Premium builders have their work cut out for them. Having let an unrivaled Tesla Model 3 slip away on a European market in need of a 100% electric sedan, the Germans will have to race further to catch up. The Tesla surge does not seem to be slowing down, driven by relevant and innovative products. First to jump into this chase, BMW, which with its i4 becomes the first manufacturer to oppose a real alternative to the Model 3. This electrified 4 Series Gran Coupé therefore plays the same score of the family sedan of respectable size and rather slender line. Available in two versions, it opposes an eDrive40 to the Model 3 Grande Autonomie, and a spicier M50 to face a rather demonstrative Model 3 Performance. It is the latter that we are confronting here.
Practical aspects: the Model 3 benefits from a better layout
Outside as inside, the American and the German have very different approaches. The Model 3, 9 cm (4.69 m) shorter, likes soft curves and shapes, just underlined in this Performance version by impressive 20-inch turbine rims, red brake calipers and a discreet carbon fiber style spoiler on the trunk. Opposite, the i4 M50 is much more demonstrative with its sharp lines made even more aggressive by its large grille and its M Sport body pack (the only finish available on this version). The rims have the same diameter but are charged extra (see equipment).
On board, same difference in philosophy. If we no longer present the ultra-pure interior of the Model 3 which has more and more followers, the fact remains that this minimalist layout still has its little effect. A steering wheel flanked by two dials, a large horizontal central screen, and that’s about it. No physical control comes to pollute this visual environment for the less bare. By taking over the interior of the 4 Series, the i4 tries not to destabilize the regulars of the brand too much, even if some physical controls have disappeared in favor of tactile keys that are less easy to handle.
The i4 also inaugurated (along with the large iX SUV) the brand’s new infotainment system, taking place in two large juxtaposed screens facing the driver. Of high quality, these digital tiles, readable and benefiting from more chiadé graphics than on board the Tesla require time to adapt. Just like on board the American. But once these two systems have been tamed, Tesla’s proves to be the most intuitive because it has prioritized functionality over design.
As for the space inside, the i4 must deal with a platform also used for thermal vehicles. The layout is therefore not as optimized as on board the Tesla. This is evidenced by more restricted access to the rear seats and a less welcoming bench seat for tall people. The transmission tunnel is still there, causing discomfort for the occupants. None of this on board the Model 3, which has more generous armholes, even if the very low seat does not offer ideal comfort. The German catches up on the safe side. If the latter displays a less substantial volume (460 l against 561), its tailgate makes it much more practical to load, and can help out in the event of a large object to be transported. This is not the case of the Model 3, which requires some contortions to fetch objects from the bottom of its deep hold. Small detail well thought out for the Tesla: its front trunk of 90 l allowing to store the charging cables there for example.
Equipment: the i4 remains a German…
In this highest Performance version, the Tesla Model 3 is displayed at €62,990. The American is therefore not entitled to any bonus, but knows how to compensate with very rich standard equipment. It’s simple, at Tesla, there are only three options: metallic paint at €1,190, an improved Autopilot at €3,800 (semi-autonomous driving mode on GPS navigation, automatic parking, smart exit, etc. .), and, for later, an autonomous driving mode in town that can be activated via an update, after a payment of 7,500 €… So here we are with a Model 3 Performance fully equipped for “only” 67 €980. An excellent deal when you take the time to examine the offer of the i4 M50.
This sports version of the electric sedan is not available for less than €73,750. Except that in good German, this already hefty price does not include the superb 20-inch rims of our test model (€2,650), nor the electric and heated sports seats (€2,650 also), nor the mode of Drive Assist semi-autonomous driving (€900). Add to that some pettiness such as the driver’s side lumbar support charged at €160, induction charging at €250, heated steering wheel at €270, adaptive cruise control at €550, automated parking space assistance at €550… and you get a properly equipped i4 M50 for over €88,000. It’s almost 20,000 € difference compared to a Model 3 Performance similarly endowed. If the German tries to justify it with its more prestigious coat of arms, the fact remains that its pure electric car services do not plead in its favor.
Budget: simplified refills – and cheaper? – at Tesla
Much more expensive to buy, the i4 M50 will also not be the most economical to charge, at least on fast charging stations. On the Ionity network, the BMW i4 will cost you 30 cents per minute, after subscription of 13 € per month. Time-based billing that makes the final amount of each recharge uncertain, as the power sent can vary greatly. At Tesla, the reading is simpler, since the supercharger network is integrated into the offer. The price per kWh varies depending on the region, but the average is around €0.40/KWh). There remain maintenance costs, which are difficult to assess at the moment. If the prices charged by BMW no longer hold any secrets for large wallets, the workshop prices at Tesla can also quickly climb. For the rest, it’s a draw, in a non-existent bonus at this price level and a 2-year warranty for each of the rivals (but limited to 80,000 km at Tesla).