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BMW i4 set to beat the EV elite

The BMW i4.
The BMW i4.

BMW is launching a blitz of electric models.

Nearly a decade ago the company launched the fully electric i3 hatchback and the hybrid i8 sports car. Both were excellent in their own way, but BMW didn’t expand its electric range much after that.

Until now. The German car maker is on an electric car offensive, with a slew of new models arriving – or on their way – spearheaded by the big iX SUV.

I tested that a few weeks ago and was impressed by it. Equally impressive and slightly more affordable is the i4 driven here.

Essentially it’s an electric version of the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. That means it’s a low slung, stylish looking four-door saloon. The 4 Series and its sister car the 3 Series are both outstanding, so I was expecting big things from the i4.

Buyers can choose from the entry-level eDrive 40, which has rear-wheel drive and a single electric motor. The range topping M50 version has two motors and four-wheel drive.

Both models use a large 84kWh battery that sits under the floor. This has the dual benefit of increasing interior space and improving handling due to its low centre of gravity.

Neither of them lacks anything in the way of power. The eDrive 40 (Facts below are for this version) produces a whopping 340hp – enough to accelerate from 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds. Top speed is electronically limited to 118mph.

Go for the full-fat i4 M50 and you get an even more whopping 544hp. It sprints to 62mph in under four seconds and has a 140mph top speed.

Counter intuitively, it is the cheaper version that has the longer range – thanks in part to not having the weight penalty of a four-wheel-drive setup. The eDrive 40 has an official range of 367 miles, while the M50 can cover 316 miles on a full charge.

In reality, it doesn’t matter much which one you go for as far as range is concerned. Both are in the upper echelons compared to the rest of the EV field, and almost no one wants to drive more than 300 miles without stopping for a rest anyway.

The i4 can accept up to 200kW charge rates, though all that really means is it’s future-ready, as the vast majority of chargers in Scotland are 50kW or less.
Prices start at just under £52,000 for the eDrive 40, with the M50 costing almost £64,000.

I spent a couple of hours driving both versions of the i4 and they’re extremely impressive indeed. BMW has always prided itself on making cars that are excellent to drive. If these are anything to go by, their electric offerings are going to maintain that reputation.

Throttle response is instantaneous and both cars sling you forward with extreme alacrity, the M50 version almost ludicrously so.

Straight line speed isn’t everything of course. The i40 handles beautifully too, feeling more nimble going into corners than any of its electric rivals. Steering is direct and the car feels nicely planted on the road.

At motorway speeds it’s very quiet, the absence of engine noise adding to the sense of refinement.

The cabin is well designed, with a massive 14.9in curved touchscreen display and BMW’s intuitive, easy-to-use iDrive rotary dial. Build quality is superb and the interior feels extremely upmarket – as it should for a car costing north of £50,000.

There’s plenty of room up front. Space in the back isn’t bad, but tall rear occupants will find the car’s stylish sloping lines eat into headroom a little. The hatchback boot offers a capacious 470 litres.

The BMW i4 is pitched against the Tesla Model 3 and Polestar 2. Both of those cars are slightly cheaper than the i4. There’s not much in it though, and the BMW justifies the extra spend with its high-quality cabin.

Refined, quiet, fast and dynamic, the BMW i4 has all of the best qualities of BMW’s petrol and diesel cars but in a more planet-friendly package.

The Facts

Model: BMW i4 eDrive 40

Price: £51,905

0-62mph: 5.7 seconds

Top speed: 118mph

Range: 367 miles

CO2 emissions: 0g/km

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