Car companies are racing to build ground-up EV platforms to take advantage of packaging and the efficiencies that come with a platform designed for batteries and electric motors from the ground up.
In the interim though stop gap measures like retrofitting EV components to internal combustion platforms are being used to bridge the gap.
The Tesla, Hyundai and Kia are based on dedicated EV platforms, so can the i4 cut it as a serious competitor?
Kicking off from $99,900 plus on-road costs, the entry-level 2022 BMW i4 eDrive40 is sold in Australia as a single trim level. There’s only one other variant in the i4 range, the i4 M50, which is priced from $124,900 plus on-roads.
There are a number of option packages available for both variants.
Visibility Package: $5800 (eDrive40)
- Metallic paint (excl. BMW Individual)
- Electric glass roof
- BMW Laserlight headlights
Comfort Package: $1500 (eDrive40), $1300 (M50)
- Heated steering wheel
- Lumbar support (eDrive40)
- Heated front seats (eDrive40)
- Heated front/rear seats (M50)
M Sport Plus Package: $1700 (eDrive40), $1200 (M50)
- M Lights Shadowline (darkened)
- M seat belts
- M rear spoiler (eDrive40)
- M high-gloss Shadowline with extended contents
Executive Package: $3600 (eDrive40), $2100 (M50)
- Tyre pressure monitoring
- Alarm system
- Sun protection glazing
- harman/kardon surround sound (eDrive40)
- BMW Drive Recorder
There are 12 colours available with one of those exclusive to the M50. Outside of white, colour pricing varies from $2000 through to $4700.
One of the benefits of working with an existing platform is that the design is familiar, both on the outside and inside.
And, inside the cabin is where the i4 really shines. The i4 adopts the infotainment system and huge displays first featured on the all-new BMW iX.
That’s a good thing because the new infotainment system features BMW iDrive 8, which is the latest iteration of BMW’s class-leading infotainment system.
That means two big displays that measure 14.9-inch for the central infotainment display and 12.3-inch for the driver display. The infotainment screen is controlled either as a touchscreen or using the iDrive controller near the centre console.
It features both wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with voice recognition, built-in satellite navigation and connected services. There’s a 10-speaker sound system, in addition to AM, FM and DAB+ radio.
The sound system is good, but the optional harman/kardon sound system with 16 speakers is where you want to be for high-end sound. It’s a ripper sound system and well worth the investment.
Outside of the headline specs, this infotainment system is very easy to use, features a high definition screen and doesn’t long for any features. It sits beautifully atop the dashboard as well.
Ahead of the driver is another display that can be configured to display any number of driver options and will change its display style depending on the drive mode selected.
There’s also a wireless smartphone charging pad, and two USB charging ports.
Leg and headroom in the front row is good, but it all takes a turn for the worst in the second row. It’s a pretty cramped space with limited knee, head and toe room. It also features a driveline hump, which is a hangover from the internal combustion platform – ground-up EVs like the Model 3, EV6 and Ioniq 5 all feature flat floors in the second row.
There’s a centre armrest with two cup holders, USB charging and a third zone of climate control. The two outboard seats feature ISOFIX points and there are three top-tether points. Both the first and second rows miss out on seat heating in standard specification.
Strangely the windows roll around half way down when any of the doors open. It’s not unusual for doors without window frames to lower the window slightly when opening and closing, but it’s certainly unusual for the window to roll almost half way down each time.
There may be a setting that solves this issue, but we couldn’t find it when trawling the menus.
On the cargo front there’s 470 litres of volume with the second row in place. That expands to 1290L with the second row folded flat. Beneath the cargo floor you’ll find a tyre repair kit.
You won’t find any storage under the bonnet and storage beneath the cargo floor is limited.
The entry-level BMW i4 uses a single electric motor mounted to the rear axle. It produces 250kW of power and 430Nm of torque.
The single electric motor sends torque to the rear wheels and uses a 84kWh battery pack. It quotes a 590km WLTP-certified driving range and an official economy figure of 16-20kWh/100km.
On the charging front, AC charging caps out at 11kW on a three-phase circuit.
DC charging is pretty impressive with a max charge rate of 200kW and an average of 120kW over the charging cycle.
Much like the combustion-powered 4 Series, you enter, exit and start the i4 in much the same way with a key and a start button.
Where the experience totally differs though is what happens thereafter. BMW engaged famous composer Hans Zimmer to develop the ‘Iconic Sounds’ function of the car.
When you switch it on, off or hit the throttle hard, there’s a Zimmer-designed noise that comes through the speakers.
It actually sounds pretty cool and isn’t as cringy as some carmakers when it comes to the type of noise that comes out of the speakers when you hit the throttle. It can also be entirely disabled if it’s not your jam.
There appears to be a dynamics philosophy change at BMW now as well. I first noticed it on the iX and it appears to follow through with the i4. The ride is deliberately restrained and more comfortable than equivalent internal combustion versions of the same car.
In the case of the i4, the ride is comfortable and fuss free in and around the city. It doesn’t fuss over minor road imperfections and there’s a noticeable difference between Comfort and Sport modes. Typically a BMW will be overly firm out of the box and only get firmer as you progress through drive modes.
It also helps that the i4 rides on standard 19-inch alloy wheels with 40-profile tyres.
This drivetrain combination is also perfect for the chassis. There’s just enough power to have fun and to accelerate when you need to, while the battery is big enough to offer an excellent amount of driving range.
It’s heavier than the Tesla Model 3 – the i4 eDrive40 tips the scales at just over 2000kg, whereas the equivalent Model 3 Long Range comes in at just under 1850kg. This is the downside to using a carryover internal combustion platform to load EV components.
But strangely, it doesn’t feel that way out on the road. Like the 4 Series, the i4 feels incredibly nimble and fun to drive. In fact, it was raining the morning we filmed and in closed conditions with all the driver aids switched off, the i4 was just as fun and engaging as a rear-wheel drive petrol version of the 4 Series.
BMW uses an intelligent electronic-type differential lock to simulate an LSD, which means you can hang it out and treat it just like you would a sporty 4 Series.
That story continues around corners and at higher speeds where the super responsive drivetrain continuously delivers smiles.
The rear-wheel drive feel mimics exactly what you’d expect to feel in an internal-combustion 4 Series and that’s something that can’t be said about some of the vehicles in this segment.
Bespoke EV platforms tend to sit on big wheelbases and this, along with the added lower weight of batteries, causes a lack of body control when the body oscillates – something we previously saw with the Ioniq 5 when we tested it at our proving ground location.
The i4 on the other hand, is extremely composed and most importantly for a BMW, very fun to drive.
There could be some work done on the regen modes though – I’d love to see a Tesla/Hyundai/Kia-style single pedal driving mode that works a little more aggressively and intelligently than the current setup in the i4.
Visibility out of the front and sides is great – it’s a little compromised out the rear window, but it’s not the end of the world. At lower speeds you’ll notice a fairly big turning circle at 12.5m, which is bigger than expected for a rear-wheel drive vehicle.
Just like at low speeds, the ride is great at higher speeds and a complement to the chassis.
During our drive, we managed a combined average of around 20kWh/100km. The car’s ‘from factory’ reading was just above 18kWh/100km. This would result in a real world driving range of around 444km.
BMW i4 eDrive40 highlights:
- M Sport Package
- Adaptive M Suspension
- Comfort Access System
- M Sport brakes
- Driving Assistant Professional
- Parking Assistant Plus
- Leather ‘Vernasca’ upholstery
- Instrument panel in Sensatec
- 19-inch M Light Alloy Wheels
- Sport seats for driver and front passenger
- BMW head-up display
- LED headlights incl. High Beam Assistant
- Automatic tailgate
- Electric seat adjustment
- Ambient light
- Galvanic embellishers for controls
- Storage compartment package
- Through-loading system
- Live Cockpit Professional
- Connected Package Professional
- Wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- HiFi Loudspeaker System, 10 speakers
- Wireless charging
- DAB+ digital radio
- BMW IconicSounds Electric
- Chargefox 5 years unlimited charging
- Model 2 Domestic charger
- Model 3 Public charging cable
The BMW i4 M50 adds the following:
- M Performance tuning and elements
- xDrive (AWD)
- Lumbar support
- Seat heating, front
- BMW Laserlight
- harman/kardon surround sound system, 16 speakers
- Glass roof, electric
- 19-inch M light alloy wheels with performance tyres
- M Technology Package
- M Rear Spoiler
- Metallic paintwork
The BMW i4 is yet to be crash tested by ANCAP or Euro NCAP, as has its 4 Series Gran Coupe sibling.
While the two-door 4 Series Coupe managed five stars in 2019 testing, the differences in dimensions and drivetrain mean it’s not as simple as carrying the crash test data across to the new EV.
Australian models get the following standard features:
- Autonomous emergency braking
- Forward collision warning
- Lane-keep assist
- Speed limit recognition
- Lane departure warning
- High-beam assist
- Driving Assistant Professional
- Adaptive cruise control with stop/go
- Steering and Lane Control Assistant (semi-autonomous mode)
- Evasion Aid
- Front cross-traffic alert
- Parking Assistant Plus
- incl. 360-degree cameras
BMW covers its range with a three-year, unlimited-kilometre new vehicle warranty.
Servicing can be prepaid for four or six years and costs $1240 or $1765 respectively with intervals determined by the vehicle’s infotainment system based on condition.
I was genuinely surprised by the BMW i4. Unlike most other brands with an EV fashioned from an internal combustion platform, the i4 absolutely shines and feels like it was built from the ground-up as an EV.
The ride is excellent, it accelerates and handles like a sporty BMW and ultimately there are no compromises in picking this over an equivalent internal combustion 4 Series.
It’s let down by a lack of room in the second row and the price – it’s significantly more expensive than the comparable electric vehicles on the market at the moment, and that may ultimately end up hurting BMW when it comes to sales.
Outside of that, I wouldn’t hesitate recommending this as a good contender to the competitors in the segment. It holds its own and feels every bit a sporty BMW.
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MORE: Everything BMW i4