2024 BMW i5 vs. 2023 Tesla Model S: Should Non-Plaid Buyers Consider the i5 M60 xDrive?

Tesla's stronghold has come under fire the moment other luxury carmakers launched their electric vehicles. After BMW i4 tried (but ultimately failed) to give the Tesla Model 3 a run for its money, the Bavarians are taking another crack at it with the eighth generation 5 Series, for the first time in an all-electric guise. Will the BMW i5 be more successful against the Model S than its brother i4 was against the Model 3?
2024 BMW i5 vs. 2023 Tesla Model S 14 photos
Photo: BMW, Tesla | collage
BMW i5 vs Tesla Model SBMW i5 vs Tesla Model SBMW i5 vs Tesla Model SBMW i5BMW i5BMW i5BMW i5BMW i5Tesla Model STesla Model STesla Model STesla Model STesla Model S
German luxury carmakers used to play in a league on their own, unchallenged as the apex predators of the automotive world. Things have started to change, and Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and BMW are increasingly threatened by Japanese, American, and, lately, Korean carmakers. Although targeting similar demographics, Tesla has been in between worlds, with high prices and feature-packed models but lower quality materials and a sometimes disappointing fit and finish. Still, Tesla has been constantly expanding its niche, reaching the top of its own food chain.

The class conflict will only get bloodier with electric vehicles becoming more widespread. Established carmakers are trying to eat Tesla's breakfast, but none are as eager to succeed in the EV market as the German three. While Audi is still behind with its EV program, courtesy of Cariad, BMW and Mercedes-Benz sprung ahead in the race, challenging Tesla on its own turf. Unlike Mercedes-Benz, which established a new brand (EQ) to spearhead its electrification efforts, BMW thinks that EV or non-EV, all cars should be equal. That's why the all-electric BMW i5 looks no different than the mundane 5 Series Sedan.

BMW i5 vs. Tesla Model S: The warm-up

The problem with BMW's approach is that form usually follows function, which is crucial in the EV arena. Unless the gas-powered 5 Series can be as aerodynamically efficient as an EV, the i5 suffers. And this seems to be indeed the case because the BMW i5 doesn't shine in the range department. Even in its longest-range, single-motor variant i5 eDrive40, the German only targets a 295-mile EPA range, which is disappointing. But let's not be overly pessimistic before analyzing all the BMW i5's assets in a head-to-head comparison with its nemesis, the Tesla Model S.

BMW i5 vs Tesla Model S
Photo: BMW, Tesla
Looking at the technical specifications, it appears that BMW took a knife to a gunfight. Even the most powerful variant, the i5 M60 xDrive, looks underpowered compared to the Model S's less powerful variant, the non-Plaid Dual Motor. The M Performance Bimmer flexes 590 horsepower and brags about 3.7 seconds for its 0-60 efforts. The Model S has 670 horsepower, enough to cut the 0-60-mph (0-97-kph) time to 3.1 seconds. And if this is not enough, there's another horse in Tesla's stable, with 1,020 horsepower and a 0-60 time of 1.9 seconds.

Conversely, BMW places its bets on the i5 eDrive40, with only 335 horsepower. It might not be powerful, but it's certainly more affordable, starting at $67,795. This is more than $20K below the Model S. By now, you've guessed that the only reasonable comparison is between the i5's sportiest version and Tesla's weakest, so let's see how they fare, chapter by chapter. Let the fight begin.

Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder

We won't give you a beauty contest because everyone has their own ideas about what's beautiful. Still, it's hard not to notice that the Model S hasn't changed much in the past 20 years. That's a long time, no matter what Tesla and its chief designer Franz von Holzhausen think. On the plus side, the Model S is impossibly aerodynamic, with a Cd of 0,208, the lowest of any car when the refreshed variant debuted in 2021.

BMW i5 vs Tesla Model S
Photo: BMW, Tesla
On the other hand, BMW doesn't talk about i5 aerodynamics at all, although an entry in the car's specifications reveals that the M60 xDrive has a drag coefficient (Cd) of 0.25. As we've said earlier, BMW's approach to having the same design as the gas-powered 5 Series has consequences. The i5 loses hands down in this category.

On the other hand, we have to give BMW credit for the toned-down kidney grille, which contrasts with the abomination of the BMW i4. With its sharp, decisive lines, the Bavarian executive sedan looks like it wants to drink fresh blood. One thing's for sure: it's not gonna be Tesla's blood.

The efficiency champion doesn't speak German

Since we're talking electric vehicles here, efficiency is all that matters. Range anxiety is still a thing, and many would sacrifice other qualities for the peace of mind afforded by a long-range EV. Sadly, that isn't the case with the Bavarian EV, which will have to convince customers with other qualities. As we've mentioned earlier, the i5's range is rather disappointing.

The Bimmer has a smaller battery pack, at 84.3 kWh, compared to the 100-kWh of the Model S. Still, the i5 M60 xDrive can only go 256 miles (410 km) on a charge, according to the EPA rules. On the other hand, the Model S can reach destinations as far as 405 miles (650 km) with a full battery. If the BMW i5 had had the same efficiency as the Tesla, it should've presented a more respectable 340-mile (545 km) range. Likewise, a Tesla Model S would've gone only 305 miles (490 km) with the i5's disappointing efficiency.

Yes, but the German quality

It's hard not to argue that the BMW i5 has a nicer interior of the two. The Bavarians have a long tradition of building fine luxury vehicles, and the 5 Series/i5 is the pinnacle of the executive segment. A quick look inside the cockpit of the two cars, and you'll be making up your mind quickly unless you're a Tesla die-hard. The simplicity of the Model S cockpit is exaggerated to the point that you won't find a lever to switch gears or turn signals.

BMW i5 vs Tesla Model S
Photo: BMW, Tesla
Tesla's huge central screen seems more like an afterthought, although controlling the car's functions on it works like a charm. On the other hand, BMW offers a best-of-both-worlds approach, with screens and physical switchgear supporting each other for a seamless experience. Technology-wise, the Germans brag about their latest-generation assistance systems. As controversial as it may be, Tesla Autopilot is still a notch above, and the FSD Beta wipes the floor with BMW's Highway Assistant, even if it has an eye-controlled Active Lane Change Assistant.


Unless you consider the lush interior of the BMW i5 a must-have or you're a BMW fan, it's hard to consider the i5 for a $3,300 price advantage over Tesla Model S. The American electric sedan is a better EV and is backed by the ubiquity of the best charging network in the world. Certainly, it won't attract many Americans, although it might fare better in Europe, where the Tesla Model S is not a hit.

Still, both models face a shrinking customer base in their market segments, something that Tesla has already tried to avert with massive price cuts and compelling incentives. It shouldn't take long before BMW realizes it's a tough market, and the appeal of the German brand would not be enough to lure customers into buying the i5.
If you liked the article, please follow us:  Google News icon Google News Youtube Instagram X (Twitter)
About the author: Cristian Agatie
Cristian Agatie profile photo

After his childhood dream of becoming a "tractor operator" didn't pan out, Cristian turned to journalism, first in print and later moving to online media. His top interests are electric vehicles and new energy solutions.
Full profile


Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories