A Test of Tech: BMW 730d vs Tesla Model S P90D

7-series | April 10th, 2016 by 15
BMW 7 Series Tesla Model S 750x500

These two have been butting heads so much lately I almost feel like putting them both in timeout. Tesla and BMW have thrown verbal and …

These two have been butting heads so much lately I almost feel like putting them both in timeout. Tesla and BMW have thrown verbal and technological jabs at each other ever since BMW’s i Division launched the Bavarian brand into the EV game. But nowadays, it’s much less about electric vehicles, as anyone can do that, but about autonomy. Tesla broke new ground with its Autopilot system, so BMW’s 7 Series now also offers a similar setup. Because of this, Top Gear thought it a good idea to see whose system is best, Tesla’s Autopilot in the Model S P90D or the system used in the BMW 730d.

We’ve heard quite a lot about Tesla’s Autopilot system and I’ve personally voiced my concerns for the fact that Tesla and Elon Musk are literally beta testing with human lives. If Dewalt said they were beta testing a new circular saw that stops when it detects a hand is about to touch the spinning blade, would you try it out? Of course not, that’s madness, but it’s a good idea to beta test autonomous 5,000 lb machines that move at highway speed, right? But I digress, we won’t get into that lunacy now – especially since regulators said it’s safe – but we will talk about how its system function and works and how well Top Gear seemed to think it works in the real world. The good folks in England were able drive fourteen miles under full autonomy, using Autopilot, which is incredibly impressive. Tesla’s Autopilot system is capable of accelerating past the car in front when it changes out of its lane, maintain gaps and even change lanes on its own, after a simple press of the blinker stalk. And it’s only getting better, as the Model S is able to update its software OTA (Over The Air) on its own overnight.

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Tesla’s Autopilot system

But even more than the ability to drive autonomously is the graphics and information being displayed in a crystal clear and easy to read manner. Coming from Silicon Valley, that’s not at all surprising, as companies out there have been working on digital user interfaces forever now, so they’re a bit ahead of everyone else. So the Tesla’s screens and displays are much easier to use and understand than the BMW’s. This makes operating the Model S’ Autopilot system, and just the entire car in general, easier and faster.

On the flip side, The BMW 730d has a much different approach to its system. While there is no interference from the Autopilot system if the driver takes their hands off the wheel, the BMW system will yell at you for more than two seconds of hands-free driving. BMW wants the system to assist you, not replace you. It wants it to be a system that can keep the car in the lane and drive properly if, say, you drop you’re cell phone or wallet in between the seats and need to remove your hands from the wheel to get it. It’s not meant to be relied on. And that’s intentional, not a design fault or lack of technological capability. However, it still isn’t as impressive as Tesla’s Autopilot, although the technology is largely the same. It works well for the time that it allows you to use it, and is able to keep the car in its lane and drive autonomously, but it can only do so for too short of time periods to see if it can hang with the gang from Silicon Valley.

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The 730d also has a much less intuitive interface, in all aspects, on the inside. Its Gesture Control and touchscreen iDrive system are supposed to make things easier for the driver, however, the increase in screens and controls has only made things more convoluted and confusing. Personally, I wonder what the hell was wrong with a damn volume knob? The Model S can show the 730d a thing or two about simplicity of design. Hell, the Model S doesn’t even have a start/stop button. It simply turns on when you get in and turns off when you lock it. Easy peasy.

In terms of interior quality and refinement, though, there’s no contest. Tesla shows its small company nature, as the BMW 730d is miles ahead of the Model S, in terms of interior comfort, ride quality and luxury. While the Model S is quieter and seemingly more refined on the inside, thanks to its silent electric powetrain, the BMW 7 Series has it absolutely trumped when it comes to luxury, build quality and material quality. It’s a superb cabin, one that’s flat out better than the Model S’. Especially when you consider that, in this case at least, a loaded BMW 730d still costs less than the base price of the Model S P90D in the UK. So the 7 Series is by far the better value.


However, this test was about technology and autonomy, so luxury and value don’t really come into play. Admittedly, I fear for the day when all humans are in lazy, autonomous pods, snapchatting or playing Candy Crush 11 while their stupid autonomous jelly bean takes them to work. Plus, no matter how good computers get and how good autonomous cars get, they will always be reactionary and will never have instinct. In that regard, the smartest autonomous car in the world could never match the level of awareness and safety of a keen driver. But if we must measure the cars based solely on autonomy, the Tesla Model S wins.

[Source: Top Gear]

15 responses to “A Test of Tech: BMW 730d vs Tesla Model S P90D”

  1. CDspeed says:

    Nico, you should take a look at the Model X’s interior, it shows that Tesla has listened to the comments about its interiors. They didn’t make huge changes, but they refined it quite a bit, and I’ve heard the Model S facelift will inherit some of the Model X’s interior improvements.

    • I’m sure it’s gotten better, but I’m claiming the 7er to be better from the Top Gear article claiming so. The 7’s is absurdly nice, so it’s not hard to believe. But I will check out a Model X and see how it’s improved.

  2. cronin says:

    Nico, Tesla says clearly up front how you’re supposed to interact with autopilot. If users are using poor judgement then shame on those users. Tesla doesn’t assume their drivers are complete morons like BMW seems to.

    • I understand what your saying, but I fear for the mistakes of unproven technology. That’s all. Regardless of who’s to blame in case of incident. You don’t give matches to children for a reason.

  3. MAX MAXWELL says:

    Nico, i have to admit you have balls made of steel..!! I have almost given up on bloggers, writers, reviewers & magazines in the Auto industry. You are one of the few writers i have to say, has the guts to say Bimmer iDrive, technology is worthless. For a company thats been around many years and claims to be an engineering ( reminds me of Carls Jr model & Palin wanting to be VP), its best shot at EV with i3 was $45K & 68 miles. Are they for Real? Even MB with B class; do they really believe people can be conned all the time. But then again, these are the days of Trump Being king with Trash talk, so ignorant will buy anything. Keep up the good work! Just say it as it is! Like CR & JD Powers. Except for Porsche, no German car has been in top 5 consistently; cause they suck! Its no wonder, that Bimmer is a generation behind, in technology! Yes, they will throw money and put some crap together, cause no one will dare say – the king is nude! But the fact is, they are unreliable, ill built , badly designed and expensive Euro trash.

  4. Madalin says:

    Europeans were always conservatives…how to rely solely on the autopilot..no way, it’s dangerous! While US…unleash your dreams. And this makes the difference between US and the old f**ked up Europe.

  5. John says:

    “a loaded BMW 730d still costs less than the base price of the Model S P90D in the UK. So the 7 Series is by far the better value.”

    BMW doesn’t sell the 730d in North America, so for people who want luxury and very high MPG, there’s only one choice.

  6. christ says:

    Nico, this technology its not as simple as people think, read this: http://www.techrepublic.com/article/why-robots-still-need-us-david-a-mindell-debunks-theory-of-complete-autonomy/

    I think that the driver should always control car because as you said technology was not, is not and will never be perfect so driver should watch what autopilot is doing and react when needed like airplane pilot. Toyota said that will use autonomous technology to improve driver skills, and make car that will never have accident. I think that Toyota’s approach is the best. Technology should not eliminate driver but improve his skills, expierience and protect his and other passengers life.

    • I agree with you. Toyota is doing the same things as BMW, Mercedes and Audi at the moment, making autonomous driving aids to help drivers in certain situations, not replace drivers altogether.

      • christ says:

        Im sure that 99% carmakers want to do the same things as BMW, Mercedes, Toyota etc. I think that future is cooperation of people and machines so autonomous cars need people and people need autonomous cars we need to work together not separately. People and machines have advantages and disadvantages so if we want to defeat our disadvantages we need to connect our advantages.

  7. NoAutoPilor4Me says:

    Interesting that the picture of the Model S used here is not an actual Model S front end that I know of. Is this some photoshop fun or a leak of some future Model S?

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