In-depth reviews

BMW i4 review

The electric BMW 3 Series alternative offers refinement and comfort with exceptional build quality and excellent infotainment, while the M50 packs a punch worthy of its badge

Overall rating

4.5 out of 5

Pros

  • Slick infotainment
  • Competitive range
  • M50 model’s performance

Cons

  • Expensive compared to rivals
  • All-wheel-drive only on top-spec model
  • M50 not the most engaging BMW M car
ModelRangeWallbox charging timeRapid charge time
eDrive40365 miles13hrs (0-100%, 7.4kW)31mins (10-80%, 205kW)
M50318 miles13hrs (0-100%, 7.4kW)31mins (10-80%, 205kW)

The BMW i4 is the third electric car that the premium German marque launched during 2021, following on from the iX3 and iX SUVs. However, the i4 could be BMW’s most important EV to date, as it's not only a zero-emissions alternative to the brand’s own highly popular 3 Series saloon, but also a direct rival to the Polestar 2 and Tesla Model 3.

BMW has based the i4 on the combustion-engined 4 Series Gran Coupe, so it has plenty of visual presence, but also blends in nicely with the rest of the brand’s line-up – unlike the iX, which sticks out no matter what you park it next to. The otherwise-understated design is somewhat disrupted by enormous kidney grilles, however.

The layout of the cabin will be also very familiar to any current 3 or 4 Series owner. Build quality is excellent, and the dashboard design is clean and minimalistic – dominated by the i4’s curved display panel that features both a 12.3-inch driver’s screen and the 14.9-inch infotainment display.

The infotainment system doesn’t disappoint, with crisp graphics and a responsive user interface. You can tap the central touchscreen to navigate through menus and functions, but the i4 also features the familiar iDrive rotary dial. Whichever method you use, it can be difficult to navigate the array of icons and sub-menus on the screen while driving, however.

Practicality-wise, those looking to ditch their 3 Series company car for an i4 will be pleasantly surprised, as the electric saloon boasts a healthy 470 litres of boot space – only 10 down on the petrol-engined 4 Series Gran Coupe. But, while boot space is only slightly affected, and there's a good amount of kneeroom for even taller passengers in the rear, the floor-mounted battery does eat into foot space for those in the back.

Both the eDrive40 and top-of-the-range M50 versions of the i4 use an 81kWh battery, which provides enough power for ranges of 365 and 318 miles respectively. They also feature BMW’s fifth-generation eDrive electric motors, with the eDrive40 producing 335bhp from its single rear-mounted electric motor. However, the car we drove was the all-wheel-drive M50: the first electric M performance model, with 537bhp and 795Nm of torque courtesy of its dual-motor setup. The 0-62mph sprint takes just 3.9 seconds – or 5.7 in the entry-level car.

Putting your foot down in the M50 catapults you forward without hesitation. In fact, you’ll need to make sure you have a firm grip on the steering wheel when you deploy all 537bhp, as it writhes in your hands, thanks in part to the 430Nm of torque being sent through the wheels. In the wet, however, a good deal of patience with the throttle is required, as the M50’s potent powertrain can make it a bit of a handful. The car uses its brakes to control wheelspin, but can become unsettled when coming out of tight corners searching for traction. 

Behind the wheel, a low driving position makes the i4 feel hunkered-down, while a low centre of gravity means it seems athletic despite weighing over two tonnes. We can’t speak for the less potent model, but the M50 we drove changed direction well and featured precise, confidence-inspiring steering. Although, it must be said that in Comfort or Sport mode, the steering has a rather detached, synthetic feel to it and you need to concentrate in order to receive any feedback through the wheel.

But, when you’re not driving with such purpose, refinement in the i4 is excellent. Wind and tyre noise are both kept at bay, making the electric saloon a very pleasant motorway cruiser. Performance remains very strong at higher speeds, which is perfect for overtaking. Air suspension also means the i4 is unperturbed by harsher road surfaces, especially if you select Comfort mode. The mass is less tightly controlled when you do so, however.

It’s worth noting at this stage that despite the claimed 318-mile range of the M50, at the start of our test drive, we had 90% charge and an indicated range of just 232 miles. After a 91-mile route taking in a variety of roads, the battery had been depleted to 44% capacity, with 112 miles of range remaining.

You can recharge the i4 at up to 205kW, if you can find a fast enough rapid charger. If you do, topping up the 81kWh battery from 10-80% will take around 30 minutes; you can add 102 miles of range to the eDrive40 in 10 minutes, or 87 miles to the M50 in the same time. More people are likely to charge at home, though, and the i4 capable of AC charging at up to 11kW, which will replenish the battery in eight-and-a-half hours. Using a more common 7.4kW home wallbox charger, it'll take around 13 hours to fully recharge the battery.

The i40 M50 starts from just under £64,000, which is £4,000 more than the Tesla Model 3 Performance it competes with, yet the Tesla undercuts the BMW’s 0-62mph time by nearly a second and can cover 34 miles more on a charge, too. But it’s the M50’s superb cabin, and the driving experience when you’re not just hurtling forward in a straight line, that see it appeal to those interested in the more potent end of the electric-car market.

The entry-level eDrive40 is the potential pick of the range, especially if you’re a company-car driver and already considering the i4’s rivals from Polestar and Tesla. Prices for i4 eDrive40 start from just under £52,000 in Sport trim or nearly £53,500 in M Sport guise, however, the eDrive40 is rear-drive only, and performance isn't quite as gut-wrenching as the M50 or the similarly priced Model 3 Long Range.

We’ve yet to get our hands on an eDrive40, so we won’t make any assumptions about its driving experience. But the i4’s superb refinement, build quality, excellent infotainment setup and rapid-charging capability, combined with a less hefty price tag and 365-mile claimed range make the electric BMW saloon a compelling package that has the potential to tempt a good many people away from a Tesla or Polestar.

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