That it took a long time for BMW to finally get wet. No doubt fearing to disappoint its most dogmatic fans, the German manufacturer has postponed the electrification of its sedans for a long, long time. A revolution that is just beginning with an i4 available in two eDrive 40 versions, the wiser, but already fierce, and the ambitious M50 that we have chosen to test.
Objective for BMW, innovate without denying itself? But is that only possible in electric when part of its DNA is based on surgical driving feel and deafening engine noise?
A very… thermal design
You have to be a keen observer to guess that under its neat curves hide two engines (258 hp at the front, and 313 hp at the rear) for a total of 544 hp developed, and some 795 Nm of torque, if it Please.
At first glance, the i4 looks like a thermal BMW. Either a classic three-volume sedan. Its long bonnet and sloping roof line are very successful, but they could be confused with a 4 Series Gran Coupé.
Finally, only two details betray this electrification. A full grille (and two plump beans) and, of course, the absence of an exhaust. For the rest, it’s a very traditional Munich sedan. It is that we should not shock the “bmists” more than reason…
Interior: BMW gently prepares for the future
For this first 100% electric sedan, BMW has chosen to opt for a smooth transition, including in terms of the interior. Overall, it’s a Series 4 interior with an added element of modernity: the BMW curved screenin other words, a system made up of two screens, 12 and 14 inches, the second being slightly turned towards the driver.
The biggest changes are on the side of the OS, completely revised. BMW was already one of the good students in this area, it is still progressing with this in-house solution.
First, we should salute its ergonomics. The menus are clear, pleasing to the eye. Navigation is ultra-smooth and BMW hasn’t forgotten to leave some customization to the user, for example by allowing him to create his own shortcuts.
The process is very simple, just keep pressing the icon of the application that you want to find more easily so that it then appears in a dedicated menu, accessible in a vertical slide on the screen.
In our case, we created a shortcut to get an overview of our consumption, and another to the energy recovery modes, two options that unfortunately are not present on the steering wheel controls.
Of course, the German OS is compatible with iOS and Android, via Bluetooth. The user can switch to CarPlay or Android Auto at any time, and return to the proprietary system for vehicle-specific settings.
A big battery that foreshadowed better
Pioneer of the electric vehicle, BMW cannot ignore the importance of autonomy for its vehicles. And even if the i4 could hide behind its sporty character, controlled consumption appears to be an essential criterion for a car which is intended to be driven elsewhere than on a circuit.
Let’s face it, we expected better from the German on this point. Indeed, if he hadn’t been able to surprise us with his iX3 SUV, given his size, the Munich manufacturer foreshadowed another level of performance on a sedan with more classic proportions, and above all with a lower wind resistance.
Let’s be clear, with just over 20 kWh/100km, the consumption of the i4 is nothing outrageous, but it won’t be a milestone either. It even exceeds 23 kWh/100 km when the sedan ventures onto the highway.
In fact, BMW is undoubtedly very optimistic about the autonomy of its sedan. Reaching the announced 520 km of autonomy is certainly possible, with this battery of 80 kWh of payload, but it will certainly be necessary to count on an excellent alignment of the planets to achieve this.
This autonomy could have been slightly higher if the manufacturer had given more room to recovery. However, the relatively low regenerative braking of the vehicle, as well as the absence of paddles on the steering wheel to manage the different levels of energy recovery indicate that this was not a priority.
On the charging part, however, there is simply nothing to complain about. The i4 can collect up to 11 kW in alternating current, at home or on a public terminal. As for direct current, the load can rise to 205 kW for a full 80% in about 30 minutes.
As a result, it is quite possible to make long journeys with the BMW sedan, provided of course that you ensure the presence of fast charging stations on your route.
Driving sensations: for pleasure
This is the point on which BMW was most anticipated… and it is also the one on which it is the most convincing. Persuading its aficionados to switch to electric necessarily involves a promise: that of finding the same famous “BMW driving feel” as on the brand’s thermal sedans.
Clearly, the brand achieves this. The steering is as precise as it is dynamic, driving pleasure is immediate. But above all, it’s a car that seems very balanced in its handling, and which even manages to make people forget its weight, thanks no doubt to a lower center of gravity than a 3 Series (thanks to the batteries under the floor).
Finally, and this is not always characteristic of a sports car, the i4 can also be very pleasant, even smooth to drive, especially in its “Comfort” mode thanks to its controlled suspensions.
On this point, we note the whole gap that separates a premium manufacturer from a Tesla, for example, which is far from this level of technicality on the mechanical parts.
As you will have understood, in terms of driving, the touch is there, the dynamism too, but what about the absence of the engine noise so characteristic? As on the iX3, BMW entrusted this part to the famous composer Hans Zimmer.
In fact, the sedan incorporates a whole range of sounds depending on the situation. Of course, for those who are allergic to these rather unnatural noises, it is quite possible to mute them.
On the other hand, for others, it can be very pleasant to see its acceleration accompanied by a somewhat futuristic sound effect. On the other hand, the sound of the Sport mode perhaps pushes this logic a little far. In the most dynamic driving mode, the sound environment is closer to that of an X-Wing T65 cockpit, star warsthan a land sedan. On our side, we love it, but not sure it’s to everyone’s taste.
The i4 is a great achievement for BMW. The German brand imposes its electric transition without denying its fundamentals. His sedan does not lack character and qualities. Even its price could become a favorable argument, a shame for a German premium.
Judge for yourself, in its eDrive40 version, from 59,7000 euros, the i4 costs “only” 6,000 euros more than a hybrid 3 Series. It is also eligible for the first level of the ecological bonus.
But that is not the main thing. Indeed, to realize the tour de force that the i4 represents, you have to take into consideration all the factors that we have discussed during this test (manufacturing quality, finish, OS and, of course, performance roads). You then have to compare them to the competition, which is… almost non-existent.
Indeed, in front of the i4, there are not many people, either at Audi or Mercedes. The only rival is therefore called Tesla Model 3, certainly less expensive, but also less elegant and less comfortable. Ultimately, the i4 is a particularly successful first electric sedan for BMW and certainly one of the models that will count in the months to come.