If you are in the market for a modern crossover SUV, you will be sure to look at Tesla’s Model Y and BMW’s X3, two popular cars on the market right now. Each vehicle is its manufacturer’s response for an updated sport-utility look, and each has its own set of specifications and features that sets it apart.
The Model Y and the X3 embody two different sets of values. If you think a modern SUV should be safe and high-tech, then Tesla’s Model Y is going to be the better choice. The BMW X3 has a more traditional appearance and boasts a better ride.
It is still worth considering both vehicles in your search because both offer great perks for divers. Both Tesla and BMW have done a fantastic job of creating a next-level crossover vehicle. Taking the time to look at the specifications can easily change your mind, so read on to learn all about what sets each vehicle apart and how they compare head to head.
About the Tesla Model Y
Tesla has cornered the market on innovation, and the company has made it their business to provide a new take on the blueprint of every car style. The unveiling of the Model Y in 2019 checked off the “crossover SUV” from that list.
The Model Y has 3 different variations:
- Standard Range (discontinued in 2021)
- Long Range
While they boast roughly the same specifications, there are a few key differences. The Performance has increased power and acceleration speed, and therefore less range on a full charge. It also has upgraded 21-inch wheels, contributing to the decrease in range. The price difference between the two current models (Long Range and Performance) is about $5,000.
The Model Y has Autopilot capabilities, perhaps Tesla’s most distinguishing feature. Tesla’s Autopilot features 12 ultrasonic sensors, a 250-meter processing range, and cameras that analyze all 360° of your surroundings to provide a more relaxed driving experience.
Despite skepticism, Tesla’s Autopilot system has proven to be a safe feature that advances every day due to machine learning (aka improved software capabilities due to more overall data). While you do need to pay extra for “Full Self-Driving” features like automatic lane changing and Summon, all Tesla vehicles are equipped with basic Autopilot capabilities that will keep your lane, adjust your speed, and avoid accidents.
While BMW vehicles do have autonomous driving features like driver assistance and partly automated driving, they have nothing that compares to Tesla’s extensive Autopilot capabilities. If the Autopilot features are something you find yourself really wanting at this point in time, you might as well commit to the Model Y right now.
Another major concern of critics was how far an all-electric vehicle would be able to travel, with the most cynical ones betting that electric vehicles would leave you stuck in town, or worse, on the side of a remote desert highway. Instead of proving them right, Tesla built their engines to be real contenders with traditional gas engines.
The Model Y Long Range can run an estimated 330 miles on a single charge, and it only takes 15 minutes for a driver to recharge another 162 miles at a Supercharger location. With over 30,000 Supercharger locations worldwide, it has never been easier to run an electric vehicle without worry. Plus, you can charge in your garage each and every night!
About the BMW X3
BMW’s X3 provides more variety than the Model Y, and their idea of a crossover SUV is much more traditional. BMW has not strayed from its ideals with this luxury vehicle.
Regardless of its trim, each X3 boasts a rugged exterior while still focusing on aerodynamics to improve fuel efficiency.
X3 Trim Models
You get much more variety with the BMW X3. There are 4 trim models to choose from:
- X3 sDrive30i/xDrive30i
- X3 xDrive30e Plug-In Hybrid
- X3 M40i
- X3 M
Each of these trim options caters to a specific set of values.
BMW X3 sDrive30i/xDrive30i
As the X3’s core model, all your basic features will be met here. Their basics more than cover the luxuries of owning a BMW. You may notice that this actually covers two trim models, but there is only one distinguishing feature and about $2,000 on sticker price that separates them.
While both boast 248 horsepower and can run 0 to 60 miles per hour in about 6 seconds, the sDrive30i is rear-wheel drive. The xDrive30i has a full-time all-wheel-drive system.
BMW X3 xDrive30e Plug-In Hybrid
So, you may not be ready to commit to an all-electric vehicle. That is fine. BMW’s xDrive30e is a hybrid option that includes an all-electric mode. This can be a great baby step or compromise if you do not feel comfortable with Tesla’s lack of gas compatibility.
Because this is a hybrid vehicle it also qualifies you for federal and state incentives, potentially saving you thousands of dollars as years go by.
BMW X3 M40i
If performance is a dealbreaker for you, looking into the BMW X3 M40i might ruin your view of the Tesla. With a horsepower potential of 383 and a flat run from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 4.4 seconds, the M40i is not messing around.
This is also the first trim with BMW’s 3.0 liter M TwinPower Turbo inline six-cylinder engine. The vehicle is designed with superior handling in mind, and a sport suspension that can take nearly anything you throw at it.
The integrated Live Cockpit Professional is a standard feature that allows drivers to customize the onboard driving technology to fit their style. This is similar to customizing your Tesla driving experience.
BMW X3 M
At the top of the X3 hierarchy is the M. While this also features the 3.0 M engine, you have the opportunity to upgrade to the competition package (boosting horsepower from 473 to 503).
The M has an eight-speed automatic transmission with both an automatic and manual mode. The Drivelogic button allows you to adjust the characteristics of the drive for a faster and sharper gear change.
Apple CarPlay/Android Auto Compatibility
Another feature that distinguishes the BMW X3 from the Tesla Y is the fact that it is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
While this is not necessarily a big feature, plenty of people have either gotten used to these programs or may have been looking forward to them upon a car upgrade.
These specific programs allow for seamless integration between your vehicle and your cell phone, and they give you the ability to do things like:
- Road-safe messaging
- Voice control
While the Tesla Model Y does have a large touchscreen that offers similar features, plus even more, you cannot say that it has Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
Tesla Model Y and BMW X3: Comparing Specs
While it may seem like comparing apples to oranges, the Tesla Model Y and the BMW X3 have some pretty comparable features. Buying a vehicle is an expensive task, so making sure that every minor detail fits your specific wants and needs is important both now and down the line.
In this section, we will outline the specifications for both vehicles. While there are certainly similarities between the two, there are plenty of features that set both the Tesla Model Y and the BMW X3 apart.
Running the Numbers
For the Tesla Model Y, you will be faced with a starting MSRP of $41,990. The starting cost for the BMW X3 is $43,000. (Be sure to check current pricing for both vehicles due to inflation and economic fluctuations).
As far as overall scoring goes, on a scale of 1-10 the Model Y sits at:
- 7.6 overall
- 7.4 for critic’s rating
- 8.9 for performance
- 6.9 for interior
On the same scale, the X3 is:
- 8.5 overall
- 8.8 critic’s rating
- 8.1 for performance
- 8.1 interior
As you can see, both vehicles seem to stay in the same general rating bracket with the BMW X3 pulling ahead.
The Tesla Model Y utilizes two independent engines that control either the front or rear wheels. This allows for better control and response in all weather types, providing better handling, traction, and stability control.
While the Standard Range was discontinued, if you do find it for sale aftermarket this is the only Model Y that only features rear-wheel drive.
The BMW has more options on engines. Depending on the trim you choose you can get a:
- 2.0 liter Intercooled Turbo Premium Unleaded I-4
- 3.0 liter Intercooled Turbo Premium Unleaded I-6
- 2.0-liter Intercooled Turbo Gas/Electric I-4
While both vehicles sport automatic transmission, the higher tier trim models of the BMW X3 do support manual driving. They also replace the rear-wheel-drive at those tiers with an all-wheel-drive system.
In terms of horsepower, the Model Y comes out on top with 384 horsepower and 376 lb-ft in their base Long Range and 456 horsepower and 497 lb-ft on the Performance range. The BMW X3 horsepower depends on the engine, getting 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft with the 2.0l and 382 horsepower and 365 lb-ft with the 3.0l.
The Tesla Model Y has an all-electric engine with a maximum range of 330 miles.
The BMW X3 has either a 2.0 four-cylinder engine or a 3.0 six-cylinder engine, but its fuel efficiency is the same either way, sticking around 25 miles per gallon city and 29 miles per gallon highway. According to fueleconomy.gov, the 2020 base model BMW X3 has an estimated range of 464 miles.
If you are comparing electric engine features, the hybrid version of the BMW X3 can only get about 18 to 21 miles before it needs to tap into gas. While this can be efficient for short trips into town, it is not the most sustainable.
The Tesla Model Y has a much more futuristic look than the BMW X3, losing a lot of the rugged SUV appeal for increased aerodynamics. It has a wheelbase of about 113 inches, an overall length of 187 inches, a width (without mirrors) of roughly 76 inches, and a shorter height of 64 inches.
Part of the X3’s main appeal is that it holds onto the traditional SUV exterior that has been slowly carved away through the years. While it is certainly no box on wheels, the X3’s look is reminiscent of that boxier off-road look.
The X3 has about the same wheelbase and an overall length of 186 inches (only one inch shorter than the Y). The width is about 74 inches without mirrors, and it gains a few inches on the Model Y at 66 inches.
The full-length panoramic moonroof feature comes standard on the Model Y but is considered an add-on feature for the BMW X3, but the X3 has standard privacy glass.
The Tesla Model Y has many standard features that the BMW X3 considers additional, including:
- Backup camera
- Keyless entry and start
- Heated steering wheel
- Remote trunk release
That being said, certain BMW X3 features that are not included in the Tesla Model Y are:
- Heads up display
- Interior cargo shade
- Leather steering wheel
Apart from these differences, the two share many similar baseline features including cruise control, rear parking aid, steering wheel controls, power mirrors, and mirror memory.
Seating and Space
Both vehicles seat up to five passengers. Both vehicles have rear seats that fold down individually, providing a customizable expansion of the cargo area.
The seating material is customizable on both options, but Tesla’s standard seating is something that their drivers rave about. Heating and lumbar support are standard on Tesla seats but optional on the BMW X3.
Both vehicles have power seats with seat memory.
The Model Y has more legroom but less headroom than the X3. These differences come in at less than an inch, so it would be in your best interest to discern them via a test drive.
The Model Y also has more cargo space at 76 cu ft. The BMW X3 falls a bit short with about 63 cu ft of cargo space.
Tires and Towing
The tires you get with your vehicle depend on the specific model and trim you get.
Tesla’s Model Y Long Range has both 19-inch and 20-inch options, while the performance range gets you up to 21-inches.
The BMW X3 has a range of rim options from 18-inches to 21-inches. They also have standard all-season tires with the option for performance tires.
Both vehicles have an internalized tire pressure monitoring system and optional aluminum wheels.
The optional tow package for the Model Y includes a two-inch hitch receiver and a high-strength steel tow bar that allows for towing up to 3,500 lbs. Tesla also has an integrating trailer mode in their computer that optimizes the vehicle features to accommodate the load.
The BMW X3 outperforms the Model Y’s towing capabilities by having a potential maximum towing capacity of 4,400 lbs. If you are already comfortable with a trailer then the BMW X3 provides much more capability.
Entertainment features that are standard on both vehicles are:
- AM/FM radio
- Bluetooth Phone Input
The Tesla Model Y has an integrated Hard Disk Drive that is standard to the vehicle as well as smart divide integration. These are optional on the BMW X3.
The Model Y does not support popular device mirroring software like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto because the Model Y’s touchscreen features replace it. If for some reason Apple CarPlay or Android Auto is essential to your drive, then you will need to go with the X3.
Navigation and Communication
Navigation is standard on the Model Y and optional in the X3 (but this should not be a problem if you have Apple Car Play or Android Auto.
You can integrate your phone to both vehicle systems and use the car’s interface for communication.
Both manufacturers put safety at the top of their list of priorities.
The Model Y and the X3 have standard safety features like:
- Brake assist
- Electronic stability control
- Daytime running lights
- Child safety locks
- Traction control
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Auto-leveling headlights
On top of this, the Tesla Model Y has a number of standard features that come optional for the BMW X3, including lane departure warning, lane-keeping assist, and cross-traffic alerts.
The Model Y also boasts an extremely safe Autopilot system that utilizes a network of sensors to keep the vehicle as safe as possible while requiring very little from the driver.
Deciding Between the Tesla Model Y and the BMW X3
When it comes down to it there is no clear winner between the Model Y and the X3. This is largely due to the fact that these are two manufacturer’s versions of a crossover SUV, the company standards are completely different.
Tesla prioritizes a “looking forward” mindset and tries to set the future standard for vehicles, while BMW has a reputation for luxury and performance to uphold.
At this point, it is a matter of your personal beliefs on what a crossover should look like and how it should function that give either vehicle an edge. To analyze this we should look at the two using specific scopes like:
- Personal need and standards
- Future value
- Cost of ownership
On top of this, it would also be beneficial to look at a few other contenders for both Model Y and the X3.
Personal Need and Standards
While you would usually consider things like fuel economy or seating when looking at vehicles, the Model Y and X3 are either too similar or too different to do so.
We already know that they serve the same basic function: both vehicles seat a standard number of passengers and will safely transport you from point A to point B and beyond. If you need to seat any more than five the Tesla Model Y is your only option.
After this, it is entirely up to you.
If you value things like moving forward, technology, and having the most advanced and trendsetting items then you are going to want to go with the Model Y. The BMW X3 cannot compete with the sleek, futuristic design and overall magnitude that comes with any Tesla vehicle.
On the other hand, someone who values a traditional appearance and sportier handling will do better with the BMW X3. While the Model Y does its best to crossover from car to SUV, it is still fairly clear that the Y is based largely on Tesla’s Model 3 sedan.
Budget and Additional Features
Both vehicles are in the same price range, but taking additional features into consideration can help make the division more clear.
It is much easier to navigate the additional features and pricing for Tesla vehicles, and all Model Y accessories and prices can be found here in the Tesla Shop, including:
- $500 for the roof rack
- $1200 for the tow package
- $325 for the automatic garage opener software
It is easier to see additional features in the X3’s customization screen, but most additional features come in the form of “packages.”
For example, you can purchase the “parking assist package” for $700 to help you both find parking spaces and get into them. Each package is also customizable in its own way, like offering the option to heat only the front seats or both front and rear seats.
If you take something like depreciation into consideration, the Tesla wins hands down. At this point in time, Tesla vehicles do not depreciate at anywhere near the same rate as other automobiles.
This is likely to change in the future as there are more Teslas on the road, but right now you lose a lot more money driving the X3 off a lot than you do driving off in a Model Y.
This is not a big deal if you plan to lease your vehicle or drive it into the ground, but if you can see yourself selling in the future for an upgrade the better bet is the Model Y.
Cost of Ownership
Compared to the BMW X3, the cost to own a Tesla Model Y is much lower over a five-year period. This is due in large part to things like:
Because of its electric engine, the Model Y does not require routine maintenance on things like oil changes, spark plugs, or emissions checks, which cuts routine costs down majorly.
While this saves you a lot of money, you should also consider insurance prices. Because it is harder to repair body damage on a Tesla due to the supply and intricacy of the vehicles, collision coverage on a Model Y will cost you a lot more than it would on a BMW X3.
This can always be bypassed by buying the car outright and only employing liability coverage, but that just does not seem like a great option either.
Ease of Handling
One area where Tesla vehicles are routinely critiqued is their handling. Their suspension system is less sporty, so you will feel more on a drive than you would in a vehicle designed to better absorb every bump in the road.
The BMW X3 even offers upgraded suspension systems with higher trim models. If things like road noise bother you, it might be better to turn to the X3. Although Tesla is working to combat these issues, there is no solution right now that compares to the luxury drive of a BMW.
Both cars do offer adaptive handling. In the X3 this takes the form of tour drive modes:
- Eco Pro
These modes adjust the transmission, engine throttle response, and steering to accommodate different driving needs and intentions.
Tesla vehicles have a similar system using three comfort, standard, and sport modes.
Considering Other Vehicles
A common third option you will see when comparing these vehicles is the Mercedes GLC. This is in large part due to the luxury appeal of all three manufacturers.
The GLC is a less powerful option that appeals more to luxury seekers with features like:
- Elegant, tailored elements
- Interior LED lighting
- More spacious design
If you want another electric crossover option you might consider the Audi E-Tron. This is the first all-electric SUV from Audi, and it builds on years of innovation. It does have a higher price point at $65,900, but that is to be expected from an Audi.
A more budget-conscious crossover option in the Mazda CX5. While it is not nearly as luxurious, advanced, or powerful as either the Model Y or the X3, the CX5 gets the point across for a much smaller price tag. While it does not have a hybrid option, the CX5 does get better fuel economy than the X3.
It is interesting that years of development have brought consumers to this specific point, comparing two vehicles that are more luxurious, advanced, and powerful than people may have ever imagined.
When looking at the Tesla Model Y and the BMW X3 the most important thing to pay attention to is your own set of values. We can pit them against each other all day, but at their core, these are two different versions of the crossover style.
There are specific values at the center of every company that shines through in their vehicles. Tesla vehicles maintain a level of innovation and sleekness, while BMW holds onto tradition and luxury. It is up to the consumer which of these leads to a better car for them specifically.