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When BMW launched its “i” electric vehicle sub-brand in 2011, it looked like every vehicle would be something straight out of science fiction — either the heavily stylized and uber-sexy i8 plug-in hybrid, or the funky i3 hatchback.
You can hardly blame BMW for that, though. Every automaker did something of the sort. If an EV didn’t look so odd that you could spot it two blocks away, what was the point?
As it turns out, making an EV that isn’t a rolling virtue signal is good business, and it means that automakers are taking the transition away from ICE seriously at last.
The i4 is the latest model to be built on BMW’s modular Cluster Architecture (CLAR) platform, which supports internal combustion, hybrid or EV applications. The gasoline-powered 4-Series is built on the same platform, with some modifications. As a result, the i4 looks very much like its standard 4 Series Gran Coupé stablemates — and that’s a good thing.
The i4 is available in rear-wheel drive as a single-motor model, or as the twin-motor all-wheel drive M50, but in both cases the body is a five-door liftback coupe. Our test car for the week was the less powerful rear-drive model, but even that one offers enough performance to make an EV convert of the most die-hard BMW fans.
As mentioned, the i4 lives in the 4 Series Gran Coupé body, with a convenient “five-door” liftback design that provides easy access to the trunk area. Predictably, BMW kept the controversial oversized grille treatment of the 4 Series on the i4, even though the “grille” is not actually functional on the EV. Love it or hate it, the beaver-tooth front end is the new BMW signature.
Inside, the i4 offers the latest in BMW luxury. The front seats are supremely comfortable, while the back seats are little shy on legroom if the front seat passengers are on the taller side. However, you can fit adults back there, albeit on shorter trips.
The rest of the interior is all ultra-modern simplicity. As befits a modern luxury EV, there’s just one big screen that stretches more than halfway across the dash, and it’s a touchscreen, though BMW still includes the iDrive rotary dial on the console.
The i4 eDrive40 test vehicle comes with a single electric motor housed in the rear axle. The final drive is there, too, so there’s no transmission to speak of. You’ll get 335 horsepower and 317 lb-ft of torque from the motor, which is good for a 5.5-second 0-60 dash, and a top speed of 118 mph. More to the point of real-world driving, the i4 has plenty of power on tap to make a pass on a short passing lane, even if the other driver tries to race you for it.
BMW also didn’t skimp on the battery pack, with 81.5 net kWh of capacity. That’s enough to take you 301 miles according to the EPA, and maybe 280 by our unscientific real-world estimation. You can regenerate quite a bit, however, by using the maximum regen setting when going downhill.
Best of all, the i4 accepts up to 200 kW DC Fast Charging, which will drop enough juice to get the car to 80% charge in 31 minutes, or drop 102 miles into the car in just 10 minutes. We charged from 65% to 98% in 38 minutes on a DC Fast Charger in the neighborhood while getting lunch across the street. Using the typical 240-Volt Level 2 chargers that most EV owners have installed in their homes, you can charge the i4 from 0-100 in less than eight hours, so this is an EV you can really live with.
Safety and Technology
Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have rated the i4 yet, but it comes with the usual refinements that you would expect from a BMW.
The only one that really pushes itself into your awareness is the lane-departure warning, which goes off all the time on narrower roads. It takes a little bit of poking around the menu system to find the selection to turn it off, but once turned off, it stays off.
Also notable, the adaptive cruise control talks to the road sign recognition and it can be set to keep the i4 at the posted speed limit, as well as maintaining following distance to the car ahead.
The infotainment system has improved by leaps and bounds since the bad old days of BMW iDrive. Now you can touch the screen, twiddle the dial, or just press a button and speak your commands. Once you gain even a passing familiarity with the system, it’s easy to use. Oh, speaking of things you can take for granted, the optional Harman Kardon stereo sounds great.
One sad trombone moment: We just got a new iPhone 13 Pro Max and in its protective case, it doesn’t fit into the wireless device charging cubby in the i4. That would really be a peeve if we owned this car.
The 4 Series is one of the best driving experiences you can get from BMW. The 2 Series is my favorite, but the 4 comes close. It’s lively, fast, stable, and the suspension handles rough roads with great aplomb. With the i4, the center of gravity is about 2 inches lower than the rest of the 4 Series because of the battery location in the floor, which helps with ride and handling.
Then on top of that, the electric drive experience is surpassing quiet and smooth, so you really get the best of all possible worlds with the i4. Only the lane-departure warning kept my joy from being complete, and that was soon fixed.
2022 BMW i4 eDrive40 Specifications
|Dimension||L: 188.5 inches/W: 72.9 inches/H: 57 inches/Wheelbase: 112.4 inches|
|Powertrain||Synchronous electric motor, RWD|
|Fuel Economy||99 MPG-e/301 miles of range|
|Performance Specs||335 horsepower and 317 pound-feet of torque|
|Price||Base price: $55,900; As tested: $68,270 including $995 delivery fees.|
|On-Sale Date||Available now|
The BMW i4 eDrive40 is itself the base trim level. You can move up to the dual-motor i4 M50 with 536 horsepower and a 3.7-second 0-60 time, and that will set you back $67,300, but the basic i4 we tested starts at $55,900. Rather than give you a bunch of trims, BMW offers just a couple of option packages — a black exterior trim pack and a heated seats and steering wheel pack, but really you can pick and choose your options a la carte.
If it were up to us, honestly, we’d probably splurge and buy the i4 M50 because that kind of power is addictive. But if we were outfitting a base i4, we’d pay for the heated seats package for $950 and the ventilated front seats for $350 are a no-brainer. For tech, we’d definitely buy the head-up display for $1,100 and the upgrade Harman Kardon sound system for $875.
With all that stuff, we’d still bring our i4 home for less than $60,000, and for an EV with that kind of range and performance, we’d call that a deal.
2022 BMW i4 eDrive40 — Frequently Asked Questions
What is the wait time for a BMW i4?
Currently about 12 months.
Will the BMW i4 qualify for the Federal EV tax credit?
No, as it is not made in America.
How long will the batteries last in the BMW i4?
All EVs carry an 8-year or 100,000-mile warranty on all electric drive components. In California, the warranty is for 10 years or 150,000 miles.