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-upThe 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.
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 beholderWe 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.
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 GermanSince 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 qualityIt'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.
VerdictUnless 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.