4.2 out of 5 4.2
Parkers overall rating: 4.2 out of 5 4.2

Five-door coupe with great electric tech that's superb to drive

BMW i4 Gran Coupe (21 on) - rated 4.2 out of 5
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At a glance

New price £51,905 - £63,905
Lease from new From £647 p/m View lease deals
Used price £39,495 - £53,460
Fuel Economy 2.8 - 3.9 miles/kWh
Insurance group 35 - 43 How much is it to insure?
New

PROS

  • Latest BMW EV tech, sharp looks
  • Long driving range, top performance
  • Most powerful M50 model is seriously quick

CONS

  • Expensive (though not compared with the BMW iX)
  • Requires plenty of time to charge
  • We're still waiting for an electric 3 Series

BMW i4 Gran Coupe rivals

Written by CJ Hubbard on

The BMW i4 is a 100% electric five-door coupe from one of Germany’s most prestigious car manufacturers. Essentially an electric version of the 4 Series Gran Coupe, the i4 aims to prove that BMW’s appeal as a brand for driving enthusiasts will continue no matter what’s powering the wheels.

The i4 M50 version available right from launch underlines this point, as this is also the first BEV (battery electric vehicle) developed by BMW’s famous M performance department.

Rivals include the Tesla Model 3 and Polestar 2, though you might also consider all-electric SUVs such as the Audi E-Tron and Jaguar I-Pace.

Is the BMW i4 any good?

If you’re looking for a high-quality electric car from an established premium brand that provides an outstanding driving experience, the latest technology and lots of comfort, but doesn’t shout about being EV, the i4 is an excellent place to start.

While the i4 M50 variants we drove at the launch event may have painted a slightly garish matte blue, these are otherwise entirely conventional-looking automobiles. Aside from a funky finish to the kidney grille openings at the front and the total lack of exhaust pipes at the rear, there are no obvious electric vehicle design cues.

This makes the i4 an interesting comparison to the BMW iX SUV, the self-proclaimed ‘pinnacle’ of BMW’s fifth-generation electric vehicle technology. The iX has an attention-grabbing appearance and is partly made from exotic carbonfibre. The i4 looks normal and is built from more ordinary materials. But it also uses the same electric motor and battery tech as the iX and is far cheaper to buy despite offering even greater performance. By this measure, the i4 is something of an electric BMW bargain.

That said, prices still start at £63,905 for the i4 M50 – and £51,905 for the entry-level i4 eDrive40 – so this is by no means a cheap car. But you are getting solid value for your money, as the M50 has two motors, four-wheel drive, 544hp and a claimed 318-mile driving range (WLTP).

What’s it like inside?

You’ll be struck first by the BMW Curved Display on the top of the dashboard. This is actually two screens – one for the instrument panel, the other for the infotainment – joined together into a cohesive whole. It looks modern, but somewhat derivative, the sort of thing we’re already very used to seeing in EVs.

The digital dials are customisable, as is the head-up display behind them, while the infotainment is provided by the latest BMW Operating System 8 – the newest iDrive software, which can be controlled by touch, voice, gestures, and the iDrive puck on the centre console. It’s a deeply capable system that still manages to be easy to use.

Build quality is every bit as good as you would expect from a BMW at this price point, though we’re not personally keen on the carbonfibre inlays, which seem a little tacky by current standards. Still, it’s spacious and comfortable inside this five-door coupe, with plenty of room for a couple of adults in the rear – not even headroom is too compromised.

However, unusually for an electric vehicle, the i4 has a centre tunnel, making the middle rear seat less comfortable than the two outer ones. In a petrol or diesel powered 4 Series Gran Coupe, this tunnel would be filled with the gearbox and other drivetrain components. In the i4, BMW has used the space to add more batteries, complementing the large, flat battery pack that’s bolted to the floor pan.

Boot space is 470 litres with the rear seats in place, 1,290 litre with them folded. Access to the boot is a little easier than in a 3 Series, thanks to the large hatchback tailgate of the i4’s Gran Coupe body.

What’s it like to drive?

As the first electric M-car, you might expect the i4 M50 to be hard-riding and instantly alert to your every move behind the steering wheel. Instead, it glides away from standstill with a quiet serenity that belies the obvious high-performance capability. The things you notice first are the refinement and the ride comfort. It deals with poor surfaces exceptionally well.

The i4 is not totally silent inside, as BMW has commissioned movie soundtrack composer Hans Zimmer to provide an electric backing track that substitutes for the engine noise you would usually get from a performance car. This is relatively unobtrusive in the standard driving mode – and can be switched off entirely, if you prefer – but gets much more vigorous when you change over to the Sport setting. To our surprise, we found the noise to gel remarkably well with the way the car is being driven.

Sport mode also primes the i4 M50’s suspension for more aggressive cornering and changes the weight of the steering – neither of which seem to make the car any more tiring to drive. The suspension itself, specially tuned by BMW M for the M50, comprises variable damping control shock absorbers with conventional steel springs at the front and air-suspension at the rear, and really does a remarkable job of flattening-out bumps.

With maximum output of 544hp and 795Nm of torque driving all four wheels via a single-speed transmission, the i4 M50 is hugely fast. You only actually get the full beans whenever you activate the Sport Boost function – which you already need to be in Sport mode to access – but even slumming it with just the regular 476hp and 730Nm, this i4 is a seriously quick car. The M50 has an electric motor on each axle, and clever electronics mean these instantly react to maximise traction, making the official 0-62mph time of 3.9 seconds only a small part of the story.

In fact, this i4 M50 reacts so quickly to your right foot that if you slam the accelerator to the floor the nose points at the sky as the car surges forward, like some kind of 1960s American muscle car. It’s an unusual but strangely endearing trait that gives this electric car an extra shot of character.

Where keen drivers will most appreciate BMW’s talents, however, is on a twisting road. The M50’s variable-ratio steering takes a tiny bit of getting used to, but once you understand this it’s a cornering delight, scything through sequences of bends with truly satisfying precision.

Being an electric car even helps the i4 here, as the battery pack and other modifications mean the structure is stiffer than the equivalent petrol and diesel models. This allows the suspension and steering to work more effectively. And though the battery pack also adds a great deal of extra weight – the i4 is over 2.2 tonnes – it also lowers the centre of gravity, which further improves cornering performance.

Any other electric drivetrain tricks?

The i4 is available with all the same driver assistance technology as the iX. – around 40 functions in all. Examples include augmented reality sat-nav directions and lots of safety aids, and it has impressive awareness of its surroundings – watching for traffic lights to change and automatically adjusting to different speed limits, if you want it to.

What’s more, it also has excellent energy recuperation, whether you choose to use the adaptive system or the full B-mode. Recuperation, also referred to as regeneration, is the process of using the  electric motors to slow the car instead of the brakes when you lift off the accelerator, sending charge back into the batteries.

All electric cars do this. But these latest BMWs do it particularly well. The adaptive setting varies the level of recuperation using input from what’s going on outside – the car will even coast at higher speeds if that’s most efficient – while B-mode offers near-flawless one-pedal driving, right down to a standstill; driven this way with moderate care and attention, you’ll rarely have to use the brake pedal at all.

And when you do, BMW’s new Integrated Brake technology means that the brake pedal feels consistent all of the time – even though the car may be using the motors as well as or instead of the discs and pads to slow the car. So many other carmakers have struggled to do this, but BMW seems to have cracked it completely.

Other notable features include improved heating efficiency. Taking advantage of heat pump technology as well as excess heat from the electric motors, this is claimed to improve driving range by 15% in cold conditions.

How long does it take to charge?

All versions of the i4 are equipped to recharge using a super-fast 205kW DC charger – which can in theory take the battery level from empty to 80% in 34 mins.

The snag is that this is way more powerful than the public rapid chargers typically available in the UK. More common 50kW DC chargers will need 83 minutes to do the same, with 100kW DC taking 46 minutes. You’ll rarely have a completely empty battery, of course, so you probably won’t need to be stationary for as long as that.

If charging at home, you’re more likely to have access to a 7kW AC charger, which will need 13 hours for 0-100%. Faster 11kW AC takes 8.3 hours, while a regular plug will need as long as 43.5 hours.

What models and trims are available?

The i4 arrives in the UK just before the end of 2021, and will be available from launch in i4 M50 guise – as driven here – and as a more affordable i4 eDrive40 variant.

The eDrive40 has a single electric motor driving the rear wheels only, but still produces an impressive 340hp and 430Nm of torque. That’s enough for 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds, while top speed is limited to 118mph.

Prices for this model – which does without the M50’s special suspension and chassis tuning – starts at £51,905 for the entry-level Sport specification, rising to £53,405 for the M Sport.

Sport standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, shadowline exterior trim, reversing camera, auto-dimming door mirrors, heated front seats and air-conditioning. Upgrade to the M-Sport and you get lightweight 18-inch alloy wheels, M Sport leather steering wheel and M Sport exterior styling.

The i4 M50 has electric xDrive all-wheel drive, thanks to its front and rear motors, that headline 544hp and 795Nm combo, does 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds, and is electronically limited to 140mph.

It comes in a single, specific trim level, which includes 19-inch alloy wheels, sun protection glass, electric memory seats, M seat belts, M Sport leather steering wheel, M Sport exterior styling and Driving Assistant technology as standard.

BMW offers a vast array of options for all i4 models, including Laserlight headlights, heated steering wheel, and additional storage compartments. Over-the-air updates, including activation of additional features for an extra fee, are also available.

Click through to our verdict page for Parkers' final reckoning on the BMW i4

BMW i4 Gran Coupe rivals