What Car? says...
If you're thinking about getting an electric car but don’t want to shout it from the rooftops, the BMW i4 could be the model for you – if you have fairly deep pockets, that is.
While BMW’s first modern electric car – the outlandish-looking BMW i3 – was designed from the ground up to run on electricity, the i4 looks like what it essentially is: an electric version of the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupé.
We’ve even gone so far to call the 3 Series "one of the most desirable cars on sale today", so surely this more powerful, sleeker looking electric car version will have rivals such as the Hyundai Ioniq 6, the Polestar 2 and the Tesla Model 3 running for the proverbial hills. Well that’s the idea.
BMW gives you a choice of two versions. The entry-level eDrive40 has rear-wheel drive and one electric motor, while the range-topping M50 has two motors and four-wheel drive.
Producing a whopping 536bhp, the M50 is squarely pitched against the Model 3 Performance and Polestar 2 Long Range Dual Motor. The cheaper eDrive40 competes with everything from small premium SUVs such as the Audi Q4 e-tron and the Mercedes EQA through to the award-winning Tesla Model 3 Long Range.
Both BMW i4 models use a sizeable 83.9kWh lithium-ion battery pack that BMW has somehow managed to shoehorn under the floor. Not that you can tell it’s packing such impressive electric tech from the outside – aside from a solid plastic grille, aerodynamic alloy wheels and a smattering of blue highlights, there isn’t much to mark out the i4 as an EV.
The M50 version is distinguished by performance-inspired design cues similar to BMW’s ICE performance cars, including extra air intakes for the brakes, a subtle rear spoiler and what BMW calls ‘exhaust tailpipes’.
Stay with us over the next few pages of this review and we’ll delve even deeper into the details of the i4, helping you decide whether you should consider buying one.
We'll cover the BMW i4's performance, interior quality, electric range, runnings and more. We'll also let you know how it compares with its rival cars in the large electric category.
When you've decided which make and model of car you're going to buy, you could put one on your driveway for thousands of pounds less by checking the best prices on our free What Car? New Car Deals pages. They list lots of the best new electric car deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
At the moment, the BMW i4 range is refreshingly straightforward. The entry level is the rear-wheel-drive, single-motor eDrive40, which produces 335bhp, sprints from 0-62mph in 5.7sec and has an official range of 367 miles.
Those figures show that the eDrive40 is a little slower than the Tesla Model 3 Long Range but can go a bit further on a charge. Then there's the four-wheel-drive, dual-motor M50 model with its 536bhp, 3.9sec 0-62mph time, and 318-mile range – a little way short of the Model 3 Performance in both areas.
If you’re thinking the official 0-62mph time of the eDrive40 sounds slow in a world of electric SUVs we can put our mind at rest. Due to the instantaneous way electric cars produce power, the entry-level i4 feels properly punchy both around town and at higher speeds. Unlike the front-wheel-drive Polestar 2 single-motor that struggles to put its power down in cold or wet conditions, the rear-wheel-drive eDrive40 just grips and goes.
We reckon it’s fast enough to satisfy the needs of most drivers, but if you’re the kind of person who finds rollercoasters a bit boring, the eye-wateringly quick M50 is well worth considering.
We timed an M50 pinging from 0-60mph in just 3.8sec (quicker than a BMW M3 Competition). Granted, a Model 3 Performance is a few tenths faster (3.4sec in our test), but the M50 is ridiculously quick by conventional car standards. It’s important to remember, though, that the M50 is not a full-blown M car – it's closer in philosophy to an M340i than an M3 – and that can be felt in the bends.
Even in its most focused Sport mode, there's more body lean than you get in a Model 3 Performance, despite the standard adaptive M suspension (which is optional on the eDrive40 as part of the M Sport Pro Pack),
It doesn’t feel particularly nimble through quick direction changes, either. This is mainly due to the fact that the M50 weighs at least 350kg more than the Model 3 Performance. In fact, the lighter eDrive40 (with its single motor) feels a touch more agile.
The i4 does hold a significant advantage over the Model 3 when it comes to refinement. At a cruise, road and wind noise is minimal – something that can’t be said for the rather noisy Model 3 – and at lower speeds there is virtually no motor whine. The M50 is a little more supple than the eDrive40 but both ride impressively well.
The brakes deserve a special mention for being far less grabby than those of most electric cars, making it easy to slow down smoothly. The i4’s well-implemented regenerative braking system, which harvests energy that would otherwise be wasted when you brake, can take credit for that.
The braking system has an Adaptive mode that uses data from the navigation system and onboard sensors to judge when is best to increase the regenerative effect. For example, when you’re on an open and clear road and lift off the accelerator, the car will coast along as normal, but if a bend or lower speed limit is coming up, it will slow down you to an appropriate speed.
You can vary the regenerative braking effect by choosing other modes. It's so strong in B mode that you can drive using the accelerator alone, with scant need to touch the brake pedal. We were happy to leave the system in adaptive mode, though.
Of course, there’s no engine noise from the i4 – because there's no engine. If you switch to Sport mode, you do get an eerie electronic soundtrack created by German film score composer Hans Zimmer. When you put your foot down, the noise gets louder and the pitch rises as your speed increases.
The interior layout, fit and finish
The i4 looks like a BMW 4 Series Gran Coupé and shares a lot of similarities on the inside too.
The driving position, for example, is near enough identical and places you much closer to the road than you sit in a Polestar 2 or Tesla Model 3. The driver's seat is comfortable and highly adjustable, and provides significantly better side support than the church pew you get in the Model 3 – this is particularly important considering the performance on tap.
The i4 also benefits from the impressive build quality that's baked into the 4 Series. Every surface you touch feels upmarket and it all feels beautifully screwed together. Only a couple of patches of hard, scratchy plastic – around the starter button, for instance – thwart it from feeling quite as plush as more expensive electric cars including the Audi e-tron GT and Porsche Taycan.
The i4 does have a different infotainment set-up to the 4 Series, though. The i4 features BMW’s latest and greatest iDrive system, which is based around a new operating system and a massive curved display. The display is made up of a 14.9-inch infotainment screen and 12.3in digital dials (a little like the combination you'll find in the Mercedes EQC).
It's striking to look at and the graphics are pin-sharp, the central screen is lightning quick to respond to inputs and the menus are logically laid out.
We also love the way BMW gives you the option of operating the central display using a rotary controller between the front seats because it's much less distracting on the move than the touchscreen-only interface in the Model 3. There's also a 'natural speech' voice control function, which works surprisingly well most of the time.
The interior isn't perfect, though. There are no physical temperature control buttons, so unless you use the voice control function (and we strongly recommend that you do) you have to take your eyes off the road and delve into the touchscreen to adjust the climate control. The layout of the system is not particularly intuitive and the icons on the main menu are a touch too small, making them hard to hit on the move.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Up front, the i4 shares similar dimensions to the BMW 4 Series, so you’re unlikely to have any trouble with head or leg room. Storage space is plentiful too, with a generously sized glove box, a cubby under the central armrest and door bins that are partitioned so loose items don't rolling around.
In the rear, the dramatically curved roofline means you have less rear head room than in the BMW 3 Series saloon and the rear seat is placed a little higher than in the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupé to accommodate the battery and electric motor underneath. As a result, passengers over six feet tall will have their heads touching the ceiling.
In addition, a large central hump in the floor makes life uncomfortable for a middle rear passenger. The Tesla Model 3 is better in the back, as are many other large electric cars, although not the Polestar 2.
Like the Polestar 2, the i4 features a hatchback-style boot opening, as opposed to the Tesla Model 3’s saloon aperture. This combined with seat backs that fold in a 40/20/40 configuration (with the Polestar 2 and Model 3 you have to make do with a less practical 60/40 arrangement) makes it easy to load long and bulky items into the back of the i4.
The i4’s boot has a larger overall capacity than both those cars, and there's an underfloor storage space big enough for charging cables so they won't get in the way of your luggage.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The entry-level BMW i4 eDrive40 is fractionally more expensive than the Polestar 2 Long Range Dual Motor and Tesla Model 3 Long Range. The range-topping M50 is more expensive than an equivalent Model 3 Performance but, thanks to solid resale values, PCP rates are fairly competitive throughout the range.
As with all electric cars, the i4 makes a huge amount of sense for company car drivers because of the enormous benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax savings on offer. Private buyers, meanwhile, will spend a lot less on electricity to fuel an i4 than they might on petrol or diesel for a conventional car.
The i4 can charge at up to 200kW (faster than a Polestar 2’s maximum rate of 150kW and just fractionally behind a Model 3 Performance’s 250kW), allowing you to charge the battery from 10-80% in just over 30 minutes.
There aren’t many public CCS charging points in the UK capable of delivering that much power at the moment, though. That’s why anyone planning to do very long journeys on a regular basis would do well to consider the Model 3, which gives you access to Tesla’s widespread Supercharger network for a greater choice of reliable fast chargers.
If you go for the eDrive40, there are two trim levels to choose from: Sport and M Sport. Sport gets you 17in alloy wheels (18in wheels are a no-cost option), gloss-black exterior highlights, a sports leather steering wheel, sports seats, automatic air conditioning, a reversing camera and the curved infotainment display. M Sport introduces aggressive-looking wheels, an M Sport steering wheel, Alcantara highlights, an M Sport spoiler and grey exterior highlights.
The M50 gets 19in wheels, adaptive M suspension, M sport brakes, a ‘gurney flap’ rear spoiler, a head-up display and lots of driving assistant functions. You can also add to this with a number of packages – we would recommend the reasonably priced Comfort Pack that introduces a heated steering wheel, comfort access and front seat lumbar support.
The i4 only achieved a four-star safety rating from Euro NCAP – it performed relatively well in the adult child occupant protection tests but underperformed in the safety assist section (for example, the automatic emergency braking system (AEB) failed to detect a pedestrian crossing a road into which the car was turning). The rival Mercedes EQE performed far better in this regard.
It’s too early to be sure how reliable the i4 will be, but BMW finished in 16th place out of 32 manufacturers in our 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey, putting it ahead of Volvo in 17th, Audi in 21st and Mercedes in 23rd, but behind Lexus in 1st place.
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The i4 didn't feature in the 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey, but BMW finished a respectable 16th out of 32 brands in the manufacturer table. The only premium brand that did better was Lexus, in first place. Read more here
In range-topping M50 form, the i4 has an official range of 318 miles, while the cheaper eDrive40 can officially manage 367. In our 2022 summer range test, an eDrive40 went 316 miles on a single charge in real-world driving conditions. Read more here
The eDrive40 produces 335bhp and feels properly punchy, so we’d stick with that version, rather than paying the (significant) premium required to get the range-topping M50. Our recommended trim is M Sport with the Pro Pack, which gets you adaptive suspension that can be softened or stiffened to suit the conditions. Read more here
The entry-level Sport spec includes climate control, cruise control, a reversing camera and a 14.9in infotainment screen. If you upgrade to pricier M Sport, you also get sportier styling cues inside and out, which are likely to be good for resale values. Read more here
In its fastest – M50 – form, the i4 can accelerate from 0-62mph in 3.9sec, while the less powerful eDrive40 officially takes 5.7sec. For comparison, the Tesla Model 3 Performance gets from 0-60mph in 3.3sec. Read more here
The i4’s boot has a 470-litre capacity and our road testers managed to fit in eight carry-on suitcases. It also has underfloor storage for your charging cables. The Tesla Model 3’s rear boot is 425 litres, but it also has a second load bay under the bonnet, giving it space for 10 carry-on cases in total. Read more here
|RRP price range||£50,755 - £72,140|
|Number of trims (see all)||3|
|Number of engines (see all)||3|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||electric|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||3 years / No mileage cap|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£101 / £144|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£203 / £288|