The Tesla Model S is the original cool electric car. It did away with the concept that EVs had to be nerdy, small, low-range cars — and instead offered a sleek and stylish design, as well as a modern interior. But over the years, a ton of competition has popped up, and these days, the Model S has to go up against some seriously great cars.
Like, for example, the BMW i4.
BMW has been firing on all cylinders when it comes to electric cars, and now offers a range of options. The BMW i4 is BMW’s most affordable electric car right now, starting at $52,200, but it still offers everything you would expect from a BMW experience — including a luxurious interior that kind of puts the Model S to shame. That’s right, the BMW i4 may cost tens of thousands of dollars less than the Model S, but if you want luxury, it’s a better choice.
It’s all about the inside
Of course, the experience of luxury in a car really has almost nothing to do with the exterior of a car — it’s all about what’s on the inside.
The Tesla Model S has far from an ugly interior. In fact, the interior of the Model S is actually quite nice. It has a big display at the front for infotainment, with a smaller instrument display ahead of the steering wheel. It comes in three interior colors — black, black-and-white, and cream.
The Model S does indeed look premium. But Tesla still has some work to do.
The BMW i4 eDrive40’s interior is a lot busier. There are more buttons and controls, which may look a little less modern, but it makes things a lot easier to actually use. More importantly, the car has plush leather upholstery throughout, and it’s not only very comfortable, but clearly quite durable too. The i4 also has a light wood trim, which also looks pretty good — along with the black-and-white color-scheme.
I’ll be the first to admit that much of this is down to personal preference, and to be fair, the tech in the Model S is certainly better, both from a hardware and a software perspective. The Model S has a bigger screen, with a much better infotainment system. But BMW has decades of experience in building high-end, premium interiors for cars, and it shows.
Comparing the BMW i4 and the Model S highlights some more general trends in the industry. Tesla went all-in on minimalism, and there’s a place for that. But I think it goes a little too far. The result of everything moving into the screen is that it makes things harder to control, which can in turn be dangerous.
Other companies are struggling to figure out if going as minimalistic as Tesla is the right choice for them. Some have moved things like climate controls into the screen, but kept seat adjustments separate. Others, like BMW, have kept pretty much every control out of the screen, only using it for maps and audio controls. That, I think, isn’t quite far enough.
For me, a good rule of thumb is that any control that you use almost every time you drive your car, like climate controls, deserves its own space. Controls that you only really use every now and then can be moved into the infotainment screen. Neither BMW or Tesla have perfected that — in fact, very few companies have.
So far, I’ve avoided having to say whether or not the BMW i4 or the Tesla Model S is actually better — I’ve just said that the i4 is more luxurious. The Model S, however, does still justify being a more expensive car. It’s ultimately a bit better of an option.
There are a few reasons for this. For starters, it has a better range and charges faster than the BMW i4. Not only that, but the infotainment system is much better, and it has a little more space. It’s generally a better car, as an EV.
Still, if you’re looking for a luxurious sedan and don’t want to spend Model S kind of money, then the BMW i4 is an excellent option — and easily one of the best electric sedans in its price range.
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