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
- Slick infotainment
- Competitive range
- M50 model’s performance
- Expensive compared to rivals
- All-wheel-drive only on top-spec model
- M50 not the most engaging BMW M car
|Model||Range||Wallbox charging time||Rapid charge time|
|eDrive40||365 miles||13hrs (0-100%, 7.4kW)||31mins (10-80%, 210kW)|
|M50||318 miles||13hrs (0-100%, 7.4kW)||31mins (10-80%, 210kW)|
The BMW i4 marks the third electric model from the premium German marque being launched in 2021, following the iX3 mid-size SUV and the iX flagship. However, the i4 could be BMW’s most important EV to date, as it not only serves as the zero-emissions alternative to the brand’s own highly popular 3 Series saloon, it’s also a direct rival to the Polestar 2 and Tesla Model 3.
The fully-electric model is based on the new BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe, which gives the car a good amount of presence, but also allows it to blend with the rest of the brand’s line-up – unlike the BMW iX which sticks out no matter what you park it next to. The otherwise understated design is somewhat disrupted by the i4’s 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 very 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 though, it can be difficult to navigate the array of icons and sub-menus on the screen while driving.
Practicality-wise, those looking to ditch their 3 Series company-car for the i4 will be pleasantly surprised, as the electric saloon boasts a healthy 470 litres of boot space, which is only 10 litres down on the petrol-engined 4 Series Gran Coupe. But, while boot space is only slightly affected, and there is a good amount of knee room for even taller passengers in the rear, the floor-mounted battery does eat into foot space for those in the back.
Both the eDriv40 and top-of-the-range M50 versions of the i4 use the same 84kWh battery, which provides enough power for a range of 365 miles or 318 miles respectively. They also feature BMW’s fifth-generation eDrive electric motors, with the eDrive40 model producing 335bhp from its single rear-axle mounted electric motor. However, the car we drove was the all-wheel-drive i4 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 seconds 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 attempt to deploy all 537bhp as it writhes in your hands, thanks in part to the 430Nm of torque being sent through the front wheels alone. In the wet however, a good deal of patience with the throttle is required, as the M50’s potent powertrain can make the car a bit more of a handful. The car uses its brakes to control wheelspin, but can become unsettled when coming out of tighter corners searching for traction.
Behind the wheel, the i4’s low driving position makes the car feel hunkered-down, while the low centre of gravity means the car feels athletic despite it weighing in at 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, with wind and tyre noise both kept at bay, making the electric saloon a very pleasant motorway cruiser. Performance even remains very strong at higher speeds; perfect for overtaking. The car’s air suspension also means the i4 is unperturbed by harsher road surfaces, especially if you select Comfort mode. The car’s mass is less tightly controlled when you do so, however.
It’s worth noting at this stage that despite the claimed 318-mile range for the i40 M50, at the start of our test drive, we had 90% charge and an indicated range of 232 miles. After a 91-mile drive on a variety of roads, the battery had been depleted to 44%, with 112 miles of range remaining.
You can recharge the i4 at up to 210kW, if you can find a fast enough ultra-rapid charger. If you do, topping up the 84kWh battery from 10-80% will take around 30 minutes; you can add 102 miles of range to an xDrive40 model in 10 minutes, or 87 miles to the M50 in the same amount of time. More people are likely to recharge at home though, with the i4 capable of AC charging up to 11kW, which will replenish the battery from 0-100% in eight-and-a-half hours. Using a more common 7.4kW home wallbox charger will 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 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 it provides when you’re not just hurtling forward in a straight line that will make it appeal to those interested in the more potent electric cars on the market. Although, it must be said, the M50 isn’t quite as engaging as its petrol-powered M brethren.
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 £51,905 in Sport trim or £53,405 in M Sport guise, however, the eDrive40 model is rear-wheel-drive only, and performance won’t be 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 the driving experience. But the i4’s superb refinement, build quality, excellent infotainment setup and rapid-charging capabilities, combined with a less hefty price tag and 365-mile claimed figure make the electric BMW saloon a compelling package that has the potential to tempt a good many people away from the good-to choice of a Model 3.