Driven: 2022 BMW i4 eDrive40 Shows Carmaker Is Serious About Electric Vehicles

Sedan sales may have fallen off a cliff in recent years, but when BMW decided it needed a Tesla competitor and needed it fast, it chose the 4-Series Gran Coupe as its base and squarely targeted the Model 3. Did that decision push that decision off?

While the i4 isn’t BMW’s first all-electric car, it’s arguably the most attractive car on the market, even though it sits solidly in a premium segment of the market and is more expensive than its main competitors.

The first thing to note about the i4 is that it is not supported by an all-electric platform and as mentioned, it is based on the ICE 4-Series Gran Coupe. Most automakers are moving away from this and using custom chassis for their electric models, such as Hyundai, Kia and Genesis with the Ioniq 5, EV6 and recent GV60. That’s not to say the i4 isn’t a convincing electric car.

The spec sheet is well read

Tested here is the i4 eDrive40, the entry-level variant sold in Australia with an 80.7 kWh battery pack that drives a rear-wheel electric motor with 250 kW (335 hp) and 430 Nm (317 lb-ft) of torque. Those numbers might not be earth-breaking in the electric car world, but they’re not something to sneeze at, especially when you consider that the entry-level ICE 420i Gran Coupe engine is rated at 135 kW (181 hp) and 300 Nm (221 lb-ft) ).

The i4 eDrive40 is good for a 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) time of 5.7 seconds and will last up to a top speed of 190 km/h (118 mph), numbers more than enough for most buyers.

Most important is the range and charging speeds. These are two areas where BMW is doing well as well. It has a range of 520 kilometers (323 miles) on the Australian Joint Test Cycle and accepts DC fast charging at speeds up to 205 kW. That’s enough to charge the battery from 10-80 percent in 31 minutes, which is about 12 minutes longer than the Ioniq 5, EV6 and GV60 but still good. This home-mounted 11KW wall box can fully charge the battery with a touch of over 8 hours.

On paper then, the i4’s ICE foundations don’t seem to hamper its ability to be a good EV. But what about the inside?

It’s a BMW, of course it’s beautiful

The first thing BMW insiders will notice is how “natural” the interior is. BMW has not followed the lead of some of its EV competitors by adopting a spaceship-like design with an i4 cabin and instead, the majority of its components are shared with the regular 4-Series Gran Coupe. This is not a bad thing.

When we tested the 4 Series Gran Coupe a few months ago, we were impressed with its cabin. i4 improves it even further with a host of welcome updates.

The most notable change was the implementation of the BMW Curved Display which consists of a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a 14.9-inch infotainment screen. These screens are a sight to behold and contain all important vehicle functions. Before spending a week with the i4, we were concerned about how the block would perform in sunny conditions without a traditional enclosure covering it. Apparently, the screen performance was flawless and we didn’t notice any glare.

Drive it: the 2022 BMW 420i Gran Coupe is elegant and refined

BMW has also moved away from the traditional climate controls found on the regular Gran Coupe 4-Series car and shifted the functions to the infotainment screen. We are not fond of this change because the new weather settings are not particularly intuitive. Two other notable changes to the i4 include a new black and blue transmission and a blue start/stop button. Other than these components, most of the cabin is shared with the ICE model which includes a transmission tunnel.

The BMW Curved Display runs the latest BMW 8 operating system. This software is a significant improvement over those used on older models. It is easy to understand and the screen itself is very responsive to touch. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are nice additions.

Space in the back is limited. The i4 eDrive40e floor is very high and the ceiling is low, which means taller passengers will feel cramped. However, the Model 3 is no better than before due to its panoramic glass roof. Luggage space is a respectable 470 liters (16.59 cu ft) and 1,290 liters (45.5 cu ft) with the rear seats folded flat.

Many security features are standard on the i4 base. It includes six airbags, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, lane keep assist, automatic high and low speed emergency braking, a 360 camera, and front and rear parking sensors.

polished and smooth

As is often the case with electric cars, it’s the i4 eDrive40’s straight-line performance that catches your eye first.

BMW quotes a 0-100 km/h (62 mph) time of 5.7 seconds, but for those unfamiliar with performance electric vehicles, it can feel a touch quicker due to the instant torque and responsiveness it provides. The lack of gear changes also adds to the feeling of speed.

When the road gets twisty, the i4 eDrive40 is fun to drive but it weighs 2,125 kg (4,684 lb) and that weight is quite noticeable. Cornering sharpness is comparable to a standard 4 Series Gran Coupe, but when you negotiate a corner, the car starts to feel heavy. The rear is also just as happy to spin as any good sports sedan of this type.

Our test car was outfitted with Hankook Ventus S1 evo3 tires measuring 245/40R19 all around. These tires perform brilliantly in all conditions and are considered by many to be comparable to the likes of the new Michelin Pilot Sport 5 and Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 6.

Those testing the i4 eDrive40 may also be pleasantly surprised at how quiet the car is on the highway. With the driver assistance features and cruise control set enabled, there is very little road noise that comes from the tires or from the wind. However, if you want some sounds, BMW’s IconicSounds system developed by Hans Zimmer does just that. This can be turned on or off through the settings and the audio scene varies depending on which driving mode you are in. We really enjoyed it when driving the i4 in Sport mode because it makes it look like a spaceship when it accelerates. Sure, it’s a gimmick, but it speeds up with absolutely no sound or emotion.

Regenerative braking is also standard on the car, offering ‘High’, ‘Medium’, ‘Low’ and ‘Adaptive’ settings. The system works well and the transition between the regenerative brake and mechanical brake is almost smooth. Unfortunately, the regenerative braking system cannot be completely disabled as in some competitors, and the “adaptive” setting is completely unpredictable. There is also no one-pedal drive mode and it’s a shame that the regenerative brake settings are buried in the menus.

We averaged 23 kWh/100 km during our week with the i4 including a mix of city and highway driving. Since our test car left the factory, it has averaged 17.8 kWh/100 km over nearly 3,100 km (1,926 lb) of driving.

Is it worth the premium on the cheaper alternatives?

Prices for the BMW i4 eDrive40 start at AU$99,900 ($70,834) plus road costs. That’s a hefty sum and about A$16,000 ($11,344) more than the 430i Gran Coupe that offers similar levels of performance. It is also more expensive than its competitors in the field of electricity.

Like many other countries, the Tesla Model 3 remains the best-selling EV in Australia. The entry-level rear-wheel drive model doesn’t pack the same punch as the i4 eDrive40 but is much cheaper, starting at AU$63,900 (US$45,308) before road costs. The 3 Performance flagship is available from AU$88,900 ($63,034) before on-road costs, while the i4 M50i flagship starts at AU$124,900 ($88,560). The price discrepancy between the 3 and the i4 is significant, but there is no doubt that BMW looks like the most premium and refined car with a premium interior.

It is also worth comparing the i4 eDrive40 with the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6 in terms of price, although they are the largest of the crossovers. Hyundai pricing starts at AU$71,900 ($50,980) for the rear-wheel drive model and AU$75,900 ($53,816) for the all-wheel drive variant. Meanwhile, the EV6’s range starts at AU$67,990 (US$48,208) and goes all the way up to AU$82,990 (US$58,844). Domestic pricing for the Genesis GV60 has not yet been announced.

Then there’s the Polestar 2, starting at AU$59,900 ($42,472) and going up to AU$64,900 ($46,017) for the long-range single-engine version and AU$69,900 ($49,562) for the twin-engine version. Long term.

There is no denying that the BMW i4 eDrive40 is a good electric car. Pre-existing BMW owners looking for a vehicle in this segment will feel very familiar. However, will the higher price affect sales? Only time will prove it.

More photos…

Image credits: Brad Anderson/Carescops

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