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BMW i4 eDrive40 (2022) review

Does the entry-level BMW i4 do enough to become the electric executive saloon of choice?

 

Words: James Fossdyke - @JFossdyke

Published on: December 20, 2021

Words: James Fossdyke - @JFossdyke

Published on: December 20, 2021

Tech Specs

Model testedBMW i4 eDrive40 M Sport
Irish pricingi4 eDrive40 starts at €63,565 on the road
Electric system250kW electric motor plus 83.9kWh lithium-ion battery pack
Transmissionsingle-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Body stylefive-door, five-seat fastback
CO2 emissions0g/km
Irish motor tax€120
Range590km
Max charging capacity200kW; 31 mins for 10-80 per cent battery or 133km of range every 10 minutes at max DC connection speed
Energy consumption16-20kWh/100km
Top speed250km/h
0-100km/h5.7 seconds
Max power340hp
Max torque430Nm
Boot space470-1,290 litres

The BMW i4 has already made a great first impression among our road testers, but until now we had only driven the range-topping, high-performance M50 model. Now it's the turn of the cheaper eDrive40 version, which is expected to be more popular. Will a drop in power and the switch to rear-wheel drive take the shine off a fantastic executive car, or will the eDrive40's lower price tag make the i4 even better value?

In the metal

The i4 is, in essence, an electric version of the 4 Series Gran Coupe, which is itself the five-door fastback version of the two-door 4 Series Coupe. That shows in the styling, which will be familiar to anyone who has spent time with the new 4 Series.

That means the enormous front grille remains, albeit mostly blanked off because the i4's electric motor doesn't need as much cooling as the petrol- or diesel-powered 4 Series models' engines. The rear end has also changed slightly because there's no need to accommodate exhaust pipes, but the general silhouette is much the same.

Most of the tweaks are minor, such as the trim line down the bottom of the doors, which is designed to highlight the location of the battery. At least that's what BMW says. On basic i4 Sport models, that line is blue, but the M Sport and M50 models switch to a more subtle black, as well as getting sportier bumpers. The entry-level i4 is marked out by blue trim around the grille.

To the untrained eye, then, the i4 looks much like any other 4 Series Gran Coupe, and that's fine by us. Grille aside, the 4 Series is quite an attractive beast, and the black panelling over the i4's monster snout has somehow improved it in our eyes.

But while the i4 might look similar to the 4 Series Gran Coupe on the outside, the interior has changed much more dramatically. BMW has added its latest-generation infotainment technology, which has been lifted from the iX SUV, including its massive, curved display. Sweeping across two thirds of the dashboard, it incorporates a 12.3-inch instrument screen in front of the driver and a 14.9-inch touchscreen over the centre of the dash.

The new Operating System 8 software feels faster and more responsive than the already brilliant Operating System 7 found in the internal combustion-powered 4 Series, but the highlight is the digital instrument display, which is now much clearer and easier to use. Sadly, though, BMW has used the upgraded display as an excuse to remove most of the buttons from the cockpit, including the climate control settings.

Apart from that small gripe, though, the i4 cabin is brilliant, with an outstanding level of quality in the materials and the way they're fixed together. Everything feels soft to the touch yet still robust and solidly engineered, right down to the buttons on the steering wheel and the switches on the doors.

Space is adequate, rather than impressive, with a 470-litre boot, which is exactly the same size as that of the conventional 4 Series Gran Coupe. In the cabin, rear legroom and headroom will be fine for most passengers, although taller adults will find the back seats cramped. Our M Sport test car felt slightly oppressive, too, with black roof lining leaving the interior feeling a little dark.

Driving it

Whereas the i4 M50 we drove earlier this year had two electric motors producing a total of 544hp and powering all four wheels, the eDrive40 version of the i4 comes with a single 340hp electric motor that drives the rear wheels. That 204hp deficit in power output sounds big on paper, and the eDrive40's 5.7-second 0-100km/h time is 1.8 seconds down on the M50's, but it doesn't make much of a difference on the road.

The acceleration is relentless and instantaneous, catapulting the car down the road. It forces you back into the seat, but it does so with barely a sound, which makes overtaking a very simple and quiet process. There's a Sport mode that increases the fake motor sound, but that feels a bit unnecessary, and it just makes the ride feel slightly stiffer.

That too feels needless, because all 4 Series cars are slightly firmer than their 3 Series counterparts, and the i4 follows suit. The ride is supple without being soft, so it rounds the sharpest edges off the bumps, but there's plenty of feel for what's going on under the wheels. It's quite comfortable on long motorway journeys, but there's plenty of feel for the road on rural routes. In short, it feels sporty without being uncomfortable, and BMW claims that's what 4 Series customers want.

And that stiffness makes the i4 incredibly agile through the corners. As with the 4 Series, the i4's steering feels overly assisted, but it's smooth and progressive, which means it's very precise. It's easy to put the car exactly where you want it, and the nose responds quickly to any instructions from the driver. BMW hasn't quite managed to mask the car's 2.2-tonne weight and there's a bit of body lean, but it has plenty of grip .

It's easy to drive at everyday speeds, too, with the light steering coming into its own in town and surprisingly good visibility for a coupe. The view from the rear window is a bit restricted, but the five-door shape makes it easier to peer into the blind spots over your shoulders. And when you're backing up, the standard-fit reversing camera comes into its own.

The i4 is also hugely refined, with truly little noise from the motor and only a little wind and road noise at speed - although they are more noticeable without the growl of an internal combustion engine to mask them. Admittedly, even the diesel-powered 4 Series Gran Coupe is quiet, but the i4 is even less noisy, and that makes long drives wonderfully comfortable and even relaxing.

And this is a car that can do long drives. The official 590km range is substantial, and the i4 should achieve more than 350km without too much difficulty - as long as you drive on a mix of roads. Drive carefully, and 400km should be possible, especially if most of your driving is done on urban roads where the quite aggressive regenerative braking will help maximise the range.

What you get for your money

The i4 eDrive40 is available in a choice of two trim levels, with prices starting at €63,565 for the entry-level Sport model. That pays for some blue exterior trim, 18-inch alloy wheels and part-leather upholstery with heated front seats. It also comes with the massive touchscreens, BMW's new infotainment system and a reversing camera, as well as Parking Assistant, automatic air conditioning, ambient lighting and LED lights front and back.

Above that is the M Sport model we tested, which comes with sportier exterior styling features, including more aggressive looking bumpers and side skirts, as well as some black exterior trim and leather upholstery. That comes in at €65,405, making it around €13,000 cheaper than the more powerful M50.

Summary

We already liked the i4, but the eDrive40 powertrain has made it even more appealing. In M Sport trim it looks almost identical to the M50, but it costs over €10,000 less. It's slightly more comfortable, too, and the performance deficit is minimal. Both cars offer instant acceleration and the eDrive40's 5.7-second 0-100km/h time is hardly slow. All of which makes the eDrive40 M Sport the i4 of choice in our eyes.

And for most customers, we suspect it should also be the 4 Series Gran Coupe of choice. Admittedly, the 3.0-litre M440i xDrive would still be our money-no-object pick thanks to that stunning straight-six engine, but if you're choosing between an i4 and a less characterful 2.0-litre 4 Series, we'd be tempted to go electric. It's even more refined, the running costs are lower and it's just as good to drive. If you can live with an electric car, this is the 4 Series to go for.



Alternatives

Car Reviews | BMW 420d xDrive Gran Coupe (2022) | CompleteCar.ie
BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe vs. BMW i4 eDrive40 (2022): if you like the i4 but aren't quite ready to go all-electric, the petrol- and diesel-powered 4 Series Gran Coupe models are much the same. The 420d is surprisingly refined and very economical, but the M440i is the more soulful option.

Car Reviews | Porsche Taycan RWD (2021) | CompleteCar.ie
Porsche Taycan vs. BMW i4 eDrive40 (2022): Porsche's electric saloon is one of the best there is, with plenty of power and sublime handling. The quality is incredible, and it comes with plenty of electric range, but it's quite a lot more expensive than the BMW.

Car Reviews | Tesla Model 3 Long-range (2019) | CompleteCar.ie
Tesla Model 3 vs. BMW i4 eDrive40 (2022): the minimalist Tesla has long set the standard in this sector of the market and the technology is amazing, but it isn't without its faults. Questionable build quality is a problem for the brand, and the Model 3 looks a bit awkward to our eyes.

Tech Specs

Model testedBMW i4 eDrive40 M Sport
Irish pricingi4 eDrive40 starts at €63,565 on the road
Electric system250kW electric motor plus 83.9kWh lithium-ion battery pack
Transmissionsingle-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Body stylefive-door, five-seat fastback
CO2 emissions0g/km
Irish motor tax€120
Range590km
Max charging capacity200kW; 31 mins for 10-80 per cent battery or 133km of range every 10 minutes at max DC connection speed
Energy consumption16-20kWh/100km
Top speed250km/h
0-100km/h5.7 seconds
Max power340hp
Max torque430Nm
Boot space470-1,290 litres