can the BMW i4 counter the Tesla Model 3?

On the one hand, an apparent sobriety. On the other, a more aggressive look that lets you imagine the growl of a powerful heat engine. It’s hard to imagine from the outset what a duel between these 2 100% electric sedans will give.

Long alone in the premium electric sedan segment, the Tesla Model 3 is gradually being joined by the competition. At BMW, it is the new i4 which acts as a challenger. Can it object to the segment reference? Elements of response in this comparison which opposes the two basic versions of each model.

Configured in propulsion, the two cars chosen for our duel were thus equipped with the simplest architecture. On the one hand, we had a Tesla Model 3 from the end of the year 2021, equipped with the new battery, but keeping its old 239 kW motor with variable reluctance (202 kW of maximum power available, for a torque of 420 Nm). A ” Unicorn » which had the only option of its metallic ultramarine blue paint, billable at 1,190 euros.

Opposite her, in red (Individual Aventurinrot metallic: +2,150 euros), a BMW i4 eDrive40 in M ​​Sport finish (+3,650 euros compared to the entry level). It also has a wound-rotor synchronous motor (250 kW, 430 Nm of torque) between the rear wheels.

The 2 electric sedans being compared integrate their battery into the floor. The pack has more capacity on the BMW i4: 83.9 kWh in total for 80.7 kWh accessible, against 60/57 kWh for the Tesla car.

Dimensions and trunk: practical advantage for the BMW i4

With an identical width of 1.85 m, and a similar height (1.44 vs 1.45 m), the BMW is longer: 4.78 m against 4.69 m. And yet the latter is initially much less generous in terms of the trunk: 470 liters, against 561 l on the Tesla benefiting from the deep double bottom, to which are added the 88 l of the frunk.

Note that a major difference between the 2 cars affects access to the storage space. The Model 3 is a 4-door trunk-lid type. The German has a much more practical tailgate, especially for dislodging luggage or shopping bags leaning against the bench seat.

The backrest of the latter can be folded down in 3 parts, to open onto a loading space raised to 1,290 l. On the American, it is also possible to rotate the backrest. But the total space offered is somehow divided into 2 areas.

Rear seat comfort

A slightly shorter wheelbase of almost 2 cm (2.856 against 2.875 m) does not prevent the BMW i4 from treating its 2 main passengers well in the rear in terms of legroom. The finish is neat, 2 USB-C sockets are accessible and there is plenty of storage. On the other hand, the bench seat is firm, the central service tunnel does not help to accommodate a third occupant, and the limited headroom will not satisfy people over 1.80 m.

The Tesla is much more welcoming. The panoramic glass roof brings both height and light on board. With a perfectly flat floor, 3 adults are comfortable on the bench seat. If the latter is less well designed than in the i4 eDrive40, with files that are a little too straight, and a seat that is too low, its softness is much more pleasant. In addition, the 3 seats are heated as standard.

In the driver’s seat in the BMW i4…

At the front of the BMW i4, the driver will inevitably be seduced by an impeccable presentation made in Germany. Seals, assembly of materials, and foamed knee rests contribute a lot to this strong impression.

Unlike the one sitting at the wheel of the Model 3, he has a real counter in front of him. Its digital display makes it very readable. It is extended on the right by a large touchscreen tablet compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. This equipment is capable of simultaneously offering 3 or 4 distinct spaces. For example for GPS navigation, smartphone, other devices connected via Bluetooth, etc.

On the German, nothing can be the subject of an option. Thus, on the model of our duel: the induction charging of mobile phones (+ 250 euros), the glass roof (+ 1,450 euros), the leather upholstery (+ 1,600, but can go up to 4,400 euros), the electric adjustments of the front seats with memory for the driver (+ 1,250 euros), heating of the 2 seats and 2 backrests (+ 400 euros or comfort pack at 1,000 euros which also allows you to benefit from the hands-free key).

While all this is standard in the Tesla “, emphasizes Maxime Fontanier.

… then in the Tesla Model 3

Going from the German electric sedan to the American, what immediately jumps out at you is a much more streamlined appearance. A lower quality of manufacture does not prevent the Model 3 from offering a very neat presentation, and much more generous storage.

Very comfortable, the faux leather upholstery compatible with the vegan current is also very well made. The very easy-to-use touch screen is a real plus for the driver. It offers internet access, video games, quick access to Netflix and YouTube, etc. Continuous updates keep Tesla evolving.

It’s less sporty, a little less rigorous, but much more open, much brighter, and much more practical. “says our tester.

First spins

For maneuvers in town, the driver of the Tesla Model 3 can count on 3 video views visible on the large screen. Two are dedicated to blind spots. For comparison, the BMW i4 eDrive40 only offers the return of a single camera, but better marked radar marks.

In addition, its variable-reduction steering (optional with the electronically controlled suspension; +650 euros) appears heavier, no doubt due to a larger steering wheel with thick rims. Its turning radius is also greater: 12.5 m, against 11.6 m for the American.

The latter proposes to set the hardness of the direction, while offering in all cases a greater feeling of lightness and maneuverability. On the other hand, its suspension is firmer than on the German, and there is only one retarding power with regeneration. Its large glazed surface also offers good general visibility to the outside.

The driver will feel more stuck in the seats of the BMW i4 which appears more sporty, as our first accelerations will show.

On the road: a lighter and more dynamic Model 3

On a winding and wet road, the more than 350 additional kilos on the scale handicap the BMW i4 eDrive40 against the Tesla Model 3. “ You can feel it right away in the front axle which fits less easily, and the car tends to widen the trajectory naturally “, abounds Maxime Fontanier.

The good bite of the M Sport brakes (+ 750 euros) becomes relative in front of a Tesla Model 3 which stops shorter. In this setting, the German delights its pilot with its very precise steering, its fairly lively chassis, a behavior that can be modified thanks to the different driving modes, and an ease in bringing down the 0 to 100 km / h in 5.7 seconds against 6.1 s for the Model 3.

The American, however, surprises against the i4 with its well-calibrated steering, its very good ability to link turns, and the good support of the body provided by the upholstery.

Even though the BMW is a little better made, will generate a little less noise, will be a little better damped, it can’t compete against the Tesla due to its weight “says our tester.

Similar autonomy

On the highway, the Tesla Model 3 shows its strengths and weaknesses. Among these, the absence of a counter behind the steering wheel which requires you to regularly turn your head towards the tablet to know the instantaneous speed, the management of the windscreen wipers, and the untimely disconnections of the active cruise control.

Compared to the BMW i4 eDrive40, the American offers a better top speed (225 against 190 km/h), and lower consumption of around 5 kWh/100 km. ” On the highway at 130 km/h, you can get by at 18-19 kWh/100 km thanks to its variable reluctance motor, but also to its data, and to Tesla’s experience in battery management. “, figures our tester.

Result: Despite a much larger battery capacity on the German, the range will be quite similar on the 2 cars, between 300 and 400 km depending on use. Worse: despite a charging power of 205 kW, against 170 kW on the entry-level Model 3, the time spent at the terminal will be shorter by around 5 minutes with the American.

Traction is also less good on the BMW in the event of heavy load on the accelerator. But it is quieter in terms of air and rolling noise. Note that with it, the accelerations are accompanied by electronic sound effects.

Prices: a much more affordable Tesla Model 3

There is a very big difference between our 2 rivals », warns our tester. The entry-level Tesla Model 3 is currently available at 43,800 euros, or less than 45,000 euros, even with its optional metallic paint. By deducting the 6,000 euros from the government bonus, the amount of the check to be made to afford the tested copy comes to 38,990 euros. Unbeatable in terms of performance and features of the model.

At entry level, the BMW i4 eDrive40 is much more expensive. It starts at 59,700 euros, which deprives it of the maximum ecological bonus. To compete with features and equipment at least on the same level as on the Model 3, it would be necessary to add the approximately 20,000 euros of options which result in the model at our disposal. In this case, we are close to 80,000 euros…


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