Test Drive: The BMW i4 eDrive40 Gran Coupe: Fast, Fun, And Electric
Love BMW but want a zero-carbon footprint? Your ride is here.
Buying a family car usually means looking for something on the sensible side. That means no more whipping around in a fun, sporty ride, right? Wrong. Since Tesla set the electric-vehicle market on fire, just about every other auto company is looking to the future by releasing its own EVs. Luckily for us, that includes BMW. And in the case of the 2022 i4 eDrive40 Gran Coupe, that means not only cutting out gas costs but also performing like a Beemer and looking good while doing so.
BMW, like all makers of EVs, is actually consolidating its shapes to be cleaner and leaner. Someday, we’ll get to battery breakthroughs that will make electric car “range anxiety” a thing of the past — but for now, the most urgent enemy of range is cruddy aerodynamics. So how do you maintain iconic lines while still cheating the wind? Sleek aerodynamic designs that turn heads as well as reducing wind resistance.
Meanwhile, if you’re BMW, you have yet another big expectation to meet: performance. Tesla made the whole world wake up and pay attention to astonishing 0-to-60 times from its mega-big-batteried Model S, but BMWs are meant to do more than just go fast in a straight line: They have to defy physics and unspool corners. Can a BMW EV pull that off?
The 2022 i4 eDrive40 Gran Coupe lives up to those standards and then some. Not only does it handle great, but it’s actually a little more placid and smoother-riding than the equivalent size 4-series gas BMW. This makes it less unsettling for passengers (Junior is less likely to lose his juice box contents when you take a curve with a little extra verve), and because it’s a hatchback, it has a more versatile cargo hold than a sedan with a trunk. In some ways, it’s actually superior to its gas-powered equivalents. Plus, it can be had for less money, which is an astonishing feat.
But the icing on the cake? The kidney-shaped grille on the i4 is actually well-proportioned and not too prominent. Perhaps chasing aerodynamic efficiency has forced the hand of BMW’s design department back toward some degree of restraint. But the perks don’t stop there: Almost all other elements of this BMW are brilliant.
Where We Tested
In the Catskill mountains of the Hudson Valley and in snarled, miserable traffic in New Jersey.
The Best Reason to Get a BMW i4
Know this from the start: You’re choosing between two different breeds of i4. The single motor, rear-drive eDrive40 makes a “mere” 335hp and has an EPA-rated 301 miles of range. You get less range (245 miles) and have to spend more for the dual-motor AWD 536hp i4 M50. The latter machine will leap to 60 mph in 3.3 seconds, which happens to be faster than the gas-fueled M3 Competition. The stickers aren’t cheap, but they’re not out of line with Tesla’s Model 3 Performance, a car with way less interior room and zero of the BMW’s creature comforts or luxurious quarters.
You’re looking at the single motor model starting at $56,395 and the dual-motor M50 from $66,895. For sake of comparison, the slower (and gas-fueled) M4 Competition will run you $76,000.
While the Polestar 2 we covered recently blends sportiness and sereneness in equal measure, even the single motor i4 eDrive40 Gran Coupe is faster to 60 mph (5.5 seconds versus 6.8 seconds for the Polestar), and achieves longer range. More power and less concern over range is a good thing on a family road trip or just when you’re running a slew of errands and don’t want to be bothered seeking out charging while your kids have a rehearsal or soccer practice to get to. And it does all that while besting the Polestar on overall cargo capacity.
Also, because it’s electric you get something that’s impossible from a gas-engined car: silence. You can actually hear your kids in the backseat talking at a natural voice level, and they can hear you. BMW gives you the option of an electronically induced, synthesized backbeat for your i4, but if that strikes you as weird (especially since it blends actual BMW gas cars’ engine noises with musical tones), don’t sweat it: You can kill the soundtrack and rip around blissfully hearing your significant other or your kids just like you were sitting around the dinner table.
Also, BMW’s latest iDrive infotainment system is truly excellent, mostly because the voice control (think Alexa) works at a more intuitive level, with less need to repeat basic functional commands. Ask for a radio station or a climate option or navigation, and it all just works.
View From the Backseat
There are pros and cons to having a sedan in your life. Fortunately, the pro for the i4 is that it’s decently roomy, with more rear knee room than either the Tesla Model 3 or the Polestar 2. It’s not as capacious as the Hyundai Ioniq 5 Fatherly covered recently, but we’re talking about very different animals for different kinds of owners: The Ioniq 5 is a space-age chocolate lab everyone can love; the i4 is perhaps a cross-breed between a German shepherd and a standard poodle; whip-smart and loyal to a fault but not everyone’s favorite.
Though, if you have to take a dog along for a ride, you’d want the BMW, not the Polestar 2, because its aft end opens as a hatch, not a trunk, and that means flipping down the rear seats buys you 45.6 cubic feet of cargo room in a wedge shape rather than a trunk pass-through. That’s 7 more cubic feet than the Polestar, but more than that, the actual loading ease is superior — crossover buyers already know that a hatch door is a larger cutout in the rear of a car than a trunk, and lets you stuff in awkward items like strollers, garden soil, or indeed a pet carrier with way less fuss.
Some (Small) Safety Concerns
Waiter, there’s a fly in my BMW!
Actually, we don’t know how the i4 will perform in either the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) ratings or the U.S.’s federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration scores because they aren’t out yet. Europe’s rigorous ew Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) testing gave the car 4/5 stars, which is considered about the same as a Top Safety Pick by IIHS (but not a Top Safety Pick Plus). While the European agency rated the vehicle tops for your kids, giving it max points for protecting both 6- and 10-year-old crash test dummies in frontal-offset and side-impact tests, NCAP dinged the BMW in tests that U.S. agencies don’t factor in as much: passive safety tech. It was especially harsh about lane-keeping assistance technology. Whether and how this might factor in U.S. tests is not yet clear.
What is clear is that BMW includes features you’ll want, like automatically dimming high beams, lane departure warning, blind spot warning, frontal collision warning, and parking distance alerts. And while BMW, in keeping with all European carmakers, it seems, charges more for a few features you’re going to want, at least the fees aren’t insanely onerous. It charges $1,700 for traffic-assisted cruise control (that slows the car to a full stop and enables reaccelerating just by tapping the throttle).
And it’s well worth the additional grand to get Laserlight headlights, which are, quite honestly, astonishing. On a two-lane road, they project your high beams down the road but dim the spot of the oncoming car. But it’s a smarter system than just keeping the lane-side high beam at full intensity, because both lights actually adapt (using cameras to detect the approaching car). That onrushing car gets a black hole to travel through while your way ahead is fully illuminated.
While you probably hope to never need it, the i4 comes standard with four years of roadside assistance and a 100,000-mile warranty for the electric drivetrain, too.
Doubtless, a five-door sedan isn’t a crossover. The blurry picture you should also intuit is that “crossover” and utility aren’t synonymous — if you already have one of those bigger beasts in the garage and what you’re after is the “fun” car that you can take turns driving, this is exactly that (though it’s pretty utilitarian as well).
All that said, there is a downside: bad weather. Because as much as the rear-motor e40 is more than quick enough, you may live somewhere where AWD feels necessary, and stepping up to the higher performance M50 costs a bundle more, delivers lightning acceleration, yet also slices into range. There is a solution here: winter tires. Paired with stability and traction control, you’re going to have more grip than you’d guess.