To anyone who was concerned that electrification would ruin BMW’s core sedans, all we can say is this: You have nothing to worry about. The future looks bright, even at the single-motor end of the spectrum where the rear-drive 2022 BMW i4 eDrive40 resides.
As its designation suggests, the i4 is an EV take on the 4-series Gran Coupe. Its sleek four-door sedan-esque body is indistinguishable from its gas-powered counterpart’s and features the same longer roofline, frameless door glass, and rear liftgate rather than trunk. This absolutely works in the i4’s favor, as the Gran Coupe offers superior rear-seat space and better cargo access than any 3-series sedan. And it looks fantastic to boot. Besides, the name i3 was already taken.
We’ve previously tested—and been mightily impressed with—the high-performance variant of the i4, the M50, calling it “an EV M3” because, among other things, it outaccelerated the last M3 Competition we tested. The eDrive40 is the more mainstream, less expensive version, but in many ways that makes it an even more compelling EV, not to mention a serious alternative to its gasoline-powered counterpart, the BMW 430i Gran Coupe.
In contrast to the M50, with dual motors making 536 horsepower and powering all four wheels, the eDrive40 has a single rear-mounted motor that sends 335 horses to its rear wheels. Still, that easily outclasses the 430i, whose turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four puts out just 255 horsepower. At the track, our eDrive40 scampered to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds and dusted the quarter-mile in 13.4 seconds at 106 mph. That makes it quicker than a rear-drive Tesla Model 3 Long Range, which reached 60 mph in 5.0 seconds and crossed the stripe in 13.8 seconds at 101 mph. Meanwhile, the last 430i we tested (admittedly a convertible, not a Gran Coupe; their engines are identical, and weight differs by little more than 100 pounds) achieved 60 mph in 5.5 seconds and covered the quarter-mile in 14.1 seconds at 98 mph. Bottom line: The single-motor i4 is sufficiently quick.
It turns out to be even quicker in real-world acceleration situations, where direct-drive and instant torque (the 317-lb-ft peak begins at zero rpm and carries on to 5000) leads to total annihilation of the 430i, which must build boost and kick down to a lower cog in its eight-speed automatic before it can head off in pursuit. The eDrive40 handles the 5-to-60-mph street-start test in 5.1 seconds, whereas the 430i needs 6.8 seconds. The rear-drive i4’s passing times of 2.0 seconds from 30 to 50 mph and 2.9 seconds from 50 to 70 mph are even more telling, with the 430i requiring 3.4 and 4.0 seconds, respectively.
BMW i4 Range Results
It’s not all about speed. Range, the other side of the EV coin, is an even bigger concern to many, and here the i4 eDrive40 handily outperforms the M50. Both i4 variants use the same 81.5-kWh liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack, and as is typical in such cases, the less powerful single-motor car delivers greater range. For the eDrive40, that’s an EPA-rated 301 miles with 18-inch wheels or 282 miles with the optional 19s, versus the M50’s 270 miles on 19-inch rolling stock or just 227 miles with high-performance 20-inch rubber.
Our eDrive40 tester was fitted with summer-spec Hankook Ventus S1 evo3 19-inch performance rubber, and it essentially equaled its 282-mile EPA rating in our more severe 75-mph highway range test by delivering a 280-mile result. Our 75-mph consumption worked out to 107 MPGe, which easily surpassed the EPA rating of 99 MPGe combined (100 city, 98 highway). It gets better: We averaged108 MPGe over the 1336 miles we had the car. This included 130 MPGe on a 158-mile random mix of city and highway driving, where light traffic held freeway speeds between 60 and 70 mph. Our maximum-attack run on Angeles Crest Highway was our worst “tank” at 85 MPGe, which maintained respectability because routine highway driving was part of getting there and back.
EV Sounds and Regen Braking
In the M50, we found the synthesized EV interior sound to be overbearing, but here the IconicSounds Electric (a side dish to the $875 Harman/Kardon surround-sound stereo upgrade, which you absolutely want) is less noticeable and can be turned off anyway—the better to enjoy the silence. Our eDrive40 emitted just 64 decibels in both the 70-mph cruise and wide-open acceleration tests, which pretty much means you’re simply hearing hushed levels of wind noise enveloping the sleek bodywork.
We were fortunate to sample two different eDrive40s on two different coasts. Both ran on 19-inch tires. One had the Dynamic Handling package ($1750), which includes Variable Sport steering, adaptive M suspension, and M Sport brakes, while the other had the standard brakes and fixed dampers. The standard-spec car is the one that landed near our West Coast testing grounds, so that’s the one we tested. In both cases, brake regeneration is adjustable. A lateral slap of the shifter into the B setting represents an instant shortcut to the strongest level, but Drive can be programmed to deliver four other levels: low (coast), medium, high, and adaptive. Making that change requires delving into an onscreen menu, but with B always at the ready, an owner is likely to decide on a favorite Drive setting early and toggle between the two with the shifter from there on out.
That max-regen setting in the M50 rises to the level of one-pedal driving, but not so here unless you allow more space. Unlike in the dual-motor M50, regen acts solely on the eDrive40’s rear axle. Whenever you add friction brakes midstream, you’re suddenly involving the front axle and initiating weight transfer midstop. In certain regen settings, this can make the brakes feel grabby toward the end of a stop, particularly with the M Sport brakes, which have more initial bite and 14.7-inch front rotors instead of 13.7-inchers. On the test track we engaged the lowest regen setting so the friction brakes did all the work. The result was a 169-foot stop from 70 mph and 365 feet from 100 mph, with the standard brake setup displaying excellent control and absolutely zero fade.
On the skidpad, our eDrive40 orbited the circle to the tune of 0.87 g, a smidge less than the 0.90 g we saw in a 430i. But the i4’s balance is far more neutral, to the point where disengaging the stability control is an instant ticket to an unofficial drift mode. We suspect the difference boils down to our test car’s 4699-pound weight, plus the use of the same 245/40R-19 front and 255/40R-19 rear tire sizes despite the eDrive40’s more rear-biased weight loading of 55 percent (versus 52 percent).
On the road, both suspension setups feel engaging and well controlled. The version with the Dynamic Handling Package struck the same tone as the M50, with the adaptive damper system’s Sport setting providing sharp response and the Comfort setting providing just what the name implies: agreeable daily-drive comfort. But the standard fixed damping of our West Coast tester didn’t feel substandard, as it ingested all manner of road imperfections with aplomb and pasted a huge grin on our face when we pushed it hard in the mountains. We also found its steering to be accurate and predictable, even though it lacked the variable-ratio rack of the East Coast car.
Agreeable In-Cabin Tech
Inside, the driving environment is every bit as stylish, impeccably crafted, and logical as the M50, with the lack of carbon-fiber trim not spoiling the mood one bit. Perhaps that’s because our car was fitted with optional Vernasca leather seats ($1450) and the tech-fabulous curved-display screen ($1000), which comes paired with a head-up display. It’s easy to scroll through the various menus using the touchscreen directly or the rotary controller, which remains a welcome means of navigation both between and within function areas, such as for selecting satellite-radio stations or searching for a phone contact.
The curved display is a prerequisite for the $1700 Drivers Assistance Pro package, because the screen hides a set of infrared driver-monitoring sensors, which allow the very capable lane-centering feature to become truly hands-free at 40 mph and below. Status lights turn green on the steering-wheel spokes when the system is available, but they’ll turn yellow as a sound it emitted if you gaze drifts away or traffic speed increases beyond 40 mph. It works brilliantly, but it certainly is an option you can skip if your driving routine doesn’t typically include traffic jams.
At a starting figure of $56,395, the eDrive40 chops a hair over $10K off the price of the M50. It’s also about $10K more than a gas-powered 430i Gran Coupe. But it is eligible for the maximum $7500 federal tax credit, which can typically be folded into a lease deal even if you don’t qualify outright. Even without that, the eDrive40 is absolutely worth the premium. It’s a fantastic look into an electrified BMW future that doesn’t leave fans of the brand out in the cold.
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