BMW was one of the early electrification adopters with its 'i' brand, both i3 and i8 launching way back in 2013. It was so long ago, in fact, that the i8 has now gone out of production having probably not sold quite as well as expected. But if the city car and the mid-engined sports car were BMW testing the electrified water (if you'll excuse the confused analogy), then the i4 couldn't be any more conventional: it's the purely electric, four-door, 3 Series sized saloon. The appetite for EVs has changed, and so has the approach.
"All-electric mobility reaches the very heart of the BMW brand" is how the i4 is pitched, bringing together "locally emission-free driving pleasure, compromise-free premium quality and customer-oriented individualisation" to the Tesla Model 3 and Polestar 2 segment.
Which we mostly knew, of course, BMW revealing a near-production i4 earlier this year that looked a lot like this production car. The important details now, however, are the stats, with two models confirmed ahead of deliveries in the autumn. The i4 eDrive 40 uses an 83.9kWh battery, with a motor producing 340hp and 317lb ft. With rear-wheel drive, it can reach 62mph in 5.7 seconds, and uses between 16 and 20kWh per 100km, with an overall range of 367 miles.
It's the almost-M version that's of most interest, though. The i4 M50 is now confirmed with 544hp (albeit with the same battery capacity), all-wheel drive and 317 miles of range. BMW says it's the "first purely electric performance car from BMW M GmbH", with all the expectations that come with that billing. As such it's fitted with model specific suspension (both models are air suspended at the rear), brakes, steering and brakes, plus comes with a Sport Boost "for ultra-dynamic power delivery" and a 586lb ft maximum.
As for charging, the Combined Charging Unit of each i4 permits up to 200kW DC charging, which means anything up to 102 miles of range in 10 minutes. That should be a useful advantage over the Polestar 2, which only has 150kW charging capability. A BMW Charging deal offers reduced rates at Ionity stations.
Much is made of the i4's status as BMW's first electric saloon, one that combines "fabled sporting prowess and a range that also convinces over long journeys". To that end the i4's bespoke architecture is said to be weight-minimised yet stiff, meaning the car is "without the need for disproportionately large and heavy batteries". What a shame, then, that neither i4 weighs less than two tonnes; the eDrive 40 is 2,050kg and the M50 2,215kg, both without driver.
Still, heavy cars can still drive really nicely, as the Porsche Taycan has proved. And there's plenty to be encourage by with the i4: the centre of gravity is 53mm lower than in a 3 Series, the tracks are wide, the wheelbase long and the near actuator wheel slip limitation promises a lot given how it has impressed in the Mini Electric.
There's plenty more than just the drive to make the i4 feel familiar to existing BMW customers. Though a new generation using BMW Operating System 8 (and with a huge 14.9-inch screen), iDrive is standard fit in an i4, the dashboard is angled to the driver and the basic layout will be familiar to drivers of everything from a 1 Series to an 8 Series. Even the options are recognisable, with M Carbon and Performance parts, a tow bar, BMW Individual leather upgrades and an M Sport package Pro on the menu. The tradition for cheekily charging for certain options is continuing into BMW's electric era, too, with the Iconic Sounds Electric worked on by Hans Zimmer part of the extras list. At least now over the air updates will keep the car box fresh technology wise without a visit to the dealer.
BMW says there is a "clear focus on sustainability" in the creation of the i4, with an aim to reduce CO2 throughout the lifecycle. The battery cells have apparently been built with "100 per cent green energy" and the motor design means rare earth metals can be avoided in their construction. That's in addition to "extensive" use of raw, natural and recycled materials in the build, presumably with lessons learned from the i3 and i8.
Though all figures currently released are preliminary (and there isn't a price), the i4 isn't going to alter radically between now and production. Nothing is more premium mainstream than a four-door coupe-cum-saloon, from 2 Series Gran Coupe to 8 Series Gran Coupe, and now that car is entering the electric era. If the i4 is a success - and there's plenty to suggest that it will be - then expect plenty more to follow its lead. Given what happened with the i3 and i8, a conventional EV with vast sales potential is just what the doctor ordered.
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