While the iX makes a futuristic statement about BMW’s move into electrification the i4 seems a more traditional product, given it’s basically a 4 Series Gran Coupe with batteries and motors in place of the regular internal combustion engine. Under the skin it’s smarter than that, though, and has the performance and handling to make the switch from ICE to electric easy for long-standing BMW customers, not to mention challenge the Tesla Model 3 in the process. Fast and great to drive, the i4’s long range and competitive pricing adds to its appeal and moves the game on from rivals like the Polestar 2 and Jaguar I-Pace.
“The entry-level eDrive40 version isn’t a lot more to buy than the top of the range petrol or diesel versions of the 4 Series Gran Coupe on which it is based”
The i4 is a premium product and priced accordingly. All things relative it looks reasonable value, though, and the entry-level eDrive40 version isn’t a lot more to buy than the top of the range petrol or diesel versions of the 4 Series Gran Coupe on which it is based, while obviously being a lot cheaper to run in terms of tax, Benefit In Kind and – of course – the cost of charging compared with filling up a conventional tank. Range of over 300 miles means most of your charging will likely be done at home with cheap off-peak tariffs rather than at expensive public chargers, too. The faster, more expensive M50 version we drove is a fraction more in bottom line cost and comparable monthly finance numbers than an equivalent Tesla Model 3 Performance but not by so much as to be a deal-breaker, and most buyers would probably accept that for driving a BMW.
Expert rating: 4/5
Reliability of a BMW i4
“There’s less to go wrong physically but the worry with all modern cars is more related to electrical and tech related glitches”
As a brand BMW doesn’t have the reputation for reliability you might hope or expect for. The fact electric cars are mechanically a lot simpler than their petrol, diesel or hybrid equivalents does mean there’s less to go wrong physically but the worry with all modern cars is more related to electrical and tech related glitches. BMW has been perfecting its electric tech for some time now in cars like the i3 and i8 so we’ll have to hope that’s reflected in reliability in this new model.
Expert rating: 3/5
Safety for a BMW i4
“Given instances where the system ‘let go’ without warning on the test route we’re not sure we’re ready to hand over control fully”
Where brands like Tesla have led BMW has had to follow, and there’s a host of driver assistance technology in the i4 up to and including semi-autonomous driving that can brake, accelerate and steer the car according to information from the navigation and cameras. You need to keep your hand resting on the wheel but that’s pretty much it, though if the car thinks you’re not concentrating it will give you increasingly strident warnings to take control and – if you don’t – will bring the car to a halt. Laudable stuff but given instances where the system ‘let go’ without warning on the test route we’re not sure we’re ready to hand over control fully. Besides, the i4 is such fun to drive, why would you want to?
Expert rating: 5/5
How comfortable is the BMW i4
“This all adds up to a very satisfying car to drive, and one fans of BMW’s traditional sporting saloons will appreciate”
The i4 is a lot heavier than the petrol or diesel 4 Series Gran Coupe on which it is based, which would typically be considered a bad thing but has actually been turned into a plus through careful tuning of the suspension. Because the batteries are low in the car it makes it feel more stable through the corners, while self-levelling air suspension on the rear axle does its best to counteract the ‘squat’ under power and extra kilos. This all adds up to a very satisfying car to drive, and one fans of BMW’s traditional sporting saloons will appreciate. The silence of electric power is also very relaxing, though you can choose to make it more exciting if you choose to go with the sound effects created for BMW by Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer – these vary according to the selected driving mode and if the acceleration in the Sport setting isn’t enough to get your pulse racing already the increasingly loud throb over the speakers certainly will!
In practical terms to its credit BMW has also been able to integrate the battery and drive systems into the Gran Coupe’s body without any apparent intrusion into interior space. True, that transmission tunnel means anyone sitting in middle seat will struggle for legroom and it’s more comfortable for four than it is for five. But those up front are treated to a low-slung and comfortable seating position, while the hatchback boot opening is practical and the space within pretty generous.
Expert rating: 3/5
Features of the BMW i4
“The i4 carries of a successful blend of traditional BMW interior with the kind of screen-based technology modern drivers seem to appreciate”
While fussier than the ultra-minimalism of the Tesla Model 3 the i4 carries of a successful blend of traditional BMW interior with the kind of screen-based technology modern drivers seem to appreciate. The operating system behind them is all-new and includes a huge range of functionality – much of it connected – but enough remains familiar from existing BMWs it won’t take you too long to adapt. We’re fans of the option to control it through the familiar iDrive turn and push selector too, on the basis not everyone digs voice activation or gesture control. BMW’s ‘Live Cockpit Professional’ is standard on all models, though heating and power for the seats is only standard on the M50 and further luxuries are cost options in the various packages on offer.
Expert rating: 4/5
Power for a BMW i4
“The M50 version we drove is, meanwhile, a seriously potent piece of kit and fast enough to make even an M3 feel a little sluggish”
We haven’t driven the eDrive40 version of the i4 yet but, with a single 340 horsepower motor driving the rear wheels and 365 miles of range, it’s arguably all anyone needs in terms of performance, and not far off the petrol-powered M440i xDrive version of the 4 Series Gran Coupe. The M50 version we drove is, meanwhile, a seriously potent piece of kit and fast enough to make even an M3 feel a little sluggish. The extra motor means power to all four wheels, though the balance is still to the rear in the traditional BMW style. With a combined 544 horsepower the acceleration in the Sport Plus mode is violent enough to make driver and passengers alike gasp in shock and sufficient to keep your Tesla driving friends honest. Once the novelty of that wears off the refinement and neat integration of automatic regeneration into the assisted driving become more apparent, the i4 sufficiently smart in the way it uses that power to make even the M50’s 318-mile range seem entirely viable.