BMW’s production-spec i4 EV will outpower the M3, pack 300-mile range


Several years and many concepts later, a buyable all-electric BMW i4 is finally coming into focus as it nears market in 2021. Full details for the i4 are set to roll out in the coming weeks, including several key factors like the available variations (multiple) and their associated price tags. In the meantime, we’ll just have to settle with mulling over what BMW’s recently trickled regarding the i4’s exterior imagery and choice technical bits.

Expect the i4’s styling to closely foreshadow that of the upcoming 4 Series Gran Coupe. The end result is a comparatively conservative looking exterior (at least for the i Brand portfolio) distilled from out of the original i Vision Dynamics Concept and Concept i4. For many people on the street, apart from the efficiency-focused wheels and Frozen Blue trim accents, the i4 sedan as styled could easily pass as one of its combustion-powered cousins. The i4’s character lines and proportions are familiar modern BMW—including the large double-kidney grille that, in this EV application, has little function beyond brand signature.

Life as BMW’s first all-electric sport sedan will prove to carry a lot of pressure in itself, and initial performance figures aren’t earth-shattering. BMW confirms that the i4, when configured appropriately, will boast up to 390kW, or 530 hp, and accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in around 4 seconds. While that horsepower figure bests the M4 Competition’s 503, the i4 is easily trumped—on paper—by other performance-oriented electric sedans already on the market, like Tesla’s Model S, Porsche’s Taycan, and Audi’s E-tron GT. (The segments in the EV market are still taking shape, though; it’s entirely possible that lower-spec i4s will compete more directly with Tesla’s Model 3.) Maximum range for the i4 is a respectable 300 miles as estimated by the EPA, thanks to a long-rumored 550-kg (1212-pound) 80-kWh battery pack. Don’t laugh, long-range Model S owners.

iDrive System screen

Although most of the vehicle’s technical details remain under wraps, one of the more alluring features of the upcoming i4 lies on the inside: iDrive 8.

Earlier this week, BMW dropped a more detailed report of its upcoming iDrive operating system that will debut in the upcoming i4 sedan and iX crossover. The system debuts a new curved display: a hi-res, 12.3-inch panel and an attached 14.9-incher that together make for the widest of widescreens, flowing all in one piece from behind the steering wheel to the middle of the dash. (Think 2021 Cadillac Escalade, but German minimalist.)

Even from the lurid teaser images, we get the feeling that BMW wants the i4 to feel more like an immersive tech product than a dynamic, rubber-and-metal machine. Buttons are replaced by voice, but not all of them; BMW asserts the essential analog controls are still there. Touch operation is possible, but it’s unlikely that BMW prefers your smudges all over that screen; expect BMW’s time-proven console-mounted dial to absorb most functions. Here’s a glimpse of the layout from the iX:

The iDrive 8 system will feature a highly advanced voice-recognized command system, known as the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant, capable of pattern memory. Let’s only hope it responds to users in real life with half of the flavor it features in this infamous commercial.

If the heart of the BMW brand truly desires to beat fully electric, so it shall be. Time will tell whether the i4 will become a reliably proven pacemaker in its electric portfolio.

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