2022 BMW i4 eDrive40 | PH Review12/27/2021
Is the rear-drive i4 the 340hp electric saloon you've been waiting for?
By Dan Prosser / Monday, December 27, 2021 / Loading comments
The 13th letter of the alphabet never carries more meaning than when it’s stuck to the bootlid of a BMW. Fix an M badge to the back of one of those and our expectations change in an instant. Even if the car in question isn’t a full M model but a second-tier M Performance variant, we suddenly demand speed, excitement, engaging handling and a great soundtrack.
Not every M-badged BMW quite lives up those lofty expectations. Of the i4 M50, for instance, which is the very first BMW to bring an electric powertrain and that famed M badge together in one package, Mike Duff recently wrote: ‘To be honest, at the sort of speeds and loadings that can be experienced on road without filling the mirrors with flashing blue lights, the i4 felt a little inert.’ That doesn’t sound very M at all.
Remove that badge and with it go the expectations, and in the case of the i4, one of the two electric motors and £10,500 from the asking price as well. The eDrive40 sits below the M50 in the i4 model line-up and if you spot an M badge anywhere on it (check the trailing edge of the front wings), it’ll only be because the person who specified it ticked the box on the options sheet marked ‘M Sport Package’. It costs £1,500 and brings sportier exterior styling, 18-inch wheels and leather within the cabin – no extra power, no sportier chassis tune and no unrealistic expectations either.
It all means you approach the i4 eDrive40 with an open mind. It’s lighter than the M50 by 165kg, has the same 83.9kWh battery pack spread across its floor, a 367-mile WLTP range compared to the M50’s 317 miles and only 340hp rather than the full 544hp. It looks so much like the 4 Series Gran Coupe that it’s closely related to you’d need to look out for the subtle i badges in the front grille and on the bootlid to identify the electric model.
And that’s precisely the point – unlike a Tesla Model 3 or Polestar 2, EVs that wear their electrification proudly, this car is supposed to ease a buyer’s transition from ICE to electric. It should feel as much like a conventional BMW as possible, right up until you select drive and slip away on a silent wave torque, not with a flare of engine revs. It’s why the i4’s cabin feels so familiar and why you sit low in the seat, peering along the bonnet over a relatively high scuttle. If a Tesla works hard with the layout of its cabin to remind you that you’re driving and EV, this BMW does the exact opposite.
The sweeping, gently arcing expanse of digital display that reaches two-thirds of the way across the cockpit looks ultra-modern, but the rotary iDrive controller on what would ordinarily be the transition tunnel is a pleasing throwback. The rush to replace all physical controls with buttons hidden inside a touchscreen is a trend that will surely hit the buffers soon before rolling back in the opposite direction.
Right away you sense composure in the i4’s ride, the car gliding serenely across poor surfaces and smothering sunken drain covers and other intrusions surprisingly well. Remember when even base-spec BMWs rode as though their damper fluid had frozen solid? That seems a distant memory as you zip comfortably and effortlessly through town in the i4. In that environment I think you’d not miss pistons or a transmission for a second, so quiet and smooth is this car’s powertrain.
It may lack the M50’s headline horsepower figure, but pin the accelerator pedal in the eDrive40 and you’ll still be alarmed as it scampers off along the road while the back of your head is pinned into the headrest. From low and medium speeds this car really gets a shuffle on, and while that searing acceleration does tail off significantly over 60mph, most other cars on the road will be a receding spec in the rear-view mirror by then.
As Mike wrote in his M50 review, it does feel as though BMW has calibrated the accelerator pedal to give an unnatural amount of froward urgency for a given application, but it’s more measured in Comfort mode. You’ll want Sport when the road opens up ahead of you, and when it does you discover exactly what it is that makes this car so enjoyable to drive – it handles like a BMW.
With its power going only to the rear axle, the i4 has that same sense of balance that has made BMW’s four- and five-door cars so much more rewarding to drive than the competition for decades. It also steers sweetly, even giving you a sense of the grip beneath you and allowing you to position the car exactly where you want it. If you worry that all cars will become numb and muted in the electric era, just try an eDrive40 – you’ll pitch it into one sweeping turn, feel the nose tuck in sharply, sense the body lean just a little onto its outer springs, be aware of the grip rising and falling and the car’s balance shifting between its axles, and you’ll rejoice at those old sensations of driving being present even in an electric car.
Also, if you switch the stability control system off the car will slide everywhere, at least on a greasy surface. Mash the accelerator pulling out of a junction or on a roundabout and it drifts like the best of them, controllably and progressively. Best of all, the motor makes so little noise nobody will be aware you’re doing it.
I haven’t tried the i4 M50, but I can’t see how a load of extra power and another driven axle could make for a better car – particularly when you also have to put up with less range, a far punchier price tag and more inert handling. I’d have my i4 in eDrive40 trim, leaving one particular box on the options sheet deliberately unticked so there wasn’t an M badge anywhere near it.
SPECIFICATION | 2022 BMW i4 EDRIVE40
Engine: 400V Lithium-ion battery, 83.9kWh capacity, AC synchronous electric motor
Transmission: Single-speed, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 340
Torque (lb ft): 317
0-62mph: 5.7 secs
Top speed: 118mph (limited)
Weight: 2050kg (DIN)
Range: 367 miles (WLTP)
- 2022 BMW i4 M50 | PH Review
- 2021 BMW M440i xDrive Gran Coupe | PH Review
- Polestar 2 | PH Road Test
Source: Read Full Article