Tesla has been offering a relatively affordable electric sedan for a long time now with the Model 3. Despite everything, it took several years for it to have direct competitors, in particular with the arrival of the Polestar 2. It’s the turn of BMW to join the party with thei4a car offered in two versions; eDrive40 or even the most efficient, M50, the one I tested. Does she have what it takes to carve out a place for herself?
First, a timid approach
Unlike several electric models that are based on a dedicated architecture, the BMW i4 derives directly from a combustion engine vehicle, the 4 Series Gran Coupé, a car that is not offered in Canada. This means that the i4 uses the CLAR architecture, the same that is found under the vast majority of the brand’s models.
Even if initially, the shape of the body gives the impression of dealing with a conventional sedan, it is not so; it is indeed a four-door coupe, or even a hatchback. Moreover, its roof line that extends to the rear and its rounded trunk are the most beautiful effect, especially since the version we tested was equipped with very attractive optional wheels.
Only the grille from the 4 Series Coupé and Cabriolet, similar to the teeth of a beaver, shocks the eye, without ever missing an opportunity to arouse strong reactions. Personally, I still have a hard time getting used to it. On the other hand, the quality of the exterior finish is excellent.
A cabin that barely evolves
The typical BMW approach shines through on board, but changes have been made to the cabin layout compared to the brand’s other models. For example, the two separate screens of the 4 Series thermal are replaced by a screen included in a full width floating unit that includes both instrumentation and infotainment. The air conditioning controls, once made up of independent controls, are now found in this screen that controls everything, Tesla-style.
If this huge screen is spectacular at the base, it reveals its tricks when we explore the maze of its settings. First, there are three designs for the instrumentation and the new iDrive8 infotainment system, for its part, offers many more possibilities than the iDrive7 it replaces. Graphic quality
ique is in a class of its own. The failure? It is so complex to use and the different columns are so similar that you end up getting lost. Too bad, since iDrive7 was easy to use and intuitive.
In terms of living space, it is difficult. Well, at the front, it’s not so much of a problem since there is enough space, but at the back, it’s a different story. We do not find in the i4 this feeling of clearance to which we are accustomed to many electric vehicles. First, the doors are very small due to the “four-door coupé” configuration, which makes it difficult to get in, and once in place, you’re stuck everywhere. The i4 is therefore not a model intended for families, which is deplorable given the absence of another solution in the range. On the other hand, the cargo space with the tailgate is really easy to access, an advantage of this model.
Finally, the comfort in the front should be highlighted. The seats are well curved, the general ergonomics are good, the visibility too and the quietness of the ride is quite satisfactory. The quality of the car’s finish is also rigorous.
Equipped to perform
The BMW i4 offers two formulas depending on the version you choose. First, there is the eDrive40, a propulsion equipped with a 335 horsepower electric motor. It is, in a way, the entry-level version, which is eligible for rebates from both levels of government for the purchase of an electric vehicle.
Next comes the M50, sold without any discount, equipped with two electric motors whose combined power climbs to 536 horsepower and torque to 586 lb-ft, when Boost mode is used. This overdose is activated in Sport mode and allows cavalry to be unbound for a period of 10 seconds, giving an additional 67 horsepower and 48 lb-ft. Normally, the engines therefore rather display a combined power of 469 horsepower and a torque of 538 lb-ft, more than respectable figures, despite the high weight of 2,200 kilograms.
Regardless of version, the battery uses lithium-ion technology and has a usable capacity of 81.5 kilowatt hours. Recharging at a residential charging station accepts 11 kilowatts of power allowing recharging in 8 hours and the maximum power accepted is 200 kilowatts on a fast charging station.
With power figures that approach, and even exceed, those of the performance BMW M3, the i4 M50 creates high expectations. In terms of raw performance, I wasn’t disappointed; it accelerates with such speed – and such instantaneity – that it has nothing to envy to its thermal engine counterpart. It’s even more brutal in Sport mode with Boost. Even on snowy or gravel-covered surfaces, the two motors work together with the stability system to find the maximum grip and catapult the car straight forward.
When it’s time to slow down, regenerative braking is there. It’s configurable (via the damn iDrive8 system) in that it can give you more or less braking when the transmission is in D-mode. You even have the option of an adaptive mode which adjusts the regenerative force (so braking) depending on the presence of a vehicle in front of you. If, however, you prefer true one-pedal driving, engage the transmission’s B mode, and you’ll get an easy-to-modulate system that provides good braking force from a standstill. Personally, I find it great to have the choice of braking type, and also to have a one-pedal ride that really works. In fact, I was able to recover 26.3 kilowatt hours due to regenerative braking over an 800 kilometer course, which extended the range by 110 kilometers in all.
On topic, I recorded an energy consumption of 24.6 kilowatt hours/100 kilometers at the end of my journey, which gives a projected range of 332 kilometers. Considering the snow I faced, the level of performance of the car and the temperature fluctuating between 0 and -10 degrees Celsius, it’s good, nothing more.
While the BMW M3 analogy works for power, it doesn’t hold true for handling. The BMW i4 is significantly heavier than the BMW M3, which translates into an unusually heavy feeling for a BMW. Nevertheless, the suspension and the weight of the batteries mean that the i4 clings to the asphalt with tenacity, even making it difficult to destabilize, in addition to the variable ratio steering which does not lack precision and speed. The comfort of the suspension is also notable, an advantage of the car. But unfortunately, it’s a somewhat disconnected feeling and slightly withdrawn agility that sticks in our mouths at the end.
The BMW i4 2022 shows how well BMW has mastered electric technology. This car doesn’t compromise on engine performance, ride comfort or build quality, although I would have liked a little more agility in the ride.
It will take a little hindsight before evaluating the reliability of this model, which prevents us from commenting on a purchase recommendation for the moment.