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V8-Like Power and 300 Miles of Range: We Drive BMW's New Electric i4 Sport Sedan

Can it knock the Tesla Model 3 off as the top luxury EV?

  • All-new electric BMW sedan
  • Estimated 300 miles of range for the eDrive40 version
  • M50 version boasts up to 536 hp and 0-60 mph in less than 4 seconds
  • 2022 will be the debut model year for the BMW i4

What is the i4?

BMW's first foray into the electrified future was the diminutive and innovative i3 that came out for the 2014 model year. That was a high-tech but left-field car. The 2022 i4, on the other hand, fits right into BMW's traditional wheelhouse of making small luxury sport sedans. Except you'll find no gasoline engine. The i4 is all-electric.

The result is a car from BMW that's aimed squarely at Tesla's Model 3. It's similar in size to the Model 3 and offers similar levels of range and performance across a pair of models. Combine that with a feature-packed infotainment system, stellar phone integration and a truly luxurious interior design and you have the recipe for a proper Tesla fighter.

The new i4's exterior styling resembles the 4 Series Gran Coupe, largely because BMW wants to keep its traditional customers interested. But the i4's architecture, suspension and electronics are almost wholly new. The interior is also unlike those in other BMW sedans.

Expect the i4 to arrive at BMW dealerships in early 2022.

How does the i4 drive?

The BMW i4 comes in two versions: eDrive40 and M50. The eDrive40 is equipped with a single rear-mounted electric motor that produces 335 horsepower and 317 lb-ft of torque. BMW says that the i4 in this base configuration can accelerate from zero to 62 mph in a respectably quick 5.7 seconds. This i4 also has 18-inch wheels and a rear air suspension for keeping the vehicle level when heavy gear is loaded into the back.

Step up to the M50 and you'll get a dual-motor powertrain. This has an additional front-mounted electric motor that provides extra power as well as all-wheel-drive traction. The combined motor output for the M50 is 469 hp and 538 lb-ft under normal circumstances. Select the Sport Boost drive mode and output increases to 536 hp and 586 lb-ft for about 10 seconds. Other upgrades for this performance-oriented model include a sport suspension with adaptive dampers (to further enhance handling and ride comfort), upgraded brakes and 19-inch wheels.

So far we've only driven the M50 version. It certainly lives up to BMW's performance claims. Acceleration comes as an uninterrupted force-of-nature waterfall. Departure from rest is slingshot. Passing ability verges on the brutal. Unlike in some EVs, the acceleration remains astoundingly vivid even at high speed. Indeed, in launch control mode, BMW says the i4 can maintain its full output of 536 hp all the way to the limited top speed of 140 mph.

We haven't tested the i4 M50 at our test track yet, but BMW says it can launch from 0 to 62 mph in 3.9 seconds. That's a bit slower than the last Tesla Model 3 Performance we tested (3.3 seconds) but quicker than a Polestar 2 (4.3 seconds) or a base Porsche Taycan (a claimed 5.1 seconds).

If there's a typical complaint about EVs from a performance standpoint, it's that they don't make cool noises. BMW has at least considered this for the i4. It has a switchable function that creates a synthesized sound through the car's speakers that rises and falls in pitch and tone and volume, depending on your accelerator position and car speed. It's fair to call it a soundtrack, as it was "composed" by Oscar-winning soundtrack maestro Hans Zimmer. In the Sport Boost mode, it intensifies to dominate the interior. It's quite a surprise to roll down a window and find the car's motors are near silent outside.

For more typical driving, the i4 has a regular D drive mode as well as a B mode that engages maximum brake regeneration when you lift off the accelerator pedal. This is for one-pedal driving, which is common among EVs and allows you to come to a complete stop without having to touch the brake pedal.

Unfortunately, we found it difficult to drive smoothly in B mode. Because the two motors are capable of such strong regeneration as well as all that acceleration, this mode gives the accelerator pedal too much to do. There simply isn't enough travel to mete out the precise acceleration or deceleration you want. It's easier to drive smoothly using the traditional brake pedal, even if it too is a bit twitchy. But the good news is that you're not losing out on any efficiency — the i4's brake pedal starts with regenerative braking and doesn't use friction until it has used all the available regeneration.

Around turns, the i4 M50's steering is quick and beautifully accurate. Sadly there's little authentic road feel coming through the steering, but that's a deficit common to all electric rivals. Cornering grip is immense, and the electronic safety systems subtly cut power if you accelerate too hard in a curve. That said, we do think the M50's cornering behavior isn't quite as engaging as it could be. Perhaps the lighter (but less powerful) rear-drive eDrive40 will be the one to feel more like a classic BMW sport sedan.

What are the i4's charging and range like?

Both i4 versions employ a battery pack with 80.7 kWh of usable capacity. BMW estimates that this will be good for 300 miles on a full battery charge in the rear-drive eDrive40 configuration. That figure decreases to 245 miles in the sportier M50. Note that these are BMW's estimates, not official EPA estimates. For reference, the Model 3 Performance has a maximum EPA range of 315 miles, though a 2018 Model 3 Performance we tested only managed 256 miles in our real-world range testing.

Our initial uninstrumented test gave the impression that BMW's estimates give a fair representation of what you could expect in vigorous daily driving. We'll also know a lot more when we're able to put the i4 through our own real-world range test. The i4 does feature several enhancements that can help to conserve range in winter temperatures, including heat recovery from the motors and electronics, and a heat-pump climate system.

Most i4 buyers will be charging at home using a 240-volt Level 2 station. BMW says the i4 will fully charge from empty in about eight hours when plugged into this kind of station (assuming you have an 11-kW power source). To charge quickly on the road, the i4 supports charging rates of up to 200 kW with a DC fast charger, and here BMW says you can recharge from about 10% battery charge to 80% in about 30 minutes.

How comfortable is the i4?

So far we've only driven the i4 M50 on Germany's impressively smooth roads. But we took care to aim it at any potholes, cobblestones and other uneven surfaces we could find. And sure enough, the suspension is more supple than you might expect from a sedan of this performance. The adaptive dampers allow it to round off most sharp edges. The tires and passing air generate little hum. So overall it's an extremely peaceful place to be, unless you opt to use the sport sound synthesis.

The seats are excellent. Typical of a BMW, they're supportive and adjustable in many directions. Our only gripe is that the new driver's display screen is mounted too high. We had to adjust the steering wheel quite far up in order to see the whole screen beneath the wheel's rim. There is the superb head-up display, however, and you can use that to display plenty of information.

How's the i4's interior?

Unlike the tall and airy feel of the BMW i3 or the minimalism of the Tesla Model 3, the i4 has a layout similar to a traditional BMW sedan. The new touchscreen system adopts more functions compared to BMW's existing infotainment systems. There are now fewer physical buttons for climate or infotainment, although again it's not as utterly screen-dependent as the Tesla Model 3 or Polestar 2. Once you're familiar with the car's layout, muscle memory makes it much easier to use physical buttons than touchscreen menus when driving.

And if you hate touchscreens, you can do most of it with the circular iDrive controller that's by your knee in the center console. Surrounding it are a number of physical switches for vehicle drive modes, stability and parking assistance, and the infotainment system. Sandwiched between the control panel and the giant touchscreen (more on that below) are a volume knob and smattering of media and climate control buttons.

The steering wheel hosts buttons and rollers to control the driver assist functions, the head-up display and the infotainment system. They work extremely well after brief familiarization.

The i4 is a few inches longer than the 3 Series, which is compact on the inside. The roofline has a coupe-like slope to it, so backseat headroom isn't great. Tall rear passengers might also complain they have nowhere to put their feet because the front seats are mounted close to the floor. That floor is of course the upper surface of the battery. Still, a Tesla also has a knees-up sitting position in the rear. If you want a more spacious electric BMW, consider BMW's new iX midsize electric SUV.

How's the i4's tech?

Flaunting a curved dashboard topped by a huge digital display, the i4 is looking to start at the head of the pack when it comes to technology. The 12.3-inch digital instrument panel and 14.9-inch touchscreen are joined within the housing that BMW calls the Curved Display. Though there is a clear demarcation zone between the two panels, the overall illusion is of a single massive widescreen. Resolution and responsiveness are first-rate.

Besides being visually impressive, the large-format screens are highly useful and configurable. Between the pair of them and the head-up display, you have freedom to move displays (driving info, entertainment, navigation) to whatever position suits you. That's not really possible with the Tesla Model 3 or Polestar 2. You can also set up a series of screen shortcuts for familiar actions such as radio stations, phone numbers and drive settings.

The i4 is loaded with an impressive array of tech features. Integration has been improved with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for those connecting to their vehicle with a compatible smartphone. It's the first car we know of in which route information and directions from Apple Maps or Google Maps display both on the central touchscreen as well as on the instrument panel and the head-up display.

On the safety front, forward collision mitigation and lane departure warning are standard. Other features, including adaptive cruise control, lane keeping, a blind-spot monitor, a 360-degree camera and automated parking, are available via optional packages. These work very smoothly.

How's the i4's storage?

Many EVs have flat floors and boast multilayer center stacks with lots of space to store small items. Surprisingly, the i4 has a central hump in the floor even though it has no driveshaft or exhaust that would normally necessitate such a design. We asked a BMW rep about it and were told that it's used to route the i4's cabling. As such, in-cabin storage is no better than a conventional compact sport sedan's.

The i4 does have a hatchback, which will make it easier to load cargo compared to a traditional-style trunk. There is no front trunk, however.

Edmunds says

This new 2022 BMW i4 is a compelling rival to the Tesla Model 3 and Polestar 2, especially if you're looking for an EV with a premium interior and performance worthy of a true sport sedan.

It's been a long time coming for a next-generation electric vehicle from BMW. We're still fans of the i3, and the i4 has much more universal appeal. This is the EV for traditional BMW sport sedan buyers, provided they think it's a fair swap to lose a straight-six engine and gain an electric drivetrain's responsiveness, silence, reduced running cost and environmental protection.