Stepping into the BMW i4 after a week with an iX, it’s hard not to be a little underwhelmed. While the latter is unlike any other BMW, with a notably absent transmission tunnel, a dash set very far back indeed and an unusual blend of materials, the i4’s cabin immediately betrays the 4-series routes.
That feeling soon gives way to the warm embrace of familiarity. Does it matter if the i4 feels a generation behind when these cabins have been the best in the business for a long time? The only pity is the removal of physical climate controls, with the i4 adopting a similar curved display featuring a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and 14.9-inch infotainment system.
Running off BMW’s eighth-generation iDrive system, it looks gorgeous and is plenty responsive, but is also pretty fiddly. You’d need to spend a lot of time tweaking and customising to get the best out of it. In any case, I’m just fine with that, because as soon as you start driving the i4, you soon forget about the annoying stuff.
You get two motors, one for each end of the car, providing a total of 526bhp. 0-62mph happens in 3.9 seconds, exactly matching the G80 M3 Competition. Feeding those motors is a battery pack with a useable capacity of 80.7kWh, 15kWh off what you get in the iX. But the i4 is more efficient, so the range isn’t far off at 360 miles.
The reason? Weight. Like most EVs the i4 is no featherweight, tipping the scales at about 2.2 tonnes, but it is still getting on for 400kg lighter than the iX. So, while achieving much over two miles per kWh in the iX at this chilly time of year was tricky, it wasn’t too hard to get the i4 closer to three.
If you’re less worried about eking out as much range as possible, the i4 can be mind-bendingly fast, picking up with such enthusiasm in ‘Sport Boost’ mode that you’ll worry about the condition of your intestines. Interestingly, it feels more violent amid full-throttle applications on the move – from a standstill with launch control, the delivery is more gentle. Either way, you get a sci-fi-spec soundtrack through the speakers courtesy of Hans Zimmer (yes, really). We’re pretty fond of it, even if it’s no substitute for something like an S54.
Given the low-lying nature of the battery pack, the i4 has a 33mm lower centre of gravity than the average 3-series. It was never going to feel as sharp as an M3 – that’s not where this car is pitched. But it feels as happy to carve up a good set of bends as something like an M440i. It’s not like the internal combustion soundtrack is something I really missed, either – have you heard a modern BMW engine lately? Soul-stirring they are not.
Adaptive suspension (featuring air springs at the rear only) does a good job of keeping the body nice and level, while understeer doesn’t often arise. Neither does oversteer, really. It’s a neutral car for the most part that’ll only give a vague bit of movement from the rear with a greedy throttle application.
Much like an M440i, and a lot of other fast BMWs these days, this impressive capability goes hand in hand with a general feeling of detachment. Sadly, these cars just aren’t as engaging as they used to be. You don’t feel a whole lot through the chassis, and while the steering is nice and quick, it’s pretty vague, not to mention way too heavy in Sport Boost.
Despite all that, the i4 is still one of the best-driving electric cars out there, second only to the Porsche Taycan. This includes when cruising around more sedately, with well-judged damping that’s comfortable in all modes. It’s quiet on a motorway schlep too, which is no mean feat when there isn’t a load of engine noise to cover up any NVH faux pas.
The i4 may lack that futuristic cabin wow factor of some BEVs, but perhaps that doesn’t matter – pitching internal combustion is a pretty big step, and some might prefer to do that in a more recognisable setting. The way it looks on the outside is pretty agreeable too, even if it might be nicer still with a more sensibly-sized grille.
The best part? It’s reasonably priced. At £63,905 it’s not all that far off an M440i in Gran Coupe form. Oh, and it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than a G80 M3 despite being just as fast, channelling a decent chunk of its excitement with no tailpipe emissions, and being able to cover 300 miles for less than a tenner. It’s official – EVs are getting damn good.