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Test bench | BMW i4: smooth transition

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BMW relies on the i4 to ensure a smooth energy transition.

4 > 3?

Until recently, traditional automotive brands avoided direct confrontation with Tesla products. At BMW, this is no longer the case. Unlike many other models, the i4 clearly displays the color: it wants to bring the Model 3 down from its pedestal.

The top of the class always ends up being a bit annoying. By dint of seeing him cited as an example, we come to slyly watch for the slump, the moment when he will stumble and lose his luster.

The most popular electric vehicle in the world, Tesla’s Model 3 is making people jealous. And many are envious of his success. Especially the German manufacturers, whose hegemony appears more than ever threatened. To repel General Musk’s troops, BMW fires the first salvo with the i4.

Barely longer than the Model 3, the i4 looks like a BMW, not a machine with odd shapes supposed to interpret the mobility of tomorrow. In fact, apart from the nostrils of its obstructed grille and the absence of exhaust tips, the i4 merges, when stationary, with a Series 4 Gran Coupe, another product (with a heat engine this time) from the Bavarian firm. That is to say an elegant five-door sedan that does not honk at every street corner its membership in the electric universe.

  • Apart from the nasals of its obstructed grille and the absence of exhaust tips, the i4 merges, when stationary, with a Series 4 Gran Coupe.

    PHOTO PROVIDED BY BMW AG

    Apart from the nasals of its obstructed grille and the absence of exhaust tips, the i4 merges, when stationary, with a Series 4 Gran Coupe.

  • Any fan of the propeller brand will slip aboard the i4 without feeling the slightest change of scenery.  The furniture is essentially the same.

    PHOTO PROVIDED BY BMW AG

    Any fan of the propeller brand will slip aboard the i4 without feeling the slightest change of scenery. The furniture is essentially the same.

  • The power consumption obtained in this test does not fully reflect reality.  By applying the precepts of ecological driving, it can be lowered below the bar of 19 kWh/100 km.

    PHOTO PROVIDED BY BMW AG

    The power consumption obtained in this test does not fully reflect reality. By applying the precepts of ecological driving, it can be lowered below the bar of 19 kWh/100 km.

  • The BMW i4 is an elegant five-door sedan that does not honk its horn at every street corner about its belonging to the electric universe.

    PHOTO PROVIDED BY BMW AG

    The BMW i4 is an elegant five-door sedan that does not honk its horn at every street corner about its belonging to the electric universe.

  • Overview of the dual infotainment screen

    PHOTO PROVIDED BY BMW AG

    Overview of the dual infotainment screen

  • If you depress the accelerator pedal further on a winding road, the i4 displays a greater propensity for understeer.

    PHOTO PROVIDED BY BMW AG

    If you depress the accelerator pedal further on a winding road, the i4 displays a greater propensity for understeer.

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You should know that unlike Tesla, for example, BMW believes that the heat engine still has its place in the world of tomorrow. Moreover, in an interview he recently gave us, Pieter Nota, member of the brand’s management committee, recalled that “BMW has never pronounced the death of the internal combustion engine”.

In a country of knowledge

The car shows known exteriors and a base that is (almost) just as good, insofar as the i4 adopts the house architecture (code name CLAR) which several of the brand’s products make use of. Twenty-two bolts are enough to screw the battery of some 500 kg under the floor. Despite this significant weight gain, the i4 is, in its eDrive 50 configuration, the most explosive. Figuratively, of course. It reaches 100 km/h in less than 4 seconds and has equally astounding recovery times, no matter how fast it is traveling. The instant reaction of its electric thrusters, the absence of a gearbox and the fluidity of the lines do the rest. These attributes are also found on other electric vehicles, including the Model 3 (see the “Competition” screen). So how does this i4 stand out? The answer is three letters: BMW.

Despite the excess weight of its chassis, this sedan manages to reproduce the dynamism of a gasoline-powered 4 Series Gran Coupe in several driving phases. The steering demonstrates an almost equivalent speed, the quality of the braking appears just as reassuring and the general balance, very satisfactory.

The main differentiating factors relate to agility (advantage 4 Series Gran Coupe), stability (advantage i4), noise level (advantage i4) and comfort (advantage i4 always). On this last point, it should be noted that the air suspension at the rear contributes to giving it such superiority.

Now, if you depress the accelerator pedal further on a twisty road, the i4 displays a greater propensity for understeer. We ease off to approach the parking spaces where the i4 proves to be less manageable than its “thermal counterpart”. Clearly, it is less easy to park due to a turning circle equivalent to that of a fire truck.

The power consumption obtained in this test does not fully reflect reality. By applying the precepts of ecological driving, it can be lowered below the bar of 19 kWh/100 km. From then on, this allows him to achieve the presumed autonomy which remains however rather shy in the face of you-know-who! For higher performance, it is better to turn to the eDrive40 (see our boxes in the “Technical sheet” tab).

Known atmosphere

Any fan of the propeller brand will slip aboard the i4 without feeling the slightest change of scenery. The furniture is essentially the same, the seats too, but the dual infotainment screen differs. The classification of menus and sub-menus is still messy, however, and it is in the driver’s best interest to become familiar with the controls before setting off.

The general presentation seems rewarding, but for that, you have to agree to open your wallet wide – forget the wallet – to create a bit of atmosphere.

Leather upholstery with contrast stitching ($1500) or carbon fiber trim ($600). This is not enough ? Don’t worry, the list doesn’t end there. Several active safety devices (lane change detector, for example) are also included in the options catalog. Therefore, the selling price set for the eDrive 50 at $72,990 climbs quite easily, as we have been able to observe. The amount requested for the test vehicle was close to $90,000 (freight and preparation included). Don’t count on governments to lighten the bill in this case. The eDrive 50 is not eligible for subsidies. On the other hand, the eDrive 40, yes!

If BMW’s approach of converting a gasoline architecture to electric has advantages (financial and work organization), it comes with certain compromises. For example, that of taking advantage of the specific configuration (battery on the ground and thrusters of reduced size) to save more interior space. In this regard, the i4 hardly makes any effort and its rear seats aren’t very spacious. No more than its trunk, moreover, despite the additional modularity provided by its tailgate. Here is the proof (another) that it is indeed a BMW.

BMW i4

Price range

From $54,990 to $72,990

Eligible for government rebates

Yes, but only for eDrive40

Visible in dealerships

Now, but you have to place the order

Consumption

20.3kWh/100km (i4 eDrive50)

We love

Driving pleasure (eDrive50)
Functional bodywork
Manufacturing quality

We love less

Narrow bench
Range (eDrive50) and winter skills (eDrive40) limited
Option prices

Our Verdict

BMW seems to have found the right catch.

Technical sheet


PHOTO FABIAN KIRCHBAUER, SUPPLIED BY BMW

Legend

Engine(s)

  • eDrive40: 1 electric motor; combined power: 335 hp; maximum torque: 317 lb-ft
  • eDrive50: 2 electric motors; combined power: 536 hp; maximum torque: 586 lb-ft

Performance

  • Weight: 2116 kg (eDrive40), 1965 kg (eDrive50)
  • Acceleration 0-100 km/h: 3.9s (eDrive50), 5.7s (eDrive40)
  • Towing capacity: none

Gearbox

  • Standard: automatic
  • Optional: none
  • Drive mode: rear-wheel drive (eDrive40) and all-wheel drive (eDrive50)

Tires

  • 225/50R18 (eDrive40, standard)
  • 245/40R19 – 255/40R19 (eDrive50, standard)

Battery capacity/assumed range

  • eDrive40 lithium-ion battery: 83.9 kWh (useful: 81.5 kWh) / 482 km range
  • eDrive50: 83.9 kWh (useful: 81.5 kWh)/400 km range

Consumption/charging

  • 20.3kWh/100km (i4 eDrive50)
  • Maximum charging power: 205 kW
  • Recharge time – level 2: 8.5 hours (from 10% to 100%)

Dimensions

  • Wheelbase: 2856mm
  • Length: 4787mm
  • Height: 1448mm
  • Width: 1852 mm (exterior mirrors excluded)

A successful adaptation


IMAGE PROVIDED BY BMW

The architecture of the BMW i4

Contrary to the current trend, the i4 is not based on an architecture specifically designed for electric. Rather, it is an adaptation of an existing platform within the brand’s catalog. The modifications mainly concern the suspension, reinforced to support the additional mass of the battery, and the widening of the rear tracks to accommodate it. As for the mechanics, the German manufacturer has developed a family of motors of the synchronous type with electromagnets and not with permanent magnets, which avoids the use of rare earths.

The maid affair ?


PHOTO FABIAN KIRCHBAUER, SUPPLIED BY BMW

The eDrive40 version of the i4

To obtain government discounts, you must make an appointment with the eDrive40 version of the i4. This incorporates the same accumulator as the eDrive50 tested, offers greater autonomy, but has only one electric motor, which drives the rear wheels only. This is undoubtedly the main obstacle presented by this financially more affordable model within the i4 range in the eyes of motorists who have to face snowy roads. Especially since the i4 (all versions combined) has a lower ground clearance than the thermal models (Series 3 and 4) from which it derives.

Share your experience

The Press will soon publish the test of the following vehicles: Acura Integra, BMW 2 Series, Hyundai Kona, Honda HR-V and Lexus IS/RC. If you own one of these vehicles or are waiting for delivery, we would love to hear from you.



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