5 Things to Know about the BMW i406/08/2021
BMW is getting into the EV game for real now—years after testing the waters with the i3 and the i8—and its newest battery-electric models are coming here in a matter of months. If you’ve been waiting for an electric 3-Series, you’ll be able to buy… an electric 4-Series Gran Coupe when two versions of the i4 land here in the first quarter of 2022, offering a little extra versatility compared to the standard sedan body style. The i4 is perhaps destined to be endlessly compared to the Tesla Model 3 in all aspects, but as we’ll see, it could end up targeting a slightly different niche in the market.
Here are 5 things to know about the 2022 BMW i4.
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BMW didn’t completely reinvent the look of the car in creating the i4, but it should still be easy to distinguish one of these from their gas-engined siblings once you seen it in traffic for the first time. The automaker used the profile of the 4-Series Gran Coupe as the starting point, giving the i4 unique exterior details while keeping the frameless windows. Featuring short overhangs and a relatively long wheelbase, the i4 majors in aerodynamic efficiency, with the i4 eDrive40 boasting a drag coefficient of 0.24, while the i4 M50 offers a coefficient of 0.25.
“All areas of the body have been crafted according to aerodynamic principles, from the front bumper to the exterior mirrors to the tailgate’s integral spoiler lip,” the automaker notes. “The high-voltage battery housing, the motor compartment shielding and the cover for the torsion struts form a continuous surface with seamless transitions to improve air flow along the underbody.”
When it comes to design, the i4 sports BMW’s latest version of the kidney grille, with active air flap control at the bottom working to reduce aerodynamic drag even more. The flaps can be positioned in a total of 10 stages, letting air in to cool the battery, brakes, air conditioning, and drive system in just the amounts needed. Tapered door handles are another unique detail found on this electric sedan, and even the standard light-alloy wheels were designed with aerodynamics in mind, as you may have guessed by now. A hockey stick-shaped blue element is there to remind others in traffic that the i4 is electric, with the blue accents extending to the frame of the kidney grille as well. Out back, the lightweight rear diffuser is actually made from textile-based raw materials, continuing with the theme of efficiency.
At launch, BMW plans to offer two flavors of the i4 in America: the i4 eDrive40 and the i4 M50. The eDrive40 will serve as the base model stateside and will be offered solely with rear-wheel drive, with a single motor producing 335 hp and 317 lb-ft of torque. This version of the i4 is expected to offer an EPA range of 300 miles, and 0-to-60-mph sprints in 5.7 seconds.
The more powerful half of the duo will be the i4 M50, offering all-wheel drive and 536 hp and 586 lb-ft of torque with the Sport Boost function, which adds an extra 67 hp and 48 lb-ft of torque for over 10 seconds. Even though it’ll have the same battery as the eDrive40, it will trade some of that range for power, so it’s expected to land with a 245-mile range. This version will make the sprint from 0 to 60 in just 3.9 seconds. Official EPA ranges for both versions will be published shortly, before the models’ market debuts in a few months.
“To allow maximum power to be summoned in situations where the car’s performance capabilities are being really put to the test, the Sport Boost function can be activated several times in succession if the high-voltage battery has enough charge,” the automaker says. “Every time the driver accelerates, a fuel gauge-style icon in the instrument cluster shows how much extra power is available and for how long.”
The single-motor eDrive40 and dual-motor M50 both use electrically excited synchronous motors, rather than ones driven by fixed permanent magnets. This approach eliminates the need to use rare earth metals, which would have been required for magnetic components, in their construction. These motors offer an efficiency factor of 93 percent, and were developed in-house by BMW.
The motors themselves are positioned in the axles, and the axles also house the one-speed transmissions.
Both versions of the i4 feature the same battery size, offering 83.9 kWh gross and 81.5 kWh net (but you’ll likely see them referred to as 82-kWh in the media). The battery itself is composed of four modules with 72 cells each, and three more modules with 12 cells each, offering a volumetric density that is 40% higher than that offered in the BMW i3. The battery itself is only 4.3 inches tall, located low in the floor for better agility.
This positioning gives the i4 M50 a center of gravity that is 1.3 inches lower than in a 3-Series, or 2.1 inches lower than a 3-Series in the case of the eDrive40, the automaker points out. The battery itself is also integrated into the body structure in order to increase torsional rigidity, with the battery enclosure being directly connected to the front axle subframe, while the battery pack is joined to the floor assembly with 22 bolts.
“The lithium required for battery cell production is likewise obtained under transparent conditions that are monitored by the BMW Group,” the automaker says. “The BMW Group sources the lithium used in the high-voltage battery pack on board the BMW i4 from hard-rock deposits in Australia and passes it on to the battery cell makers. The company can therefore ensure that environmental and sustainability standards are observed during the extraction and processing of cobalt and lithium and that there are no violations of human rights.”
With DC fast-charging, the i4 can charge at up to 200 kW, with BMW pointing out that just 10 minutes of charging at this speed will give the car 90 miles worth of juice. Using a Level 2 wall box with AC power and a charging rate of 11 kW, the i4 can recharge its battery from a completely depleted state to 100% in under eight hours, according to BMW. (Of course, we don’t recommending depleting the battery down to 0% to begin with).
The cabin of the i4 is a mix of the familiar and the new, mixing some sci-fi aesthetics with a layout that longtime BMW buyers should find recognizable. The EV genre demands large screens, and that’s exactly what the i4 will offer in the form of a 12.3-inch information display and 14.9-inch control display forming one large, curved screen surface spanning more than half of the available dash space. BMW angled the screen toward the driver, but the screen is not really integrated itself; rather, it sits like a tablet or an open book, leaning slightly against the dash.
“The BMW Curved Display in the BMW i4 is held in place by a supporting structure that is concealed from the occupants’ view and appears to be free standing in the cockpit,” the automaker notes. “The anti-reflective glass used makes it possible to dispense with the customary binnacle for shielding the readouts from sunlight, giving the cockpit area a remarkably tidy and airy appearance.”
Current BMW owners will be pleased to learn that a modern BMW gear shifter has not been traded for some kind of setting in the screen’s sub menus, even though it now has blue accents and a blue start button next to it. And the iDrive rotary knob is still there as well. Those who’ve been in a 3-Series or 4-Series will find the proportions of the interior almost prosaic and businesslike, with BMW keeping reminders of the car’s electric drivetrain to a minimum, offering a sports steering wheel with multifunction buttons and sports seats as standard items in this model. Three-zone climate control will be standard as well, in addition to acoustic glazing for the windshield. Another standard item is a slide/tilt sunroof covering 3.6 square feet. Ambient lighting will be optional (but really required if you’re buying an electric BMW).
When it comes to the sound system, the i4 will offer a 10-speaker audio system with a 205-Watt amplifier as standard, while a Harman Kardon system with 16 speakers with a digital seven-channel amplifier will be optional equipment.
The i4 will land here in the first quarter of 2022, with the i4 eDrive40 set to start at $56,395, while the i4 M50 will weight in at $66,895, before any federal or local incentives.
Among other things, this means that the price premium for the performance-flavored M50 model will be just $10,000. This will also be the price premium if you need all-wheel drive, as the eDrive40 is solely a rear-wheel drive model.
These two main versions of the i4—while being far from an exhaustive a lineup given the many versions of the 3-Series you can get in Europe—should still offer enough variety for BMW buyers looking at electric models.
Price-wise, especially once optioned, the i4 will really lean closer to competing with the Tesla Model S than the Model 3. It will really be positioned (and priced) like a 5-Series. In time, this positioning will likely shift a bit as more electric models arrive and the lineup gets really fleshed out, but when it comes to competition in the actual car marketplace, it’s likely to occupy a bit of an odd spot for a while above the Model 3.
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