic feet of total cargo volume with the rear seats folded down, which is more than plenty for an EV coupe.
BMW i4 vs Tesla Model 3 Exterior Styling
Obviously, exterior styling is completely subjective, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t an important factor in choosing between the BMW i4 and the Tesla Model 3. Both cars stick to the overall styling mantras of their respective manufacturers.
Whether you like it or not, the i4 aligns with BMW’s most recent styling ideology. In fact, its visual appearance is nearly identical to the new gasoline-powered BMW 4-Series on which it is based. That is great news for some and terrible news for others, as the redesigned 4-Series (released in 2021), was quite polarizing. The i4 features the gaping kidney grilles that have been so commonly debated over the past couple of years. Outside of the front facia, the i4 is nearly identical to the 4-Series Gran Coupe, complete with four doors and a hatchback.
While BMW’s design language is unquestionably more iconic, Tesla has built up quite a bit of brand recognition in recent years as well. The Model 3 is immediately recognizable as a Tesla thanks to its bug-eyed headlights and uninterrupted glass roofline. While the i4’s front grilles are the most notable feature of its exterior design, in contrast, the Model 3 doesn’t feature any air inlets at all. Ultimately, the Model 3 is the safer, if not more predictable, choice from an exterior design perspective.
Both cars are pretty comparable in terms of exterior dimensions. The i4 is the longer car by a significant margin, coming in at 189” compared to the Model 3’s 184.8”. While the i4 is the longer car, the Model 3 is the (much) taller car at a towering 73.” While height isn’t a huge factor, it does make the Model 3 look a bit out of proportion.
BMW i4 vs Tesla Model 3 Performance
Performance can be defined in a couple of ways with the Model 3 excelling in some areas and the i4 taking the cake in others. Let’s look at pure acceleration and 0-60 times first, as that always seems to be the aspect of interest as far as EV performance is concerned. Then we’ll move onto the arguably more important topic of handling and on-road comfort.
i4 vs Model 3 0-60 Times
At the lower end of the trim-level totem pole, the i4 and Model 3 are pretty evenly matched, with both the i4 and Model 3 RWD accelerating to 60mph in 5.8 seconds. Moving up a tier, the Model 3 has a clear advantage. In comparison to the i4 eDrive40’s 5.4 second 0-60, the Model 3 Long Range will get there 1.2 seconds faster at 4.2 seconds. That’s a pretty serious discrepancy. While 5.4 seconds is quick, 4.2 seconds is downright fast.
After the second tier of both the i4 and Model 3, things start to get truly serious. Since the i4 has four tiers while the Model 3 only has three trim levels, there is no direct comparison to the i4 xDrive40. With that being said, the xDrive40 still doesn’t provide an answer to the Long Range.
However, moving on to the highest tier of both models, we see some pretty neck-breaking performance. The highest-tier 536 horsepower i4 M50 has a 0-60 time of 3.3 seconds, which is 0.5 seconds faster than a non-xDrive 2023 M3 Competition. In fact, there are truly only a handful of cars on sale today that can match that kind of performance. While the i4 M50 is unquestionably impressive, the Model 3 Performance tops it with a nearly incomprehensible 3.1 second 0-60 time. To put that in perspective, the Model 3 Performance is 0.1 seconds faster to 60mph than a Ferrari Enzo.
While you won’t likely be bringing either of these cars to the drag strip anytime soon, it is still a fun metric to measure. Ultimately the Model 3 wins out here, which shouldn’t be too surprising given Tesla’s reputation for being quick off the line.
i4 vs Model 3 Handling and Comfort
With the not-so-practical performance benchmark out of the way, let’s talk about a performance aspect that you will notice on the day-to-day. Handling isn’t just a characteristic that you notice on the racetrack, it is something that impacts the driving experience as a whole. And, it should be no surprise that BMW truly knows what they are doing in that department. While Tesla might have the edge in terms of battery technology, they don’t have anywhere near the same pedigree when it comes to building a well-performing car around it.
The i4 comes with the chassis dynamics that you’d expect from a modern BMW. Due to the i4’s lower overall height, its center of gravity is kept as low as possible, benefiting turn-in performance and overall cornering ability. Both the eDrive40 and xDrive40 can be fitted with optional M-Adaptive suspension, increasing stiffness in Sport mode for enhanced handling characteristics. It is important to note that the i4 is a heavy car, weighing in at over 4,685 lbs. While the i4 isn’t a slouch around the bends, the weight truly does hamper it quite a bit.
In comparison, the Model 3 is lighter but doesn’t have the same type of build quality where it matters. Like the i4, the Model 3 was designed with good weight distribution in mind, with floor-mounted batteries keeping the center of gravity low. However, that aspect is betrayed a bit by the Model 3’s overall height. Most people agree that the Model 3’s steering is heavy but relatively accurate.
BMW’s build quality wins out here as far as overall drivability and comfort and concerned. The i4’s superior build quality makes its driving experience quieter, smoother, and more enjoyable overall.
BMW i4 vs Tesla Model 3 Range
With any EV, range is typically one of the first points of consideration for most buyers. While BMW is getting there with their battery technology, there’s no question that Tesla has had the leg up on that front for a while.
Comparing the base models of both the i4 and Tesla Model 3, the Model 3 Rear Wheel Drive out-extends the i4 eDrive35 by 16 miles, bringing its total range to 272 miles. That is especially impressive considering that the Tesla uses a smaller battery. The story is the same with the Tesla Model 3 Long Range and Model 3 Performance, which both out-range the i4 in both eDrive40 and xDrive40 trim levels.
The Model 3 Long Range, expectedly, has the furthest range capabilities, able to travel 333 miles on a single charge. In comparison, the i4’s longest-range model is the xDrive40, with an EPA-estimated range of 307 miles. The Tesla’s 26 additional miles of range might be a selling point for some and a non-issue for others.
If long-range travel is one of the most important factors in picking between the i4 and Model 3, it is hard to argue with the Tesla’s superior range. The Model 3 is capable of traveling further on a charge, albeit by a slim margin, throughout the entire range of trims of both vehicles. A lot of that has to do with Tesla’s experience with battery technology, BMW is still playing catchup a bit in that regard.
BMW i4 vs Tesla Model 3 Pricing
When looking for a new car, pricing is unquestionably somewhere near the top of the decision-making hierarchy for most people. That certainly applies here. There’s no getting around the fact that the Tesla Model 3 is the more affordable option. With a base price of $40,240, the Model 3 RWD is nearly $13,000 cheaper than the corresponding BMW i4 eDrive35 with a base MSRP of $53,195. With that being said, that additional cost is certainly delivered in the i4’s build quality and overall fit and finish.
The price gap decreases somewhat when looking at the middle trims of both models. The Model 3 Long Range is still around $10,000 less expensive than the i4 eDrive40, but the discrepancy isn’t quite as extreme. The i4 M50 is where things get truly costly, with a base MSRP of $70,695, which is nearly $10,000 more than the i4 xDrive40 that precedes it in the model lineup. While that might seem like a steep jump, it makes sense given the M-treatment that the M50 received.
BMW i4 vs Tesla Model 3 Technology and Infotainment
When it comes to onboard technology, there’s no question that both the BMW i4 and Tesla Model 3 come well-equipped.
To start, both models feature large infotainment screens. The i4 features a panoramic 12.3-inch driver information screen seamlessly combined with a 14.9-inch screen that arcs around the driver. Running the new iDrive 8 operating software, the i4’s screen is instantly responsive and can be navigated via touch or an array of tactile buttons. In contrast, the Model 3 has a single centrally-mounted 15” touchscreen display. All of the Model 3’s features are controlled through the screen. Unlike the i4, there are no tactile buttons present to navigate the Model 3’s screen.
This section wouldn’t be complete without a discussion about the advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) that are present in both the i4 and Model 3. BMW has been working on their adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, lane-change assistance, automatic emergency braking, and collision-avoidance assist systems for a while and all of them are available on the i4 via the Driving Assistance Professional Package.
Obviously, Tesla’s Autopilot ADAS is one of the most talked-about features of any modern car on the market. And that is for good reason. The Model 3’s standard Autopilot feature steers, accelerates, and brakes automatically within the vehicle’s current lane. In the optional Enhanced Autopilot package, the Model 3 is equipped with automatic lane-change and automatic navigation with semi-autonomous driving from on-ramp to off-ramp on highways. Full Self Driving Capabilities is a separate package of its own.
BMW i4 vs Tesla Model 3 Verdict
With the current EV trend in full swing, it is worth taking an in-depth look at the options on the market currently. When electric vehicles enter the conversation, Tesla is usually the manufacturer that is talked about first, as they truly did beat everyone else to the punch. With that being said, BMW has been involved in the mass-produced EV scene since 2013 with the promising but underappreciated i3. In the current day, BMW is ramping up their EV fleet with new additions, like the i4, to compete with Tesla’s heavy hitters like the Model 3.
At the end of the day, the decision between the Model 3 and the i4 is an emotional one. In many ways, Tesla still has the edge when it comes to electric vehicles, from superior range to a lower entry price, and superior straight-line performance. However, the i4 provides a more premium experience overall. As is typical with all BMWs, superior build quality and attention to detail are what set the i4 apart from the Model 3. While the Model 3 might have the upper hand in a few key areas of EV ownership, only the i4 can truly be called a luxury EV in a straight comparison between the two.
BMW i4 vs Tesla Model 3 FAQ
Is the Tesla Model 3 better than the BMW i4?
This is obviously a subjective question and truly depends on what you value and expect from a car. In most respects, BMW is still playing catchup in a few aspects of EV development. As a result, the Model 3 has superior range capabilities, better straight-line speed, and a lower overall purchase price. With that being said, the i4 delivers everything that you would expect from a BMW, complete with superior build quality, dialed chassis dynamics, and iconic BMW styling.
Is the BMW i4 selling well?
There is little doubt that the BMW i4 is one of the most popular luxury EVs on the market currently. While BMW doesn’t release sales figures by model, Frank van Meel (CEO of BMW M GmbH), has confirmed that the BMW i4 M50 was the best-selling M car in 2022. That’s pretty impressive considering all of the fantastic M models on sale today. With BMW selling 89,750 in Q1 of 2023, it’s safe to day that the i4 accounted for a significant portion of that.
Does the BMW i4 or the Tesla Model 3 have more range?
When it comes to range, the Tesla beats the i4 slightly. Looking at the entry models of both cars, the Tesla Model 3 RWD overextends the i4 by 16 miles. Moving up the model range, the Model 3 Long Range convincingly beats both the i4 eDrive40 and xDrive40 with a range of 333 miles compared to 301 miles and 307 miles respectively. Looking at the performance models, the Model 3 Performance has better range than the i4 M50 by 8 miles.