4.4.2022BMW i4 eDrive40 first drive
BMW’s i4 is a crucial model, not only in the firm’s history but arguably for the automotive market as a whole. For many years, the car world has needed an un-compromised electric version of the 3 Series - a model that practically defines the executive saloon class. The i4 promises to essentially be just that. We put BMW’s all-electric saloon to the test.
Review by Chris Lilly
BMW I4 EDRIVE40: PERFORMANCE
There are two versions of the i4 currently available - the i4 eDrive40 and performance i4 M50 model. Tested was the former, which has a 250 kW (340 hp) electric motor, allowing the i4 to accelerate from 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds. The M50 will shorten that to 3.9 seconds if required, thanks to 400 kW (544 hp).
Performance is not in short supply then, and the i4 eDrive40 has plenty for day to day driving. As with just about all electric motors, it behaves nicely around town, and even does well on the motorway thanks to having power in reserve. On a twisty road, the i4 comes into its own however, and provides a really enjoyable drive.
It’s not just the responsive powertrain that does well on open roads. The i4 feels like the 3 Series/4 Series Gran Coupe it is so easy to compare with - brilliant. It’s engaging to drive, sharp, and engaging along a country road. It’s all typical BMW really, but considering the i4 is the first electric vehicle of this type the company has made, there was the potential for the Munich firm to drop the ball. Thankfully it hasn’t.
The handling prowess is well balanced considering the eDrive40 is not a performance model, which makes it the better all-rounder in all likelihood - though we’ve yet to drive the M50. It means that the suspension is supple enough to deal with compromised road surfaces across the UK, and it works well around all but the bumpiest town centres.
The i4 is not the most stylish saloon on the market, but the sleek shape covers is a generally nicely designed machine; no shrinking violet with the large twin grille, but otherwise a nice example of the class. Sitting similarly to the 4 Series Gran Coupe in size and shape, the i4 loses a little rear head room for the coupe-inspired lines.
Otherwise, the i4 is a practical saloon, with a good amount of occupant space for four adults and a decent boot. The batteries don’t impose on interior space, so the i4 is a comparable model to more conventional cars in the executive saloon space.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
If the BMW iX’s interior is almost one of a concept car, and a forerunner of the next-generation, the i4 - launched at a similar time - is far more evolution than revolution. There’s a larger touchscreen system, which is the latest set-up from BMW, but the rest of the interior is a clear development of the current 3/4 Series cabins.
Switch-gear will be familiar to many current BMW drivers, with a digital instrument panel for the driver, and cleanly designed buttons on the centre console. Build quality feels typically BMW, and the dashboard looks high quality. It’s a top-quality interior, with no stand-out features, but all areas perform well.
BMW I4 EDRIVE40: RANGE & RUNNING COSTS
The BMW i4’s stand-out feature is not its “normal” nature, compared to established executive saloons. Instead, it is its driving range. The i4 eDrive40 has an official WLTP range of 356 miles on a charge, which is huge considering the market it sits in.
Without being able to really push the driving range on this first drive, it remains to be seen whether it will get close to the official figure, but even if not, you’re still comfortably looking at around 300 miles on a charge. That’s if our drive is anything to go by, which had a calculated efficiency of 280 miles on a charge. Considering it was a cold winter’s day, 280-300 miles would a reasonable expectation as a minimum range from early impressions, and I dare say it could go up much higher.
Powering the i4’s motors is an 80.7 kWh battery, allowing for the headline range above. It’s capable of being charged at up to 205 kW on high-power DC charge points, or 11 kW from AC units. Charging times are half an hour on an ultra-rapid DC charge point, almost an hour and a quarter on a 50 kW rapid, and 13 hours when plugged in to a 7.2 kW point.
Brake energy recuperation systems are strong, as they always have been for BMW. B setting allows for one-pedal driving the majority of the time, and there’s an adaptive system to pick how best to harvest otherwise lost energy, which uses various sensors to determine when to brake strongly or when to coast.
There are two trim levels for the i4 eDrive40 - Sport and M Sport - plus the M50 level. Fitted as standard are sports seats and steering wheel, BMW Live Cockpit Plus with digital instruments and touchscreen infotainment system.
Also fitted are 17-inch aerodynamic alloys or 18-inch wheels, reversing camera, LED lights front and rear, automatic tailgate, and cruise control with brake function.
BMW I4 EDRIVE40: MODEL SUMMARY
The BMW i4 is a stand out model regardless of “fuel” type. It’s well built, great to drive, and has an extensive range. That range is within a handful of miles of Tesla’s best-selling Model 3 Long Range, but the i4 costs a few thousand less, plus drives better and is better built. Drivers wanted a no-compromise electric executive saloon and, thanks to BMW, they now have one.
Model tested: BMW i4 eDrive40 M Sport
Body-style: Executive saloon
Engine / CO2: 250 kW electric motor / 0 g/km
Trim grades: Sport and M Sport
On-road price: From £51,905.
Warranty: Three years / unlimited mileage
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 5.0 Stars