Compared to other legacy automakers, BMW has been one to eagerly adopt electricity as a form of propulsion. In 2013 BMW launched the fully-electric i3: an EV built from the ground up using anomalous materials such as carbon fiber reinforced plastic. While other OEMs struggled to deliver half-baked compliance cars, the i3, in its quirky RWD glory, was already slowly taking over the streets of every posh area of town where fancy people owned Puppuccino-drinking Bichons Frisés.
Despite that, the little i3 soon became less and less relevant because its high price tag became more and more difficult to justify with the emerging competition, such as the Model 3. However, the i3 was almost a placeholder for future BMW i products. Today, the i3 is sadly missed at BMW dealerships across America, but the i4 and iX are now sitting on showroom floors.
While the iX starts at $83,200, the i4 has a more attainable price of $55,400. $55,400 isn't exactly an affordable price point, but the i4 qualifies for the $7,500 federal tax credit. This effectively trends its price down to $48,895 (provided you are eligible) after tacking on the $995 destination fee. Considering this, an i4 costs just $705 more than a Tesla Model 3 RWD. But is it worth it?
BMW i4: Trims and Packages
While the BMW i4 M50 took center stage in the automotive media world, I was a little more curious about the base RWD model, the eDrive40. I managed to get my hands on a gray i4 with very few options.
The i4 in question was a 2022 model painted in Skyscraper Grey Metallic, a $595 option. It also featured the 19" aero wheels, head-up display, and the Premium Package, which consists of heated seats and a heated steering wheel. The aero wheels cost $595 over the standard 18s, the head-up display ran $1,000, and the premium package was $995. With these options equipped, the total price climbed to $59,395. Tack on dealer fees and this i4 quickly became a $60,000 car.
On the topic of the options, it's important to note some interesting standard features. The i4 comes with a power opening moonroof, a power liftgate, and a potent, 335 horsepower RWD powertrain as standard— sounds great. But, the i4 misses out on some vital standard features as well. For instance, the i4 doesn't come with adaptive cruise control as standard. Like the Polestar 2, the lack of standard ACC on a $50,000+ EV is indefensible.
Platform, Power, and Range
If you're familiar with the BMW i4, you'll know that it isn't on an EV-only platform; instead, it sits on one that can accommodate both ICE and EV. The BMW i4 shares its platform with the gasoline-powered 4-Series, so there are some drawbacks. The two most considerable disadvantages include its lack of a front storage area and the absence of a flat rear floor. However, the i4 does excel in areas where the gasoline-powered one doesn't.
With a closed-off grille and other aerodynamics features, such as a flat underbody, the BMW i4 eDrive40 can achieve a highly respectable drag coefficient of .24 Cd. Pairing this low drag coefficient with an 83.9kWh (81.5kWh usable) battery pack, you get a maximum range of 301 miles with the 18" wheels. Since mine had 19" ones, its range dropped to 282 miles.
Regardless, all models have an impressive 205kW DC fast charge rating. BMW claims drivers can achieve up to 102 miles of range within a 10-minute charging session. Putting this to the test, Bjørn Nyland's charging figures revealed that the i4 was able to hold a lead on the Tesla Model 3, kW-wise, for up to nearly 80% SOC. Plus, all i4s come with two years of free 30-minute sessions of Electrify America charging.
The i4 has an incredible interior. Upon entering, the first item that greets the eyes is the i4's expansive display. While it appears to be one large screen, it is actually two screens: a 14.9" touchscreen mated to a 12.3" instrument panel. As for software to power the displays, the i4 runs on BMW's iDrive8 system.
The iDrive8 system is phenomenal; from incredibly responsive feedback to sharp graphics, the iDrive8 system is genuinely top-notch. Everything from accessing climate controls to going through menus was easy and intuitive. Comparing this system to that of a Mach-E or an ID.4, BMW's software just surpasses those in every category.
As for other aspects of the interior, it's apparent that the build quality is excellent. Sure, there were some bits of hard-touch plastics in lower areas, but everything necessary to interact with felt high quality and solid. The blinker and windshield washer stocks felt especially nice, as they carried a certain avoirdupois, which made them pleasant to operate. Alas, mentioning blinker stalks on a BMW review is meaningless.
While comfort for the front seat occupants is good, the rear passengers may think otherwise. Since the i4 does not sit atop a traditional skateboard platform, the rear seats can become cramped due to the presence of a tunnel where a transmission would reside. In fact, I'm only 5'10", and it wasn't incredibly easy for me to get in the back seats. Sitting five people in the rear would be incredibly difficult, unless the fifth person is particularly small or has no limbs. Depending on how long the ride is, finding a fifth passenger fulfilling both of those categories would be ideal.
What It's Like To Drive
Without a doubt, the BMW i4 is a joy to drive. When I first got it, I found the nearest curved onramp and decided to put BMW's most well-known aspect to the test: its handling. Despite its hefty 4,680 lb (2123 kg) weight, the i4 could cut through corners with ease, and the nicely-bolstered Sensa-Tec seats held me in very well. Even without the "Adaptive M Suspension" upgrade, the i4 did not disappoint.
On the topic of its suspension, the i4's is probably one of the best in the non-six-figure EV world. It is sporty and allows for cornering with little body roll, but it is also comfortable, especially at high speeds. For comparison, the Model 3 and Mach-E's suspensions are very stiff and highly uncomfortable at times. The i4 generally felt comfortable all around, especially at 75-mph freeway driving, where the i4 felt planted and composed.
As for power numbers, the i4 holds its own very well. With 335 horsepower and 317 lb-ft of torque, the i4 can quickly get up to speed. BMW claims 0-60 in 5.5 seconds, but unlike other automotive OEMs, the German automaker doesn't overestimate or include the one-foot-rollout in its figures. If you're looking for a straightforward answer, the i4 has plenty of performance. Especially around the 30-mph mark, the i4 pushes you into the back of the seat when the throttle is completely depressed. The throttle response is different depending on which mode you choose, though.
The i4 allows drivers to select one of three modes: Eco Pro, Comfort, and Sport. In every mode, you can switch the drive selector to "B," which enables true one-pedal driving, and it feels very similar to that of the i3. When selecting each mode, the gauge cluster slightly changes to adapt to the mode switch. Eco Pro and Comfort are the most self-explanatory, but Sport mode has some exciting features.
The coolest of these features is that the car will display real-time torque and power figures in the "My BMW" menu on the main screen. It is incredibly cool to see your live power figures, and this is just a feature that most EVs don't have. However, when regening, it just shows "0" horsepower, which is a little irritating. I was hoping it would show the real-time power coming in the battery, like the Chevrolet Bolt does, rather than just zero. Regardless, it is still entertaining to look at.
After spending some time behind the wheel, I've come to realize that the BMW i4 is a highly compelling offering. Sure, the lack of some basic safety features was a little unexpected, but the i4's cool looks and great driving dynamics easily overshadowed that. Plus, if you have a craving for all-wheel-drive or more horsepower, there is always the M50 available. Without a doubt, the i4 will surely shake up the market. In an EV space with little variation, it is exciting to see new compelling offerings beginning to fill the market.