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BMW i3 versus Tesla Model S electric car comparison

The Tesla Model S, left, starts at $69,900,

The Tesla Model S, left, starts at $69,900, while the BMW i3 starts at $41,350. Credit: Tesla, BMW

BMW unveiled the production model of its much-anticipated all-electric car July 29. The car immediately elicited comparisons to the Tesla Model S, which is seen as the current leader for luxury electric cars.

Here's a side-by-side look at some of the specs.

  Tesla Model S BMW i3
Price: $69,900 (base) $41,350
Range: 230 miles 80 to 100 miles
Top Speed: 120 mph 93 mph
0 to 60 mph: 5.9 seconds 7.2 seconds
Horsepower: 302 170
Torque: 317 lb.-ft. 184 lb.-ft.
Weight: 2,700 lbs. 4,647.3 lbs.
Wheels: 19 inches 19 inches
Cargo volume: 31.6 cubic feet N/A

It's pretty clear that comparing the two vehicles is a futile cause. The i3 is substantially smaller than the Model S (see a photo of the interior to the right), is far less powerful and possesses a more limited range. It also costs almost 41 percent less.

By all indications, BMW is well-aware of these apparent shortcomings and is therefore marketing its electric entry as a secondary vehicle. In fact, the automaker has announced plans to offer i3 buyers the option (at an additional cost) of using a BMW SUV as an alternate vehicle for more serious trips.

While only time will tell whether this strategy yields sales, it will likely allow BMW to avoid the public spats in which Tesla chief executive Elon Musk regularly engages to defend his vehicle as a viable go-to car.

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