As 2021 ends, BMW are fast-pacing themselves into the electric car sector, with two new models the iX & the i4. We got to spend some time in both beginning with the i4.
What is it ?
The i4 is an electric five-door coupe based on the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. Whilst many brands are launching electric cars that look different, BMW are mixing their offerings up. So, the iX does look different but the i4 looks just like a 4 Series Gran Coupe & in our opinion, is all the better for it.
Tesla Model 3, Polestar 2, Jaguar I-Pace.
Two versions are offered, starting with the i4 eDrive40, which we tested.The 40 has a single electric motor driving the rear wheels only. It’s still impressively rapid though as it comes with 340hp & 430Nm of torque & will go from 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds. Top speed is limited to 118mph. Entry level Sport costs £51,905, whilst our test car the M Sport retails at £53,905. The more powerful M50 version starts at £63,905.
All versions of the i4 are equipped to recharge using a 205kW DC charger, meaning charging from empty to 80% in just 35 minutes. However, at home it’s more likely you’ll be using a 7kWh AC charger like our own Rolec, so expect 0-100% to take 13 hours.
Specs & extras
Standard equipment on entry level i4 Sport 40, includes air con, a reversing camera, 18″ alloys, Shadow Line exterior trim & heated front seats. Our test car the M-Sport adds lightweight 18″ alloys, M Sport exterior styling, an M Sport leather steering wheel, BMW Shadow Line lights, sun protection glass & M Sport seat belts. As ever with BMW, you can quickly add £10,000 to the price. For example, our test car was finished in a rather stunning Sanremo Green £695 & included a Visibility pack £3,800 a Technology Pack £3,800 & an M Sport Pro Pack £2,500.The i4 is also available with a selection of up to 40 driver assistance functions.
Taking advantage of heat pump technology as well as excess heat from the electric motors, the i4 also features improved heating efficiency, which BMW claim can improve driving range by up to 15% in cold weather.
BMW claim a range of 556km/345 miles for the 40 M Sport, with an economy of 17.kWh per 100km/62miles.
You’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between an i4 & a 4 Series Gran Coupe. The front kidney grille is finished in black plastic, you get aerodynamic alloy wheels, some blue ‘electric’ highlights & there’s no exhaust pipes at the rear. That’s about it.
Interior & infotainment
Things are more interesting inside the i4.Whilst it’s very BMW familiar, the dashboard is dominated by the curved twin screens which are joined seamlessly in front of you. A 14.9″ infotainment screen & a 12.3″ screen that features the cars digital dials, which along with the head-up display, are customisable.
The graphics are sharp, response is quick & the fact you can scroll left & right on the screen itself, as well as via the rotary controller located between the front seats, also make it easy to use. It’s all powered by the latest BMW Operating System 8, which can also be utilised through voice gestures.
The i4 also benefits from BMW’s impressive build quality, with all surfaces beautifully finished, a million times better than the inside of a Model 3. The steering wheel & switchgear will be familiar to existing BMW customers & overall it’s a comforting environment to be in.
There’s plenty of room inside for four adults. Unlike most EV’s, the rear floor does feature a transmission tunnel, limiting the centre seats leg room. This actually contains extra batteries to complement the larger battery located under the cars floor plan.
Cabin storage is okay, with two cup holders in front of the gear lever, twin USB’s, under armrest storage & generous door pockets. Rear passengers get their own climate controls & twin USB’s.
Boot space is 470 litres with the rear seats in place, which increases to 1,290 litre with them folded. The floor is usefully flat, with two extra storage spaces on either side with cargo nets to prevent slippage. There’s space under the boot floor, where your charging cables can be stored.
What’s it like to drive ?
When it comes to sporty saloons, BMW’s ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’ moniker, has left them with very little wriggle room. Happily, the i4 continues to show why BMW invariably gets this right, even with an electric car.
The extra battery weight – the i4 weighs 2.2 tonnes – actually helps rather than hinders the handling. The battery weight helps lower the cars centre of gravity, meaning it hugs the road like glue & corners superbly.
Furthermore, the cabin is eerily quiet & is well insulated against the elements & road noise is kept to a minimum. The ride itself is supple, much better than most EV’s & being RWD, it offers bit more grip from a standing start then the FWD Polestar 2. On the motorway, you can take advantage of the cruise control, sit back & relax & watch the miles go by. Around town it’s quiet & unassuming whilst on the open road, you can enjoy the cars BMW handling & performance. A win win.
Driving modes offered are Eco Pro, Comfort & Sport, so you can tailor your drive to your needs. Eco Pro will conserve your range & is particularly useful on the motorway. Normal introduces a little more power & Select Sport & the car offers increased power & will give you access to the BMW IconicSounds Electric function, adding some computer generated engine noise to the driving experience.
There’s also an intuitive brake regeneration system on the i4. This has an Adaptive mode that uses data from the navigation system & onboard sensors to work out when to increase the regenerative effect. You can also utilise the B mode on the gear lever, which gives you one-pedal driving, meaning that if driven carefully, you’ll rarely have to push the brake pedal when slowing down.
These may seem strange praise for a 50k car, but for what it is & what you get, the i4 is a bit of a bargain ! The performance is sensational, the handling sublime & the overall quality of the i4 exceptional. Pretty much all of the cars engine, tech & electric gizmos are shared with the iX, which would set you back £70,000. Add in a decent electric range & 1% BIK & it’s an electric car you can own with a smile on your face.
Doesn’t charge as fast as a Tesla Model 3, nor does it benefit from the Tesla Supercharger Network, so you’ll have to rely on standard motorway charging, currently a hindrance if you do a lot of motorway miles.
The biggest praise we can give the i4 & we didn’t try the more powerful M50, is that it’s as close to driving a petrol 4 Series Gran Coupe as you can get. Just like the iX3, BMW have managed to build an electric car that will offer customers a proper BMW driving experience. Existing 3 & 4 Series company car drivers, who switch to electric, won’t skip a beat & if you’re looking for something similar from Audi or Mercedes-Benz, you’ll have to wait.
BMW G26 i4 eDrive40 M Sport