Posted on April 12, 2016 by Matt Pressman
Top Gear* pitted the Tesla Model S P90D vs. the BMW 730Ld in a self-driving "hands-free" showdown over a 14-mile stretch of road. To introduce the competition, Top Gear writer Ollie Marriage writes, "Tesla is pushing the technological envelope. And it’s pushing it further than other companies. Try the same trick in the BMW 730Ld, and it’ll give you two seconds’ grace after removing your hands before the bonging starts. But now that the technology is there, and it works, it’s just a question of where each company chooses to draw the boundaries. That’s what this test is about – picking apart the technology on two of the most cutting-edge cars available today."
Marriage explains, "They’re not, we should point out, direct rivals, although each illuminates the other in interesting ways. Stripped back to basics, the all-electric Tesla is faster (it’s a P90D, rated at 762bhp), more efficient and super-simple to operate. The BMW is more luxurious and has bigger back seats."
Marriage writes about the P90D, "you drive the Tesla and realise that for noise and smoothness, it blows the BMW away. Electric power makes so much sense for luxury cars... Everything is automatic, which makes the Tesla blissfully simple to operate: you get in, the electrics are already up and running, you slot it into gear and away you go. The most complex thing you have to do is fasten your seatbelt."
He continues, "the whole ethos of the Tesla is to make the driving experience as effortless as possible. And it’s very good at it indeed: the graphics on the dash are simple and instantly understood, and you quickly feel confident that it knows what it’s doing... Tesla has thought clearly about how you interact with the car. The central screen is wonderful and easy to navigate; the technology, accessible and simple."
Considering BMW, Marriage writes, "The BMW occupies a much more regimented position. It must battle the Mercedes S-Class, Audi A8 et al – it must have the same equipment, the same abilities. This constrains the thinking, leaves engineers and designers little room to play with... The end result for the customer is a [BMW] car that comes across as having had technology crammed into a conventional, familiar layout, the consequences being endless menus, baffling complexity, needless options... It’s just too much. It’s hard to operate."
So who does Top Gear choose as the winner of this hands-free showdown? Marriage admits the BMW is perhaps more luxurious, but writes, "this test is about technology, and on that score Tesla is ahead. It has realised that the best way to integrate technology is to remove as much complexity as possible, to make it simple to operate. It’s done so brilliantly. The mainstream marques could learn from that."
*Source: Top Gear (Photos: Richard Pardon)