Posted at 11:45am
4 > 3?
Until recently, traditional automotive brands avoided direct confrontation with Tesla products. This is no longer the case with BMW. Unlike many other models, the i4 clearly shows color: it wants to get the Model 3 off its pedestal.
The best in class is always a bit annoying at the end. By seeing him quoted as an example, we cunningly await the slump, the moment when he stumbles and loses his luster.
The world’s most popular electric vehicle, Tesla’s Model 3, makes people jealous. And many are jealous of his success. Above all the German manufacturers, whose supremacy seems threatened more than ever. To fend off General Musk’s troops, BMW fires the first salvo with the i4.
Just longer than the Model 3, the i4 looks like a BMW, not a strangely shaped machine meant to interpret tomorrow’s mobility. In fact, apart from the nostrils of its blocked grille and the lack of exhaust tips, the i4 merges with a Series 4 Gran Coupé when stationary, another product (this time with a heat engine) from the Bavarian company. Namely an elegant five-door sedan that doesn’t honk its affiliation with the electric universe on every street corner.
You should know that unlike Tesla, for example, BMW believes that the heat engine still has a place in tomorrow’s world. In addition, Pieter Nota, a member of the brand’s Management Committee, recalled in a recent interview that he gave us that “BMW never declared the internal combustion engine dead”.
In a land of knowledge
The car sports familiar looks and a base (almost) as good, in that the i4 inherits the house architecture (codenamed CLAR) that several of the brand’s products capitalize on. 22 screws are enough to screw the battery, which weighs around 500 kg, under the floor. Despite this significant weight gain, the i4 is at its most explosive in its eDrive 50 configuration. Figuratively, of course. It hits 100km/h in under 4 seconds and has equally amazing recovery times no matter how fast it’s going. The instant response of the electric engines, the lack of a gearbox and the fluidity of the lines do the rest. These attributes are also found on other electric vehicles, including the Model 3 (see Competition screen). How does this i4 stand out? The answer is three letters: BMW.
Despite the fact that its chassis is overweight, this sedan manages to reproduce the dynamics of a petrol-powered 4 Series Gran Coupé in several driving phases. The steering shows almost equal speed, the quality of the braking seems just as reassuring and the overall balance very satisfying.
The most important distinguishing features relate to agility (Advantage 4 Series Gran Coupé), stability (Advantage i4), noise (Advantage i4) and comfort (Advantage i4 always). On that last point, it should be noted that the air suspension at the rear contributes to this superiority.
If you step on the gas pedal further on a winding road, the i4 tends to understeer more. We slowly approach the parking lots, where the i4 proves less manageable than its “thermal counterpart”. Parking is clearly less easy due to a turning circle similar to that of a fire engine.
The power consumption ascertained in this test does not quite correspond to reality. By applying the requirements of ecological driving, it can be reduced below the bar of 19 kWh/100 km. From now on, this allows him the supposed autonomy, which however remains rather shy towards You-Know-Who! For better performance, you’re better off going for the eDrive40 (see our boxes in the “Technical Data Sheet” tab).
Any fan of the propeller brand will slip aboard the i4 without feeling the slightest change of scenery. The furniture is essentially the same, as are the seats, but the dual infotainment screen is different. However, the layout of menus and sub-menus is still messy and it is in the driver’s best interest to become familiar with the controls before driving.
The overall presentation seems rewarding, but for that you have to be willing to open your wallet wide – forget your wallet – to add a bit of atmosphere.
Leather upholstery with contrast stitching ($1500) or carbon fiber trim ($600). That is not enough ? Don’t worry, the list doesn’t end here. Some active safety devices (e.g. lane change detection) are also included in the options catalogue. Therefore, the retail price for the eDrive 50 increases fairly slightly to $72,990, as we’ve seen. The asking price for the test vehicle was nearly $90,000 (including freight and preparation). In this case, do not rely on governments to facilitate the law. The eDrive 50 is not eligible. On the other hand, the eDrive 40, yes!
BMW’s approach of converting a petrol architecture to electric has advantages (financial and work organisation) but involves certain compromises. For example, using the specific configuration (battery on the ground and engines with reduced size) to save more interior space. The i4 doesn’t make much of an effort in this regard, and its rear seats aren’t very roomy. No more than its trunk, despite the extra modularity offered by its tailgate. Here is the (further) proof that it is indeed a BMW.
From $54,990 to $72,990
Eligible for government discounts
Yes, but only for eDrive40
Visible in stores
But now you have to place the order
20.3 kWh/100km (i4 eDrive50)
Driving fun (eDrive50)
We love less
Limited range (eDrive50) and winter suitability (eDrive40).
BMW seems to have found the right hook.
- eDrive40: 1 electric motor; combined power: 335 hp; Maximum Torque: 317 lb-ft
- eDrive50: 2 electric motors; combined power: 536 hp; Maximum Torque: 586 lb-ft
- Weight: 2116kg (eDrive40), 1965kg (eDrive50)
- Acceleration 0-100 km/h: 3.9 s (eDrive50), 5.7 s (eDrive40)
- Towing capacity: none
- Standard: automatic
- Optional: none
- Driving mode: rear-wheel drive (eDrive40) and all-wheel drive (eDrive50)
- 225/50R18 (eDrive40, standard)
- 245/40R19 – 255/40R19 (eDrive50, series)
Battery capacity/assumed range
- eDrive40 lithium-ion battery: 83.9 kWh (usable: 81.5 kWh) / 482 km range
- eDrive50: 83.9 kWh (useful: 81.5 kWh)/400 km range
- 20.3 kWh/100km (i4 eDrive50)
- Maximum charging power: 205 kW
- Charge time – level 2: 8.5 hours (from 10% to 100%)
- Wheelbase: 2856mm
- Length: 4787mm
- Height: 1448mm
- Width: 1852 mm (without exterior mirrors)
A successful adaptation
Contrary to the current trend, the i4 is not based on an architecture specially designed for electro. Rather, it is an adaptation of an existing platform within the brand catalogue. The modifications mainly concern the suspension, which has been strengthened to support the extra mass of the battery and the widening of the rear tracks to accommodate it. As for mechanics, the German manufacturer has developed a family of synchronous type motors with electromagnets rather than permanent magnets, avoiding the use of rare earths.
The maid affair ?
To get government rebates, you need to make an appointment with the eDrive40 version of the i4. This one contains the same accumulator as the tested eDrive50, offers greater autonomy but has only one electric motor that only drives the rear wheels. This is undoubtedly the main obstacle of this financially more affordable model within the i4 range in the eyes of motorists who have to face snowy roads. Especially since the i4 (all versions together) has a lower ground clearance than the Thermal models (Series 3 and 4) from which it descends.
Share your experience
The press will soon release the test of the following vehicles: Acura Integra, BMW 2 Series, Hyundai Kona, Honda HR-V and Lexus IS/RC. If you own one of these vehicles or are awaiting delivery, we’d love to hear from you.