Article

2024 BMW i4

A curious connundrum, the i4 offers luxury and tech in a familiar package.

The BMW i4 was introduced in 2022 and is only available as a 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback. Slightly smaller than the new i5, the i4 is the most affordable EV in the BMW lineup. It shares design and interior with the BMW 4-Series Gran Coupe. Competitors include the Hyundai Ioniq 6, Nissan Ariya, Polestar 2 and Tesla Model 3. New for 2024 is an all-wheel drive XDrive40 trim.

There are trim levels: eDrive35, eDrive40, xDrive40 and M50. Each has a unique powertrain configuration. The eDrive35 has a single rear-mounted electric motor that produces 282 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque and provides an EPA range of 276 miles. The eDrive40 has a more powerful motor good for 335 hp and 317 lb-ft of torque and an EPA range of 301 miles. The xDrive40 adds a dual-motor all-wheel-drive system and produces 396 hp and 443 lb-ft that provides 307 miles on the EPA scale. The line-topping M50 has dual motors, all-wheel drive and 469 hp and 538 lb-ft. It offers a range of 269 miles according to the EPA.

Prices start at $53,000 and climb to more than $70,000 on a loaded M50. All models get forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert and front- and rear-parking sensors. Other key standard features include LED headlights, power liftgate, dual-zone climate control, synthetic leather upholstery and 14.9-inch center touchscreen infotainment system with wireless Apple Car Play and Android Auto integration. Additional features include heated steering wheel, automated parking system, adaptive cruise control, head-up display, ventilated front seats and a Harman Kardon audio system. The eDrive40 and XDrive40 are eligible for the M Sport package, which includes variable sport steering, adaptive suspension, rear spoiler and adaptive headlights.

Although people might gravitate toward the M50 model and its blistering 0-60 MPH time of about 3.5 seconds, the "more pedestrian" xDrive40 offers the best blend of performance and range. Though it "only" offers 396 horsepower the dual electric motors' instant torque make it feel amazingly quick at all speeds. In addition, the standard all-wheel drive makes it significantly more useful in northern climates.

BMW does offer a one-pedal driving mode, but also offered is an automatic mode that senses traffic and adjusts engine regenerative braking accordingly. That system works amazingly well and makes more sense in real-world driving.

EPA range varies between models, but the 40 models impress with a range of more than 300 miles per charge. All models but the base offer 200-kWh charging, which is quite good, filling the battery from 10 to 90 percent in about 40 minutes. The Level 2 charging rate is 11 Kw, which is powerful enough to charge the battery from 0 to 100 percent in about 8 hours.

Like almost all EVs the i4 is a porker. Though it's just a compact car, it tips the scales at more than 4,500 pounds. That's almost more than 1000 pounds more than the equivalent ICE-powered 4-Series Grand Coupe. And when it comes to handling, weight is the enemy. Still, weight and gummy tires are a good thing in steady-state cornering. So, around corners and on freeway on-ramps, the i4 feels surefooted and planted. It's only in quick changes of direction that the suspension becomes a bit unsettled, causing the driver to lose confidence behind the wheel.

Speaking of the wheel, the i4 has delightfully weighted and precise electric steering. There's even a bit of road feel, artificial though it might be, that translates back to the driver. Brakes provide ample stopping power and there's no sense of sponginess after repeated hard stops.

Though the i4 might not be quite at nimble as a typical BMW, ride comfort is a strong suit. The car feels calm and composed on all road surfaces, be it city surface streets or the highway. Though it doesn't completely absorb bumps or imperfections, but they are muted much more than in rivals like the Polestar 2 and Tesla Model 3.

Interior noise levels are quite low, though the high-performance tires on uplevel trims can kick up quite a racket on rough surfaces.

Inside, the i4's cabin is nicely appointed, including available rose gold trim, white leather upholstery and light wood trim. The layout is similar to other BMW models, but the i4 in one of the first BMWs to receive a massive, seamless display that spans almost two-thirds of the dashboard. Overall, the effect is appropriate for the price, but typically European.

The extremely comfortable and supportive front seats provide ample head and leg room. Contrast that with rear seats that are short on both room and comfort. In addition, the sleek roofline means headroom in back is at a premium. At least getting in and out is fairly easy and outward visibility is quite good.

On the tech side, the i4 is only rivaled by other BMW models and perhaps Mercedes-Benz and Audi. The crisp and bright infotainment screen can be controlled by either a jog dial or touch screen. Of course, being quite complex, there's a learning curve and that detracts from the overall driving experience. BMW could use to put a few simple buttons back on the dashboard for basic audio and climate control. Though I guess you do get a volume knob and defrost button...

Though you might not guess by looking at it, the i4 is actually a hatchback. Still, official numbers peg cargo volume at a scant 10 cubic feet. Though the rear seats can be folded flat in three sections to help facilitate transport of longer items. Unfortunately, there's no front trunk for added storage. Interior storage is minimal with just a few open and covered bins throughout. One minor annoyance is the wireless charging pad is too small for extra-large phones.

Bottom Line - The i4 is a curious conundrum. It's not as nimble as a typical BMW, nor is it as fun to drive. Still, it certainly waxes the competition in those categories.  It's biggest downfall might be the cramped rear quarters and meager cargo capacity. Price might also be an obstacle for some as well, though it does clearly have the most upscale interior when compared to other midsize EVs. For some it might be a perfect fit, but others may want to spend a little more and check out the roomy i5.