2019 BMW i3 vs. 2019 Tesla Model S

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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The i3 has standard BMW Assist, which uses a global positioning satellite (GPS) receiver and a cellular system to remotely unlock your doors if you lock your keys in, help track down your vehicle if it’s stolen or send emergency personnel to the scene if any airbags deploy. The Model S doesn’t offer a GPS response system, only a navigation computer with no live response for emergencies, so if you’re involved in an accident and you’re incapacitated help may not come as quickly.

Both the i3 and the Model S have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available crash mitigating brakes and front parking sensors.


The i3’s corrosion warranty is 8 years and unlimited miles longer than the Model S’ (12/unlimited vs. 4/50,000).

BMW pays for scheduled maintenance on the i3 for 3 years and 36,000 miles. BMW will pay for oil changes, lubrication and any other required maintenance. Tesla doesn’t pay scheduled maintenance for the Model S.

There are over 5 times as many BMW dealers as there are Tesla dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the i3’s warranty.


A reliable vehicle saves its owner time, money and trouble. Nobody wants to be stranded or have to be without a vehicle while it’s being repaired. Consumer Reports rates the i3’s reliability 53 points higher than the Model S.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that BMW vehicles are more reliable than Tesla vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks BMW 19 places higher in reliability than Tesla.

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the i3 gets better fuel mileage than the Model S:









124 city/102 hwy




124 city/102 hwy

Model S




102 city/105 hwy




101 city/102 hwy




92 city/105 hwy

Brakes and Stopping

In an emergency stopping situation, many drivers don’t press the brakes with enough force to stop the vehicle in the shortest distance. The i3 has a standard Brake Assistant to detect emergency braking situations (by how hard and how quickly the brake pedal is pressed) and then automatically apply maximum braking immediately in order to help prevent a collision. The Model S doesn’t offer a brake assist feature.

The i3 stops much shorter than the Model S:



Model S


60 to 0 MPH

108 feet

124 feet

Motor Trend

Suspension and Handling

For better maneuverability, the i3’s turning circle is 4.6 feet tighter than the Model S’ (32.4 feet vs. 37 feet). The i3s’ turning circle is 3.2 feet tighter than the Model S’ (33.8 feet vs. 37 feet).


The BMW i3 may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 1650 to 1800 pounds less than the Tesla Model S.

The i3s is 3 feet, 1.9 inches shorter than the Model S, making the i3 easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

The i3 is 7.1 inches narrower on average than the Model S, making the i3 easier to handle and maneuver in traffic.

Passenger Space

The i3 has .8 inches more front headroom and 1.9 inches more rear headroom than the Model S.

Servicing Ease

A maintenance reminder system is standard on the i3 to save the owner time and money by calculating maintenance intervals based on actual driving conditions. This takes the guesswork out of keeping your vehicle in top condition and helps it last longer. Tesla doesn’t offer a maintenance reminder on the Model S.


If the windows are left open on the i3 the driver can close them all at the outside door handle. On a hot day the driver can lower the windows at the outside door handle or from a distance using the keyless remote. The driver of the Model S can only operate the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.

To improve rear visibility by keeping the rear window clear, the i3 has a standard rear wiper. The Model S doesn’t offer a rear wiper.

The i3’s standard side window demisters help clear frost or condensation from the side windows in the winter. The Model S doesn’t even offer side window demisters, so the driver may have to wipe the windows from the outside to gain side vision.

Economic Advantages

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the i3 is less expensive to operate than the Model S because typical repairs cost less on the i3 than the Model S, including $162 less for a water pump, $58 less for front brake pads and $74 less for front struts.


Consumer Reports® recommends the BMW i3, based on reliability, safety and performance. The Tesla Model S isn't recommended.

J.D. Power and Associates rated the i3 third among small premium cars in owner reported satisfaction. This includes how well the vehicle performs and satisfies its owner’s expectations. The Model S isn’t in the top three.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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