The prototype we are on the road with is not yet fully exposed. Even though BMW has long since distributed the official photos of the i4, the sheet metal of our test car is still covered with camouflage material. He also does not yet perform what film composer Hans Zimmer has created especially for the i4 in driving sounds. In any case, our BMW i4 eDrive40 is already as good as final, with perhaps a single blow here and there.
As an eDrive40, the i4 has a single electric motor that delivers 250 kW (340 hp) of power to the rear wheels. So you don't have to worry about the performance of the five-door Gran Coupé, because you can reach 100 km/h in 5.7 seconds. The advantage of an electric powertrain: the full torque is immediately available from standstill. Thanks to a generous 430 Nm, the electric i4 manages to disguise the fact that it weighs more than 2000 kilos on the sprint.
In that respect, however, BMW was faced with a difficult task: all that weight also had to be turned around. And preferably as BMW customers are used to. We put the test to the test and hurl the i4 into the corner, as clumsily as we can. The car does not flinch: the chassis manages to mask all the masses excellently. That immediately gives you confidence. At the limit you feel the rear want to wag its tail. The electronics give you a lot of leeway, but keep an eye on things in the background. Before you slide off the asphalt with a dramatic pirouette at high speed, the computer has turned off the power tap.
The BMW i4 shares its body with the new BMW 4 Series Gran Coupé and thus has the same advantages and disadvantages. Compared to the previous 4 Series, the fifth door increases everyday convenience. However, the sloping roofline leaves its mark on the rear headroom. Not that you sit with your head bowed and think about what you have earned this punishment, but the little space between the crown and the sky does create the hope that the driver will choose a not too bumpy road ...
In the front, however, you sit princely. There is plenty of space and you have a view of an all-new digital widescreen instrumentation, which is composed of two curved displays. The operation is partly known: with the push/turn button on the center tunnel you will find your way through the menu structure of the multimedia system. And if you can't figure it out, you can always fall back on the excellent voice control. Because there are hardly any buttons visible, the dashboard looks sleek and tidy. The central screen works as a touchscreen, just like in the BMW iX - which we drove earlier - we look with some suspicion as to how it will function in practice.
Using all kinds of sensors and information collected via GPS, the BMW i4 determines itself when it can recover energy. This works wonderfully. Even if the electronics itself decides whether, depending on the traffic situation, the car will roll out with minimal resistance or, on the contrary, to have the braking energy recovered more strongly, as a driver you always retain the feeling that you are in control.
Top model of the i4 series will be the M50. This version has two electric motors; there is also one between the front wheels. Together they deliver a maximum power of 400 kW (544 hp) in overboost. Small but fine detail: the rear engine delivers 40 kW more thanthe one in the front. Thus, the i4 M50 still drives like a real BMW. You can feel the rear wheels clinging to the asphalt, with the front wheels completely in the background preventing the sporty exercises from turning into a huge cloud of tire smoke. The i40 M50 accelerates to 100 in about 4 seconds. This makes the car almost as fast as the new BMW M4.
BMW has succeeded in giving the electric powertrain a significant role in the dynamic field as well. Thanks to the low center of gravity and the nice distribution of the motor forces between the front and rear wheels, the i4 M50 manages to amaze even the most critical sports car driver on a winding road. Which does not mean that it has become a hardcore sports sedan. As with the i4 eDrive40, the adaptively damped chassis in the Comfort program offers above-average flexibility. The car is not only suitable for a round of the Nürburgring, but also for long distances on the highway.
Speaking of distances: BMW gives a range of 590 kilometers for the i4 eDrive40. The i4 M50 would reach 510 kilometers on a full battery charge. Both variants have a battery with a substantial capacity of 80.7 kWh (gross: 83.9). During a visit to the fast charger, the battery is charged to 80 percent in half an hour.
We have not yet been able to drive the final production model, but the BMW i4 already makes a big impression with its entertaining driving characteristics, excellent performance and large (theoretical) range. You hardly experience any major disadvantages of the electric powertrain. The question is whether the almost buttonless dashboard is in practice. The BMW i4 is not cheap.
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