- Even the entry-level model is great to drive
- Cabin is just superb
- We even like how it looks
- It's more expensive than a Tesla Model 3 or Polestar 2
- Won't turn heads in the same way as a BMW iX
- The Hans Zimmer soundtrack is a bit annoying
In some ways, the BMW i4 is a bit of an oddity. From its name, you'd expect it to take a similar approach to the BMW i3 – a small electric car that was (and still is) nothing like anything else produced by the premium German carmaker. But it's actually aiming at the traditional BMW 3 or BMW 4 Series market, which means it can't be too abnormal if it's going to enjoy the kind of success the brand is aiming for.
Of course, conventional BMW 3 Series buyers have recently been catered for with the Tesla Model 3. You only have to look at sales figures over the last few years to see that company car drivers are flocking to electric cars en masse due to the tax breaks they bring. The BMW i4 also takes on the Polestar 2, while it's filling in a gap in the market left by rival brands as they launch electric SUVs such as the Audi Q4 e-tron and Mercedes EQA.
While the internet has been horrified by the BMW i4's gaping front grille, we don't think it looks too bad in reality. And the rest of the car looks sleek and sharp - much, much more attractive than the BMW iX, in our opinion. You can look at the pictures and judge the i4's exterior for yourself, but there's no denying that the interior is just superb. It's much like a BMW 3 Series in there, with premium finishes and a large infotainment system spreading across the dash.
Practicality takes a knock compared to the BMW 3 Series but the front of the cabin is very comfortable for a pair of adults. The boot's pretty big, too, helped by the positioning of the batteries under the BMW i4's floor.
There are three core flavours of BMW i4 on offer: the BMW i4 eDrive35 and eDrive40 models, and the BMW i4 M50. The first two are moderately sensible single-motor electric cars, sending all the juice to the rear wheels, but both are still very quick.
The twin-motor, four-wheel-drive BMW i4 M50, meanwhile, was the first M-badged electric vehicle, and it's a sensationally quick car that can accelerate to 62mph in just 3.9 seconds. It's not just a one-trick pony, though – it drives like a BMW, with responsive steering and a clever traction control system that allows you to have just the right amount of fun. With air suspension on the back, it rides surprisingly well, while it's amusing how much the front end lifts as you point it towards the horizon.
Of course, if you're driving an electric car, you're going to be more concerned about how far it can travel before needing a top-up. The BMW i4 eDrive40 will officially cover up to 365 miles while the i4 M50 has a range of up to 318 miles. The entry-level eDrive35 will only do 299 by virtue of its smaller battery.
If there's one area in which the BMW i4 falls down, it's the price. A brand new BMW i4 eDrive35 Sport starts at around £51,000, while the M Sport version sets you back more than £52,000, while the longer range eDrive40 model costs around £59,000. The rapid BMW i4 M50 is more than £72,000.
Is the BMW i4 right for you?
If you want a premium coupe that looks good, feels good and is brilliant to drive – and just so happens to be electric - the BMW i4 is a great choice. It will take an eagle-eye to spot the differences between the BMW i4 and the 4 Series Gran Coupe, but not everyone wants to get into conversation with Tesla aficionados when going about their daily business. If you do, you might want to look at the more outlandish BMW iX instead, while our guide to BMW electric cars might also help you make up to your mind.
What’s the best BMW i4 model/engine to choose?
While the in-your-face performance of the BMW i4 M50 appeals, we think the more affordable BMW i4 eDrive40 is actually the better choice. It's got more than enough performance, while its lighter weight and rear-wheel-drive handling means it feels slightly nimbler. The added range is a bonus, too.
What other cars are similar to the BMW i4?
It probably won't have escaped your attention that the majority of premium manufacturers are concentrating their efforts on electric SUVs – so you could well be considering the BMW i4 against an Audi Q4 e-tron, Mercedes EQA, Volvo XC40 Recharge or even in-house alternatives like the new BMW iX and iX3. It's also up against the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Polestar 2 and – perhaps its most direct competitor – the Tesla Model 3.
The only giveaway that you're driving an electric car is the blue start/stop button and a splash of blue on the gear selector. We don't mind that but, if you want to be made to feel like you're driving a car from the future, look at the BMW iX SUV instead.
You sit low down in the BMW i4, which makes it feel sportier than electric SUV alternatives, yet there's plenty of adjustment in the seat. It's really comfortable with a generous amount of back support, while you can tweak the lumbar support to prevent any aches and pains on a long journey.
Quality and finish
BMW interiors are up there with the very best when it comes to interior quality and the i4 is no exception. It feels just as posh as you'd expect for a car that's one of the priciest in its class, and when compared like-for-like with a Tesla, you can see where the money goes. It's full of neat touches, soft finishes and sharp digital displays.
As is all too often the case, though, you do have to pay extra for some of the nicest finishes. Sensatec artificial leather is combined with Alcantara as standard, for example, rather than full leather seats. Unsurprisingly, the priciest BMW i4 M50 is also the plushest, with ambient interior lighting, electric leather memory seats (heated in the front) and an M Sport leather steering wheel as standard.
Infotainment: Touchscreen, USB, nav and stereo in the BMW i4
The BMW i4 uses the brand's eighth-generation iDrive infotainment system, with a large curved display made up of a huge 14.9-inch infotainment screen combined with 12.3-inch digital dials. It feels a bit Mercedes-Benz in its approach, while traditionalists might complain that it's a bit distracting, but the Tesla Model 3 has proven there's a market for oversized touchscreens in electric vehicles.
It's certainly easier to use than the Tesla's system, helped by a rotary controller positioned within easy reach next to the gear selector. It's quick to respond, too, although there is a fairly extensive amount of sub-menus which can take a while to navigate. You can get around this by using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto to mirror apps from your phone. Alternatively, you can use the Intelligent Personal Assistant, which is basically Siri but in your car.
Space and practicality: BMW i4 boot space
The external dimensions of the BMW i4 are within millimetres of the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe, measuring 4785mm in length, 1852mm wide and 1448mm high. The space between the front and rear wheels is 2856mm.
As such, the BMW i4's 470-litre boot is identical to the 4 Series Gran Coupe, although slightly smaller than the BMW 3 Series saloon's. Access is easier than the Tesla Model 3's luggage compartment, while there's a useful underfloor storage area for keeping your charging leads hidden away from view.
While there's a reasonable amount of space in the back, headroom is a little limited and there is a lump in the floor that will get in the way of anyone using the middle seat. We doubt many BMW i4 buyers will want to travel with three in the back regularly but, if you do, you might want to look at the BMW iX SUV instead.
In the front, there's no shortage of space. You sit rather low down, giving the BMW i4 a sporting feel, but there's loads of adjustment in the seat and steering wheel. You'll find the usual generous amount of storage space, including a large glove box and big door bins.
You'd expect the weight of the (rather chunky) battery pack to blunt the BMW i4's handling but it doesn't – not to an extent you're going to notice on public roads, anyway. By positioning it under the floor, BMW says it's managed to lower the i4's centre of gravity by up to 53mm (on eDrive 40 models) compared to a 3 Series Saloon.
As a result, everything feels rather tight, with very little sway during cornering. While the BMW i4 M50 gets the security of all-wheel drive, it still send most of its torque to the rear wheels, yet has the ability to shift it about to increase traction when required.
Rear air suspension is standard on the BMW i4 and it generally rides very well, especially considering its weight and relatively sporty setup. It's a touch more supple in Comfort mode, but you'll no doubt spend a lot of time in a sportier mode, making the most of the i4's sensational acceleration.
It's worth mentioning the BMW i4's regeneration braking system, too. Like all electric cars, the i4 can capture energy ordinarily lost when you're slowing down. You can increase or decrease the amount of regen, too. With it ramped up high, the car slows down quite considerably when you lift off the accelerator. Reduce it to its minimum and the car will coast when you lift off.
What makes the regen system in the i4 a bit special is the adaptive mode. This uses artificial intelligence to judge the road ahead and increase or decrease as necessary. When you're approaching a bend, for example, it slows down when you lift off – on the open road, it will coast freely. As a result, you rarely have to actually touch the brake pedal.
What motors and batteries are available in the BMW i4?
Both the BMW i4 eDrive40 and M50 use a sizable 83.9kWh battery pack hidden away rather neatly under the floor, while the entry-level BMW i4 eDrive35 model has a slightly smaller 70kWh battery. In the BMW i4 eDrive35 and eDrive40 models, the battery powers an electric motor driving the rear wheels, while the i4 M50 has a motor on each axle.
Even the lesser-powered i4 eDrive35 model produces 286PS, while the eDrive40 ups the output to 340PS. Both feel very sprightly from the get-go, the former officially covering the 0-62mph dash in 6.0 seconds, and the latter doing it in 5.7 seconds, but in the real world, both actually feel quicker than that.
As BMW's first M-badged electric car, the i4 M50 boasts pretty sensational acceleration. With 544PS on hand and an incredible 795Nm of torque, it can surge forward at a faster rate than anything this side of a Tesla Model 3 Performance. Officially it covers 0-62mph in just 3.9 seconds – that's quicker than a Porsche Taycan 4S.
Maximum electric range in the BMW i4
The BMW i4 eDrive40 has an impressive electric range of up to 365 miles according to WLTP tests. Sure, it will drop a little bit in reality, but we found the predicted range figure to be fairly accurate during our test drive.
The quicker BMW i4 M50 has an official WLTP range of 316 miles. Expect that to drop pretty dramatically if you make the most of its boisterous acceleration, but it should be able to make light work out of long journeys.
Refinement and noise levels
In terms of refinement, the BMW i4 is excellent. You might think that's a given for a car without a conventional engine, but you'd be surprised by how many electric vehicles manage to create a din on the move. No matter what the speed, the BMW i4 is utterly soothing, with very little in the way of wind- or road noise disturbing your peace and quiet.
There is a caveat – but one that's easily fixable. All BMW i4 models come with the brand's IconicSounds system. Developed by movie composer Hans Zimmer, this is basically an artificial sound piped into the cabin and increasing in intensity as you accelerate. Some people seem to like it but we just found it annoying. Fortunately, it's easy enough to turn off.
Safety equipment: How safe is the BMW i4?
The BMW i4 comes equipped with the brand's Driving Assistant. This is a camera and radar-based driver assistance system, which is intended to reduce the risk of potential collisions at high and low speeds. Features include Approach Control Warning, Rear Crossing-Traffic Warning, Lane Change Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Rear Collision Prevention and Speed Limit Info.
The optional Driving Assistant Professional builds on that with Automatic Speed Limit Assist, Crossroads Warning with City Braking Function, Emergency Stop Assistant, Evasion Assistant, Front Crossing-Traffic Warning, Lane Change Assistant, Lane Keeping Assistant with Active Side Collision Protection, Steering and Lane Control Assistant, Steering and Lane Control Assistant with Active Navigation Guidance, Traffic Light Detection and Wrong-Way Warning.
The BMW i4 was crash-tested by Euro NCAP in 2022, and achieved a rating of four (out of five) stars.