Open the BMW i4’s fuel flap and you’ll get a surprise. The five-door gran coupe BMW i4 is a next generation electric car. The i4 is a stealthy green machine with loads of power yet it produces zero emissions when driven. It looks like a regular car and doesn’t hint to its EV credentials. Motorhub went to Munich to test the i4 in 544hp M50 M-Sport guise and we’re still grinning!
Like the BMW 4 Series GC, the i4 is the perfect car for those who want to do their bit to be green but still need to transport the kids in something that isn’t ab SUV. The i4 also fits the bill for those who don’t feel old enough for a 5 Series or iX electric SUV. It is a handsome car but also quite unremarkable too. This stealthyness is something more conservative car buyers will like. The i4 also has a refreshingly old school 4 Series-like driving position that drivers will find sporty.
The i4 scores better inside with a premium cabin and big centre dash display. General cabin space is similar to the 4 Series. Four adults can sit comfortably. The i4, launched at the same time as the flagship iX electric SUV and so gets BMW’s new OS8 operating system. The centre display dominates and has loads of features accessible through it. Hal f of the things I seldom went near as I simply enjoyed looking at the navigation and occasionally Apple CarPlay in a novel ultra-wide layout.
Our i4 is not a pure M car but an M-Performance car. The dogs in the street know the days of the internal combustion engine, in the first world at least, are numbered, but thankfully electric motors can provide thrills too! EVs are already outperforming sporty engines and our M50 with a 0-100km time of 3.9 seconds is a case in point. Even the entry model i4 ‘eDrive 40’ produces 340hp and features a maximum range from a single charge of 590km – you wouldn’t get that range to a tank of petrol blasting around in an M5! BMW says the new i4 should be seen as its new ‘ultimate driving machine’ and few could argue against that.
The i4’s underfloor houses a bank of low-profile BMW designed rechargeable batteries that power the xDrive’s dual electric motors. The i4 uses the same generation 5 battery and motor technology that showcased in the BMW iX. The i4’s very low centre of gravity and aerodynamic drag qualities benefit reduced energy consumption especially at high speed. The open road offers very little opportunity for electrical recuperation from braking and remains the prime enemy of the electric car. The i4 seems to have cracked that nut.
Our test car performance is comparable to the latest M4 dynamically but not on price! Because of Ireland’s emissions-based taxation an M4 Competition Coupe at €128,075 costs a vast amount more than the i4 M50 at €78,315. Both cars are at opposite ends of the annual motor tax scale too! The i4 M50 is incredibly fast with 544hp and its whopping 795nm of torque. BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system reacts rapidly to either axle’s traction needs. Like the iX its motors don’t use any rare earth metals and are highly efficient. The i4 has an 11kW onboard charger and can access high-powered DC charging (with speeds up to 200kW max) via its CCS socket. In 10 minutes at a high-powered charger the entry i4 ‘eDrive40’ can gain up to 165km range (140km / M50).
The i4 M50 has neck snapping acceleration. No matter what speed you are travelling at if you kick down on the accelerator you will get instant thrust. If you select Sport from one of the car’s three drive modes (eco/comfort/sport) you can get the benefit of an artificial noise generator that adds audible theatre to the act of accelerating. The car even makes a down-shift noise when you pop the auto gear lever from D to B (brake regeneration). In Comfort mode the dramatic SFX noise is reduced, and at times I felt as if I was in a conventional 4 Series with an engine. In Eco mode it is near silent.
The i4 handles brilliantly. Swift cornering is effortless and those with average talent will feel like driving gods. One familiar mountain road climb in Bavaria was dispatched in a fraction of time it took me not long ago in a conventional performance car. The i4’s traction and endless amounts of pulling power is breathtaking. The i4 driving experience only becomes ‘interesting’ above 200km/h (on the autobahn), where the car can feel a little light. My comfort zone limit was reached at the car’s top speed of 225km/h. (There is an optional rear boot spoiler that aids high speed stability ).
The i4 range starts with the rear-wheel drive, 340hp/430nm, eDrive40 (€63,565). It can do 0-100km in 5.7 seconds. Two grades feature Sport and M-Sport. Our test i4 xDrive M50 model tops the range for now and consumes between 19-24kWh/100km. The ultra-modern i4 is being built in BMW’s oldest car plant in Munich. The i4 arrives in Ireland this December with deliveries to customers starting in March 2022. The BMW i4 is a really impressive car.