BMW’s forthcoming i4 is an essential first step for the Munich maker into volume EV production. It’s a mid-sized sports saloon aimed at the heart of the business segment; a car that incorporates all of the company’s traditional brand values. And it does so in a way that should also appeal to EV customers looking for a more involving, individual choice in this segment.
The i4 is a big step for BMW into volume electric car production. With Volkswagen stealing much of the EV limelight in recent months, BMW needs to step up a gear and recapture some of the lead it had established with the i3 and i8. And it’s a bold step – a mid-sized sports saloon that’s positioned squarely in the business segment and incorporating the key brand values BMW has built its reputation upon. No pressure then.
The i4 is quintessential BMW – albeit in electric form. Sitting between the 3 and 5 Series it’s not the i3 city run-around or the i8 supercar it’s the sort of model that BMW does best, and what it’s most respected for. However, this positioning represents a challenge as it places it in direct competition with the Tesla Model 3. Despite the BMW badge and all that implies it feels like an uphill battle for the i4.
Still, BMW thinks the i4 can set itself apart from its US rival by way of driving dynamics and interior quality. Range is roughly equivalent and there’s even a performance model, the M50, which offers Porsche Taycan levels of performance.
BMW hopes to set a fresh standard for handling in this segment and to that end has stiffened the chassis, given the car sharp, engaging steering, and incorporated wider tracks than you get on a 3 Series. Rear air suspension is standard across the range and the M50 adds adaptive M dampers, plus a unique ‘Sport Boost’ function that can be used to release the drivetrain’s maximum output when the car is being driven in ‘Sport’ mode. Both i4 variants get a Dynamic Stability Control system that works 10 times quicker than a conventional set-up.
The i4 has been engineered with a stiffened chassis which BMW hopes will set a new standard within the segment, with sharp, engaging steering and boasting wider tracks than the 3 Series. Rear air suspension is standard with the M50 benefiting from adaptive M dampers and a ‘Sport Boost’ function that unleashes the drivetrain’s maximum output. Both variants get an improved version of BMW’s Dynamic Stability Control system.
The i4 offers a more dynamic take on the mid-sized EV. Dimensions are much the same as the 3 Series saloon and there’s a Gran Coupe-style GT for those looking for an extra dash of grace. The i4 utilises the same modular cluster architecture as other non-electric mid to large-sized BMWs so it doesn’t benefit from the architectural and weight-savings advantages provided by a ground-up electric platform such as the Tesla Model 3 or Volkswagen ID.3. That said, it does feature slim lithium-ion battery beneath the floor of the passenger cell and a combination of sleek bodywork and adjustable flaps in the iconic kidney grille to help it achieve a respectable efficiency.
Inside, the cabin utilises an all-new take on the iDrive interface. A 12.3-inch digital instrument display is paired with a 14.9-inch central infotainment display offering what BMW had dubbed a ‘Curved Display’ while clever engineering makes the display cluster appear as if it’s free standing. This attention to detail is extended to the use of ant-reflective glass that eliminates the need for a binnacle to shield the readouts from sunlight. Space-wise, the rear of the cabin is closer to the 5 Series than the 3 and there’s a rather capacious 470-litre boot.
The i4 eDrive40 model starts at around £52,000 in base ‘Sport’ trim while the ‘M Sport’ trim costs an additional £2,500. Opting for the top of the range M50 model will set you back £64,000.
Most drivers will opt for the eDrive40 ‘M Sport’ model which offers 18-inch M aerodynamic alloys, ‘Live Cockpit Plus’ dual-screen display and Alacantara/leather combination upholstery. It also gets the same exterior styling, spoiler, and distinctive aluminium trim of the M50 model.
Equipment standard to all versions includes a reversing camera, Parking Assistant, automatic air conditioning, ambient lighting and LED lights front and back. A host of options are also available, enabling customers to personalise their i4 to their own individual requirements. BMW offers around 40 assistance functions for the i4 either as standard or as an option to enhance safety and comfort when driving and parking. For those looking for the ultimate sound experience, there is the Harman Kardon surround sound system, complete with 16 speakers and a digital seven-channel amplifier delivering 464 watts of audio power which is optional on the i4 eDrive40 and standard on the i4 M50.
The i4 eDrive40 delivers a WLTP-rated range of up to 367 miles from its 80.7kWh battery whilst the M50 model drops to 316 miles due to its 4WD system. Although not built on a custom EV platform, BMW has managed to keep the i4’s weight down by increasing battery density as opposed to size.
If you can find a suitable charge point, the i4 offers a maximum charging rate of 200kW which will take you from 10-80% state of charge in as little as 30 minutes. BMW has also included some very clever energy regeneration features during overrun and braking that increases the efficiency of the drive system in a way that no other model in this segment currently can. Intelligently connected drive management means the intensity of the braking regen can be adapted to the road situation, based on data from navigation and driver assistance systems.
Over an ownership period of 125,000 miles, BMW claims that the i4 eDrive40 will have a 45%-lower global warming potential than that of a comparable diesel 3 or 4 Series model. And the brand is seeking to enhance the sustainability of its supply chain and increase its use of recycled materials for the i4. All of which will help to cut production emissions by 18%.
The i3 and i8 were a good start for BMW with the i3 in particular helping boost the Bavarian automakers EV credentials, however there’s been a growing gap in its mid-sized business segment. The i4 plugs this gap nicely. Whilst the driving lifestyle of a typical BMW road warrior may prove a barrier to the volume BMW envisages for the i4, that won’t be the case for long, given the rapid advancements in battery technology.
BMW reckons it’ll have an EV in all its popular segments by 2024 so the i4 is just the tip of the iceberg. When all is said and done the i4 is more BMW than the i3 or i8 ever was. If you’re a BMW lover and you’re ready to go electric, you no longer need to look elsewhere.
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