There are only a handful of truly dynamic EVs on the market, and the BMW i4 Gran Coupe is one of them. Find out why…
BMW knows a thing or two about manufacturing top-notch performance saloons, so it was only a matter of time before a pure electric version arrived.
One of the latest additions to the German giant’s electric ‘i’ model family, the i4 is slightly bigger than the popular 3 Series and looks very similar to the latest 4 Series Gran Coupe, though it’s 6mm taller and sits 15mm closer to the road.
The four-door uses a platform designed from the outset for electric powertrains. In other words, the batteries are fitted low to the floor, which delivers a balanced weight distribution and low centre of gravity, while increasing cabin space.
In fact, the i4’s centre of gravity is between 34-53mm (depending on the model chosen), which is lower than on a 3 Series saloon. It’s aerodynamic too, with a Cd of just 0.24.
Priced from £49,995, there are three i4 models – the rear-wheel drive eDrive40, available in Sport and M Sport trims, or the top spec four-wheel drive i4 M50, which was developed by BMW’s hallowed M division.
Both cars are powered by the same 83.9kWh battery, while claimed ranges vary from 357 miles for the eDrive40, which produces a healthy 335bhp from its single, rear-mounted motor, to 315 miles for the dual motor i4 M50 (537bhp).
As you’d expect, the i4 is no slouch, with the eDrive40 Sport capable of a 0-62mph sprint in 5.7 seconds and a top speed of 118mph, while the M50 has a 3.9-sec acceleration time and powers up to 139mph.
A 0-80% charge takes just 34 minutes using a rapid 205kW public connection or it will take you 13 hours (overnight) using a 7.4kW home wallbox.
Let’s quickly deal with the elephant in the room. The front of the car with its big kidney grille and awkwardly placed number plate is divisive, but trust me, get behind the wheel of the i4 and any misgivings evaporate.
Inside, you can’t help but be impressed with BMW’s state-of-the-art Live Cockpit Plus set-up and superb build quality. There are twin screens that curve around the driver to give the appearance of one huge display. Directly in front of you sits a 12.3-inch customisable screen, then there’s a larger 14.9-inch infotainment display to its left.
You can use voice control or the latest version of BMW’s slick iDrive, allowing you to choose between a touchscreen or the rotary controller close to the gear selector.
There’s plenty of space up front, and the combination of the tech and the sporty, low driving position gives it a thrilling cockpit feel.
Legroom is OK for adults in the back, as long as they are not too tall, thanks to the coupe-like sloping roofline. The only other issue is that if the driver has their seat at the lowest setting, there’s hardly any room for the passenger behind to squeeze their feet in below the seat.
Boot space is a very useful 470 litres, expanding to 1,190 litres if you fold down the 60:40 rear seats.
On the road, the i4 is quiet, refined and effortlessly quick. In fact, the M50 is savagely fast, but it’s just as happy being driven gently in town.
However, it’s in its element on more challenging roads where it disguises its weight well and handles twisty bits with supreme confidence and minimal body lean.
The steering is quick and nicely weighted, the brakes are progressive (unusual for an EV) and grips levels are phenomenal, especially in the M50.
So, whether you want to sit back and enjoy the tranquillity or explore the remarkable performance and thrilling handling, driving an i4 is an unforgettable experience. Frankly, it never feels anything other than totally planted.
And finally, the i4 allows drivers to select one of three drive modes – Eco Pro, Comfort, and Sport. In every mode, you can switch the drive selector to ‘B’, which ramps up the regenerative brakes and allows for one-pedal driving.
Sport is an absolute blast, but save it for the occasional treat if you want to hold onto your licence and range.
No car is perfect and the i4 is no exception. It’s a struggle to achieve the claimed range, but then it’s really difficult to remain restrained behind the wheel of such a rewarding car.
For the record, the i4 ‘s obvious rivals are the Tesla Model S and Polestar 2. Each has its owns pros and cons, but after driving all three, the BMW edges it.