BMW i4 M50 vs Tesla Model 3 Performance: finally an answer to the height?

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.

Faced with the soft lines of the Model 3, the i4 displays a much more aggressive design, especially in this M50 version.
The Performance version of the Model 3 emphasizes its sportiness with 20-inch turbine rims and red brake calipers.
The Performance version of the Model 3 emphasizes its sportiness with 20-inch turbine rims and red brake calipers.

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).

At nearly 4.80 long, the i4 is the most imposing.
At nearly 4.80 long, the i4 is the most imposing.
In a more compact size, the Model 3 manages to offer a more spacious interior.
In a more compact size, the Model 3 manages to offer a more spacious interior.

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 interior will not disorient regulars of the brand.  The new digital panel and the disappearance of physical keys play with modernity.  The build quality is top notch.
The interior will not disorient regulars of the brand. The new digital panel and the disappearance of physical keys play with modernity. The build quality is top notch.
The Tesla environment is apart, stripped down but rather well thought out.  A unique layout that should not overshadow some disappointing finishing details.
The Tesla environment is apart, stripped down but rather well thought out. A unique layout that should not overshadow some disappointing finishing details.

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.

Despite its comfortable length, the i4 imposes in rather cramped rear seats, and access is narrow.  The transmission tunnel interferes with the middle seat.
Despite its comfortable length, the i4 imposes in rather cramped rear seats, and access is narrow. The transmission tunnel interferes with the middle seat.
Flat floor, wide opening, sufficient space and comfortable bench seat make the second row very popular in this Model 3.
Flat floor, wide opening, sufficient space and comfortable bench seat make the second row very popular in this Model 3.

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.

The trunk volume is a little less generous in the i4, but the large opening allowed by the tailgate makes loading easier.
The trunk volume is a little less generous in the i4, but the large opening allowed by the tailgate makes loading easier.
Substantial volume, wide and deep hold, substantial storage under the floor.  It's almost flawless, but this trunk is still less practical on a daily basis.
Substantial volume, wide and deep hold, substantial storage under the floor. It’s almost flawless, but this trunk is still less practical on a daily basis.

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.

The heated steering wheel is optional, while it is standard in the Model 3.
The heated steering wheel is optional, while it is standard in the Model 3.
The new multimedia system is well thought out and well designed.  However, some commands remain tedious to carry out (deactivate lane keeping assistance).
The new multimedia system is well thought out and well designed. However, some commands remain tedious to carry out (deactivate lane keeping assistance).
The interior layout is rather classic.  Touches of blue recall the engine of this electric i4.
The interior layout is rather classic. Touches of blue recall the engine of this electric i4.

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.

The knobs on the steering wheel are also used to adjust the mirrors and the steering column.
The knobs on the steering wheel are also used to adjust the mirrors and the steering column.
Tesla's infotainment system is well thought out, intuitive and efficient.  The level of entertainment is second to none (Netflix, Youtube, etc.).
Tesla’s infotainment system is well thought out, intuitive and efficient. The level of entertainment is second to none (Netflix, Youtube, etc.).
The sleek layout frees up plenty of storage space.
The sleek layout frees up plenty of storage space.

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).

Comparison - BMW i4 M50 vs Tesla Model 3 Performance: finally an answer to the height?

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