Release Date: Available now
Price: From $55,300
Power: 2 motor, AWD
Battery Range: 301 miles
0 to 60 mph: 3.7 seconds
Smarts: 8th gen iDrive
The BMW i4 was shown off recently, with BMW directly pitching production-spec saloon against the Tesla Model 3. The all-electric i4 will join the BMW i3 electric hatchback, a new BMW iX3 mid-sized SUV and the BMW iX high-performance SUV to boost the company's plans for expanding its growing EV lineup.
The Munich-based auto manufacturer has had concept visions of the car doing the rounds for some time now, and the production ready model doesn't look too different. Along with an exterior that’s dominated by BMW’s current penchant for huge imposing grilles, much like that seen on the new BMW 4 Series, the interior promises minimalist refinement and plenty on the tech and infotainment front.
BMW i4: Price and availability
Pricing for the BMW i4 starts at $55,300 for the lowest spec model, the i4 eDrive 40, which only comes with a single electric motor. Meanwhile the performance i4 M50 model will set you back at least $65,900.
That makes it more expensive that the entry-level Tesla Model 3, even with all the price hikes, one of the cars BMW seems to be competing with.
Another quality EV alternative, the Polestar 2, comes in at around the same price point, which could prove to be a tempting conundrum for buyers looking to move up to their first electric saloon. Many might prefer the benefit of a long-established brand like BMW.
BMW hasn't made a huge song and dance about commencing deliveries in the U.S. just yet, but previously promised that they would begin in March 2022. Judging from the BMW website there are some cars available at dealerships, depending on where you live, but availability will depend on what options and extras you choose.
BMW i4 M50 vs eDrive40
Two different BMW i4 models will be going on sale next year. The base-level i4 eDrive40, and the i4 M50. The M50 comes from BMW's M Division, which is designed to produce enhanced cars to supplement BMW's road car portfolio.
BMW has described the M50 as the "first purely electric performance car from BMW M". Naturally that performance comes at a price, and you'll be paying over $10,000 more for the M50 than the $55,400 it will cost to buy an eDrive 40 model.
But there will be more power under the hood to get you where you need to go quickly. While the eDrive40 can hit 0-60mph in 5.7 seconds, the M50 does it in just 3.9 using a 'Sport Boost' button to get you full use of the 537bhp and 586lb ft of torque.
That power comes from two electric motors that offers all-wheel drive, The eDrive 40, by comparison, only has a single motor driving the rear wheels.
The downside is that the M50 model is not as efficient, and suffers by the fact it has the same battery as the eDrive 40. That means the official range estimate is just 270 miles — 31 miles less than the eDrive 40.
From a design perspective, that's about all there is to differentiate the two cars. They both look functionally the same, and their 83.9kWh batteries can handle up to 200kW charging speeds.
BMW i4: Range, battery and performance
The BMW i4 is set to use an 83.9 kWh battery, with a weight estimated to be around 550kg, to power a single electric motor. As a result the car will be heavy, but performance promises to be impressive. That's thanks to the BMW i4 featuring the company's the eighth-generation system iDrive control system, BMW's most powerful to date, to help milk the most from that powertrain.
Official EPA range figure offer up to 301 miles of range for the eDrive40 model, provided you opt for the 18-inch wheel configuration. Larger wheels always cause a reduction, so opting for 19-inch rims means your range will drop to 282 miles.
Meanwhile the M50 model comes packing a maximum of 270 miles with 19-inch wheels, while the 20-inch configuration offers a significantly lower 227 miles. Which is, honestly, pretty low for a premium EV. That's what happens when all four variants feature the same battery.
It also shows what happens to range when you have an automobile with more of a performance focus. Still, the M50's performance is pretty impressive from the sounds of things. The car's 'Sport Boost' mode will also get you from zero to 62mph in a pretty tidy 3.7 seconds and top speed is expected to be over 130mph.
Meanwhile the eDrive40 tops out at 118mph, with a060 time of 5.5 seconds. So it's no slouch, but obviously there are much faster cars on the roads.
Interestingly range figures show just how much of a difference you can get by testing range under different standards. The figures above all came from the EPA's range testing and are significantly lower than those calculated per the European WLTP standard. There the eDrive40 has up to 365 miles of range, while the M50 has up to 318.
That's a huge difference, and obviously we won't know which figure is more accurate until people start driving the i4 on real roads.
Charging the car should be quick at least, with the i4 being compatible with 200kW charging points. If you can find one then the eDrive40 can regain 108 miles of range in 10 minutes, while the M50 will pull in just 88 miles of range in the same time. Again, it seems that extra power comes with some downsides.
BMW i4: Design and interior
The BMW i4’s front end is dominated by another one of its wild grille designs, while bright blue flourishes around the car highlight that it’s an all-electric creation. The i4 is also longer than a BMW 4 Series Coupe because of its four doors, although its profile still looks quite sleek. Round at the back, the rear end packs more blue styling touches, along with a diffuser that helps to break up the design thanks to its contrasting colour.
Central to the interior will be the iDrive control system, which will be based around crisp new high-resolution displays and a host of touch controls. Indeed, BMW’s dazzling new curved display is expected to be a highlight, and follows the theme as seen in previews of the iX SUV. In that model there’s a 12.3-inch instrument display mated with a 14.9-inch infotainment screen, which boasts a resolution of 200ppi.
Both the digital instruments and the infotainment will be controlled via a rotary dial located on the center console. Over-the-air updates will mean that new features and functions can be added over time and without the need for a visit to the dealership.
Driving options will come from a trio of modes: Core, Sport and Efficient allowing drivers to choose between performance and battery usage, or both. Lookout for a related feature that will let owners change the i4’s exterior graphics and lighting effects depending on the mode selected. This experience is said to come complete with custom sound effects developed in collaboration with Hans Zimmer, the Hollywood composer.
BMW i4: Autonomous driving
The BMW i4 will come with Level 2 driver assistance features. The car doesn't come close to offering full driver-free autonomy, but what it does have does take the pressure off the driver for a more relaxed and easy ride.
Those features include lane keeping, blind-spot detection, emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control. Those are all fairly standard on most mid-range electric cars right now, so there's nothing particularly special about what the i4 has to offer.
Particularly since it will likely require the driver to keep their hands on the wheel, even if the car is doing some of the steering by itself.
BMW i4: Outlook
The BMW i4 may cost more than the Tesla Model 3, but you also have to consider that it's been designed as a luxury car. Compared to other luxury electric vehicles and both BMW i4 models look pretty cheap by comparison. At the very least the i4 will appeal to drivers who want that premium badge on their driveway.
As for the range, 245 to 300 miles doesn't sound great. It's not terrible, but it certainly could be better. Especially when you consider the higher range estimates being advertised on the same cars in Europe. Still the figures could be worse, though the performance-geared i4 M50 isn't quite as appealing there, but you still the extra speed and power in exchange.
BMW's luxury design and reputation certainly makes the i4 an appealing car, as does the not-too-unreasonable price tag. However we just we we could have got a few extra miles of range out of them — especially M50.
- More: How long does it take to charge an electric car? What you need to know