BMW i4 electric test: almost intact driving pleasure


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By presenting its 5th generation eDrive technology, BMW intends to prove that driving pleasure also means electric car. We tested the new BMW i4s in eDrive40 and M50 versions on the roads of Touraine: contact, gas … silence and performance!

Pieter Nota, member of the board of directors of BMW AG, warned at his annual press conference: “The BMW i4 is a real BMW despite being free of local pollutant emissions“. A stance which therefore implies that the sedan, which takes the lines of the 4 Series Grand Coupé, offers driving pleasure, comfort and performance at the height of the manufacturer’s history. the Bavarian brand has also added a technological component with the integration of the BMW Curved Display running under the 8th generation in-house OS. These ambitions actually have only one goal, to break the hegemony of Tesla and its Model 3 in the electric sedan segment.

Promising figures

To do this, the BMW i4 offers two electric versions of its sedan: the eDrive40 and the M50, the latter being the very first electric M.

The BMW eDrive40 offers a synchronous motor with wound rotor, without rare earths, on the rear axle developing 350 hp for 430 Nm of torque. The gross capacity of the battery is given at 83.9 kWh and promises between 493 and 590 km of autonomy (WLTP). The charger accepts a power of up to 250 kW in DC fast charging and allows to go from 10 to 80% in 10 minutes.

BMW i4 electric sedan, 590 km of range, rival of Tesla's Model 3

On the side of the M50, the battery capacity and the charging powers are identical, but the autonomy is less, 416 to 520 km in WLTP cycle, the fault of a higher energy expended. Indeed, the sports sedan also embeds on the front axle an engine delivering 258 hp for a cumulative power of 544 hp and a truckload torque of 795 Nm. FYI, it is 34 hp more than the six-cylinder biturbo of the M4. On the other hand, the installation of the batteries in the floor plays on overweight: the eDrive40 accuses 2125 kg on the scale while the M50 is at 2290 kg. The pads are likely to not appreciate late braking …

BMW i4 electric sedan, 590 km of range, rival of Tesla's Model 3

Passenger compartment

The electric BMW i4 offers a revised interior with a new dashboard design. The center console is simplified, with semi-direct climate controls and above all a new curved BMW Curved Display that incorporates a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a 14.9-inch central screen. If the modern style provides its little wow effect, in use its use can be a little confusing. On the one hand, we have a reactive interface, with polished, refined graphics; on the other hand, when you start to explore the different menus, you find yourself in front of an impressive list of icons or access to features that are not always very well located ergonomically.

BMW i4 M50 idrive40 electric sedan 590 km of autonomy, rival model 3

You often have to take your eyes off the road to navigate or adjust your settings. Ditto with the knobs on the steering wheel located on the right thumb, which allow selection of the information displayed in the instrument cluster and / or on the head-up display. It’s very comprehensive, but not completely intuitive. On the other hand, the display is still generally fluid and responsive, not as much as a smartphone, but we are clearly above average. Let us praise all the same the shortcuts at the level of the transmission tunnel, which make it possible to choose between the different driving modes, and especially the fact that BMW has kept its traditional dial to navigate the menus.

BMW i4 M50 idrive40 electric sedan 590 km of autonomy, rival model 3

BMW i4 M50 idrive40 electric sedan 590 km of autonomy, rival model 3

Equipments

The BMW i4 incorporates more than 40 driver assistance functions including forward collision warning, parking distance control with reversing assistant and 3D camera, active cruise control with traffic sign information and tracking adjustment, adaptive braking energy recovery with One Pedal mode, electric tailgate, intelligent voice control, blind spot and reverse traffic monitoring, as well as comfort functions such as automatic tri-zone air conditioning, 100% Led lights, wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a USB-A socket, three USB-C sockets. The list goes on and on, but to this the M50 still adds, among other things, M Sport brakes, piloted suspensions, variable-ratio steering and the Iconic Sound tones worked by the composer of The dark knight, Hans Zimmer.

BMW i4 M50 idrive40 electric sedan 590 km of autonomy, rival model 3

Finally, the more technophiles will undoubtedly appreciate the possibility of activating a Digital Key which allows to record his key in digital format in the “Wallet” of his smartphone. The vehicle thus recognizes the driver and activates a personalized welcome sequence with personal driving settings, switching on the heating and starting the engine. At the moment, the function is only available with certain iPhones and AppleWatch and requires at least iOS 13.6 and WatchOS 6.2.8.

BMW i4 M50 idrive40 electric sedan 590 km of autonomy, rival model 3

As usual with the manufacturer, the list of options is as long as a day without bread.

BMW i4 M50 idrive40 electric sedan 590 km of autonomy, rival model 3

On the road

Once installed at the wheel, we find the atmosphere of the Serie 4 Grand Coupé with a few buttons less and a curved screen for the instrumentation, but without a cap. Some will not like it. Space on board is generous for a coupe sedan, except of course for the rear passengers who have to contort themselves to be seated and not be too tall. The 470 l trunk is also easily accessible thanks to the large tailgate. However, if the main question was whether this BMW i4 is still a BMW on the road, the answer is definitely yes.

BMW i4 M50 idrive40 electric sedan 590 km of autonomy, rival model 3

The iDrive40 behaves like a typical drive from the Bavarian manufacturer, with a rear axle that moves gently in the buttocks when it is messed up. But above all, the front axle is lively, precise, the car is agile and jumps from turn to turn, all in a compromise of excellent comfort and appreciable silence, but dangerous for the license. BMW took advantage of the installation of the batteries in the floor to lower the center of gravity by 5 cm compared to the 3 Series and also uses it to further stiffen the chassis. The road feel of this iDrive40 is a treat.

BMW i4 M50 idrive40 electric sedan 590 km of autonomy, rival model 3

With the M50, the performances are still a big notch above, with in particular a 0 to 100 km / h sprayed in 3.9 s and a titanic thrust delivered by the 795 Nm of torque available immediately. Surprisingly, the weight is not felt under acceleration, which is amplified by the Iconic Sounds. It’s not worth the song of the 6-cylinder in-line, but it’s not unpleasant, and less deafening than in the Porsche Taycan. It is of course possible to deactivate them and move silently, especially since air noises are almost absent on the motorway. When braking, the inertia due to more than 2.2 tonnes is present and requires a certain vigilance. However, even if we regret the absence of paddles on the steering wheel to manage the level of intensity of the regenerative braking, we welcome the management of the whole which leads to a smooth complete stop.

BMW i4 M50 idrive40 electric sedan 590 km of autonomy, rival model 3

For everyday use, the iDrive40 is arguably a better compromise, but its performance does not match that of the M50. It will nevertheless be necessary to savor the latter with a certain piloting baggage if it is pushed to its limits. Opposite, the Tesla Model 3 offers two alternatives with Long Range and Performance. Less expensive than the i4, it is also lighter while offering a very high level of performance and such a precise front end. However, the BMW retains a unique charm, finish and road feel. We will organize a duel as soon as possible.

Consumption

At the end of these tests, we noted an average consumption of 24.5 kWh with the M50 and 22.5 kWh with the iDrive40, which would have enabled us to cover between 340 and 372 km on mixed roads at a good pace. Figures not so far from what the manufacturer announces and which deserve to pass the cars under the caudine forks of our protocol. Finally, a brief stop on an Ionity terminal allowed us to see that it was indeed possible to reach 205 kW of peak power. Arrived at the terminal with 8% remaining autonomy, we recovered in 10 minutes flat 38%.

BMW i4 M50 idrive40 electric sedan 590 km of autonomy, rival model 3

Balance sheet

With its i4 electric sedan, BMW intends to break the hegemony of Tesla and its Model 3. An arduous task when we look at the prices of the American and its performance. However, the Munich-based manufacturer maintains a premium positioning with excellent finishes, a high technological component and first-rate performance. Real sports enthusiasts will head for the M50, while drivers in a hurry to keep a bit of comfort will turn to the eDrive40. The latter starts from € 59,700 and the M50 sees its base price displayed at € 71,650. With the exception of the Tesla Model 3, the BMW i4 is, surprisingly as it may seem, unrivaled so far.



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