Is driving the Tesla Model S a better driving experience than driving a BMW 5 Series?
Whether a car has a better driving experience than another is subjective to a person's desires. I can tell you that the Tesla Model S will be different. I can also tell you why I prefer the Tesla, and why others might not.
The Tesla has no "drama". By that I mean that it doesn't have lots of noise, require lots of reactions or involvement from the driver, or do anything to surprise the driver. If you want to go faster, you press down on the accelerator, and it goes faster. If you want to go slower, you let off the accelerator and it slows down. Both instantly. It doesn't have to prepare for acceleration and downshift or do anything else to get the motor prepared to do your bidding. It just does it. If you want to corner, it does that too. Again, without surprises, due to the low center of gravity and the tight suspension.
I really appreciate this lack of drama. It really opened my eyes to how much drama my other cars have always had. I find it hard to go back to them because of it.
Now, what I call "drama", others might call "driving experience". Those are the people that love the notes of a finely tuned exhaust and the feel of a gearshift moving smoothly into the next gear. Ford has a commercial that features the exhaust sounds from a Mustang. That commercial is for those people.
If you are one of the people that look forward to those sounds and activities, you might miss them in the Tesla. You could view the Tesla as boring or unsatisfying. We would both be right.
Where others could find it boring, I find it the distillation of the pure driving experience that removes all the workarounds that had to be added to a car to make it feasible with an internal combustion engine. With pure electric power, all those add-ons can be removed and driving is better for it.
Yes. Without question.
I used to drive a 2008 BMW E61:
FWIW, I'm moving from a BMW 3 Series (2005 330Ci ZHP) to a Model S P90D. While the Tesla is as big and heavy as a 7 Series, the center of gravity is just barely above the axles. In my test drives it felt a little heavier than my ZHP because it handles so undramatically.
As much as I enjoy the up and down shifting of my sweet 6-speed, I only had to drive the Tesla about 50 feet to realize just what a kludge transmissions are. They're a hack around a major deficiency of internal combustion engines, namely a really peaky torque curve. Once you drive something that's always in the right gear there's no going back. Seriously, my bimmer seemed hopelessly horse and buggy before I got the Tesla a block from the parking lot.
Driving experience is, of course, highly subjective. If the goal of a performance car is to put a grin on the face of the driver, the Tesla delivers in spades. And, having owned BMWs since 1993, I know how well those can spoil you. The designers and engineers at Tesla really did their homework.
Yes it is, and I think many of the answers here that say otherwise are making the mistake of comparing a Tesla S with a 3-series. A 3-series is a much lighter, more nimble car that offers a very different driving experience.
But the question asks about comparisons with a 5-series, and that isn't like driving a 3-series either. You wouldn't buy a 5-series to chuck it around like you might do with a sporty 3-series. A 5-series is a barge not that much lighter than a Tesla S and, whatever BMW gains from their years of experience tuning suspensions, Tesla gains by having a lower centre of gravity.
I've only ever driven two 5-series, a fairly basic 525i that I was intending to buy and an M5 I drove back from Scotland in. I didn't buy the 525i in the end because the handling was so disappointing but of course the M5 was an entirely superior beast. For many years I considered it to be the best car I had ever driven, probably up until I drove a Tesla S for the first time.
On real roads (rather than a race track) the Tesla is quicker than an M5, and the four-wheel drive and low CoG make for very predictable handling. The M5 is a fantastic petrol car, but it is still only a petrol car. We'll be talking about them nostalgically like we do about steam locomotives before long.
It's fairly subjective. The Tesla has its plusses, obviously the straight line acceleration and instant torque, though a twin turbo V8 BMW does well here too. The accelerator pedal (can't call it a gas pedal!) of the Tesla is responsive in a way I'm not sure an internal combustion car can match. It's also as Michael Nickerson describes aptly without drama for good and bad.
Where the Model S fails for me is in its handling and even more it's steering feel. The Tesla is just super heavy and it doesn't have that quick turn in you get from a BMW. The worst part of a Model S for me by far is the steering feel. It's totally numb like a video game. I feel little connection between how far or how fast I turn the steering wheel and the direction of the car. A number of car reviewers say the same but then again there are many Tesla owners with lots of experience in BMWs who disagree.
I've had a Model S for about 3 years and when my lease was up a couple of months ago, I decided not to get a new one. I actually cancelled my Model 3 reservation as well.
Tesla Model S is probably the ideal commuter car. It's very effortless to drive, it's a comfortable, smooth ride. But it's not fun. Tesla believe fun is measured in 0–60 times, and I believe more in handling and feel.
I never liked the lack of feedback and feel. I've heard the early Model S P85 was more a driver's car than the more recent ones. Mine was a 2015 and I've also driven a 2018. Both are very numb.
I've driven the new BMW 540i and 530e, both on streets and on an autocross track, and they are so much more entertaining and rewarding to drive, in my opinion. The new 5-series is the best since the E39, which I have loved since the first time I drove one. I would pick a 540i over a Model S P100D any day.
I currently drive an Audi RS5, and it's thrilling to drive every time I get behind the wheel. I missed that in the Tesla. It was a great commuter car when I needed that, and it was a practical family car as well. It just never got me excited about driving.