BMW's i4 electric car is just what we've been waiting for
The problem with a lot of electric cars is that they look like they just drove out of a science fiction movie. That's great if you want to stand out, but most people don't really want to drive something that different. If you're interested in making the switch to electric, but you still want to blend in, the BMW i4 is a perfect choice.
The i4 is the latest model to be built on BMW's modular Cluster Architecture (CLAR) platform, which supports internal combustion, hybrid or EV applications. The i4 has the same bodywork as the gas-powered 4-Series, so you get BMW's great design work in an attractive, sporty five-door liftback package that the company calls a Gran Coupe.
The driveline is, of course, completely different. The i4 is available in rear-wheel drive as a single-motor model, or with twin-motors and all-wheel drive. Our test car for the week was the less powerful eDrive40 rear-wheel drive model, but even that offers enough performance to make an EV convert of the most die-hard BMW fans.
The i4 eDrive40 has its electric motor housed in the rear axle. The final drive is there, too, so there's no transmission to speak of. You'll get 335 horsepower and 317 pound-feet of torque from the motor, which is good for a 5.5-second 0-60 dash, and a top speed of 118 mph. More to the point of real-world driving, the i4 has plenty of power on tap to make a pass on a short passing lane, even if the other driver tries to race you for it.
BMW also didn't skimp on the battery pack, with 81.5 kWh of net capacity. That's enough to drive you 301 miles according to the EPA test, and maybe 280 by my unscientific real-world experience. One thing range estimates don't cover is the fact that you can regenerate quite a bit of power by using the maximum regen setting when going downhill. Coming over the mountains from Portland to the beach where I live, you'll get back almost every electron you spent climbing the hills as you coast down.
Best of all, the i4 accepts up to 200 kW DC Fast Charging, which will drop enough juice to get the car to 80% charge in 31 minutes, or drop 102 miles into the car in just 10 minutes. We charged from 65% to 98% in 38 minutes on a DC Fast Charger in my neighborhood while getting lunch across the street. Using the typical 240-Volt Level 2 chargers that most EV owners have installed in their homes, you can charge the i4 from 0-100 in less than eight hours, so this is an EV you can really live with.
Inside, the i4 gives you standard BMW luxury. The front seats are very comfortable, while the back seats are little shy on legroom if the front seat passengers are on the taller side. However, you can fit adults back there, albeit on shorter trips.
The rest of the interior is all ultra-modern simplicity. As befits a modern luxury EV, there's just one big screen that stretches more than halfway across the dash, and it's a touchscreen, though BMW still includes the iDrive rotary dial on the console.
The BMW i4 eDrive40 that I tested is the base trim level. You can move up to the dual-motor i4 M50 with 536 horsepower and a 3.7-second 0-60 time, and that will set you back $67,300, but the basic i4 I tested starts at $55,900. Rather than give you a bunch of trims, BMW offers just a couple of option packages — a black exterior trim pack and a heated seats and steering wheel pack, but really you can pick and choose your options a la carte.
If I was buying for myself, I would probably buy the base i4, but I would pay for the heated seats package for $950 and the ventilated front seats for $350 are a no-brainer. Even with all that, the i4 would cost less than $60,000, and for an EV with that kind of range and performance, that's a fair price.
2022 BMW i4 eDrive40
Base price: $55,900
Price as tested: $68,270
Type: Midsize five-door coupe
Motor: Rear-mounted electric (335 hp, 317 lbs-ft)
Transmission: Direct drive
EPA estimated range: 301 miles
Overall length: 189 inches
Curb weight: 4,680 pounds
Final assembly: Munich, Germany
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