During its first public showing at the Los Angeles Motor Show in 2019, the BMW i4 was the first bit of proof that BMW was getting serious about going electric. Barring the i3 and the i8, the German carmaker didn’t have anything that got their fans’ juices flowing. Plus, the i4 was sedan sized, lending itself well to the Gran Coupe body style BMW loves so much. Top tip – The iX3 will be a preview of what the i4 will be like, in terms of tech and safety.
But, why does the grill look like a Ford Edsel? And what’s it like compared to the Tesla Model 3?
Well, here’s all we know so far about the snouty new beem heading your way.
Since the BMW i4 is supposed to go up against the Tesla Model 3, we expect the prices to be close to the $50,000 mark. Then again, the model is expected to go into production in 2021. If you do decide to buy one, you’ll attract state and federal EV subsidies to the tune of $7,500. We also expect the first models to be sold in California. After all, what California drives today, the U.S. drives tomorrow.
- The Power
According to leaked news reports, the all-electric i4 will pack a 530-horsepower motor linked to an 80-kilowatt-hour battery pack. This will enable the sedan to sprint past 60 mph in 4 seconds. This is number is a conservative estimate because, despite a smaller 450 horsepower motor, the Tesla Model 3 reaches 60 mph in 3.2 seconds. Since the i4 has an 80-horsepower lead over the Model 3, we expect it to go like hell. By the way, the most powerful BMW V8 also makes 530 horsepower.
- The Speed
The Tesla Model 3 in the full-fat, extra-cheese Performance mode cracks 150 mph just like that. The BMW i4 has a more powerful motor and a larger battery pack. But, the drag coefficient is 0.28 compared to Tesla’s 0. 23. In a straight line, the i4 will be faster. Conservative estimate? 170 mph. BMW knows how to make powerful sedans that surprise much costlier cars in a drag race. It’s their thing.
- The Batteries
The Generation 5 batteries in the BMW i4 are modular and use flat cells, which means to add more power, the carmaker would just have to add more layers. In 2018, the German automaker invested close to 200 million Euros in an all-new production line just for the new BMW electrics to be launched over the next seven years. To this end, the batteries have been placed at the bottom of the floor, with the motors at the four corners, much like a skateboard. They result in a slight increase in height compared to the 4-series, but you’ll hardly notice the difference.
- The Range
BMW has estimated the range to be close to 373 miles on a single charge. But expected numbers are in the 300-mile mark because the E.P.A uses a different cycle compared to the WLTP format common in the E.U. The Model3, even in the Performance Dual Motor trim, can do 322 miles on a single charge —with a 75 kWh battery pack.
- Energy Consumption
According to BMW, the i4 consumes 178 Watt-hours per kilometer, which works out 287 Watt-hours per mile. In comparison, the Tesla Model 3 consumes 272 Watt-hours per mile.
- Time to Charge
The BMW i4 can charge up to 80% in just 35 minutes thanks to a 150-kilowatt charger. The Tesla Model 3, on the other hand, can charge from 10 to 80% in 30 minutes when connected to a Supercharger. The i4 can charge up enough to drive 62 miles when plugged into a charger for a mere six minutes.
- The Looks
Think of a four-door hatchback, and that’s what an i4 looks like. The long, low swooping lines are carried forward from the 4-series mold. Like the Model 3, the BMW i4 has a glass roof, a design element repeated across other electrics. The i4 does not have too many cuts and curves, but it’s not as round as the Model 3. There are two creases on each side that begin from the LED headlamp cluster and meet just below the slanted boot below the BMW logo. Overall, it’s far less extreme compared to other electric cars launching in 2021.
- The Aero
Aerodynamically, the BMW i4 has it all well-laid out. The front air dam channels air under the hood, and into the underbody, where the rear diffusers push it out at low pressure, creating a suction effect. This improves downforce and will be key at higher speeds. The flared wheel arches ensure that the wind vortices are kept in check. The aero wheels suck in air to cool the breaks, and to improve cornering drag.
- The Grille
While most electric cars have done away with the grille altogether, the buck-toothed BMW kidney grille takes up most of the front. Air for air-conditioning and battery cooling comes from a duct under the front bumper. The grille though is said to house several sensors crucial for the safety tech.
- The Cabin
BMW is back this time with a driver-focused cabin best suited for four. The interior is also quite richly appointed because BMW makes use of rose gold trim, wooden accents, and white leather upholstery. The dash is dominated by a long touch-screen, which is where BMW’s infotainment systems will live. The rear houses two full-size seats that can be folded down to create 44-cubic-foot cargo space.
- Sustainable Materials
All the wood inserts in the new BMW i4 are from eucalyptus wood. It’s sustainable because unlike pine or birch, eucalyptus only takes a few years to mature. The leather upholstery is tanned using olive leaves.
Even the BMW i4 gets the iDrive rotary controller. Besides that, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will be present. Also, the company has said the car will receive regular over-the-air updates, like Tesla. The dial though has a crystal bezel, which is picked directly from the 8-series.
- Hans Zimmer
To make the BMW i4 extra special, Hans Zimmer created a series of sounds for the car. So every time you open the door or switch driving modes, expect a bit of the Zimmer magic to waft through the beautifully crafted speakers.
- The Drive
BMW knows a thing or two about how to make a car dance. Without any of the internal-combustion-related fuss and delay in performance, the electric BMW i4 is going to shoot past most other gas and diesel-powered cars on the road. In the twisties, the i4 will rely on the single electric motor, helped along by torque vectoring and three driving modes (Core, Sport, Efficient). The Tesla Model 3 embarrasses sports cars for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. So, we expect the BMW i4 to be better.
- No Autonomous Driving
Again, the Tesla Model 3 offers the Autopilot system, which is not Level-5 rated. BMW, too, has a Personal Co-Pilot software suite that will not do duty in the BMW i4. Like the iX3, the i4 will have Level 3 autonomy.
- The Warranty
The BMW i4 will come with an 8-year/100,000-mile warranty. That should be great news for anyone worried about gremlins popping up within a year of ownership. Electric mobility isn’t perfect yet, and a good example is the Volvo Polestar 2, which was recalled twice in two months because of a glitch that could shut down the car all of a sudden. BMW isn’t exactly the last word in reliability, but we hope they do a good job with the i4.