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2022 BMW i4 first drive review: The best 4 Series is electric

With strong electric power and iDrive 8 smarts, the new i4 is everything you could want out of a 4 Series EV.

The i4 doesn't look all that different from a normal 4 Series, and that's on purpose.

BMW

A big part of BMW's future EV strategy is dual-purpose architecture -- vehicle platforms that support both internal combustion and fully electric powertrains. This allows BMW to target EV buyers who want something more "normal" than a weird one-off like the iX SUV. Plus, it helps with overall economies of scale, making EV production more affordable and sustainable. Wins all around.

BMW dabbled in this sort of flexibility with small-batch products like the original Mini E and 1 Series Active E, as well as the iX3 SUV sold abroad. Next up on the agenda: the 2022 i4, which is quite literally a 4 Series Gran Coupe with an electric drivetrain -- and a very good one, at that.

Two models, one battery

When it goes on sale next year, the i4 will be offered in single- and dual-motor configurations. Both are powered by an 83.9-kilowatt-hour battery flat-packed between the axles, of which 81.5 kWh is actually usable. The rear-wheel-drive i4 eDrive40 produces 335 horsepower and 317 pound-feet of torque, and BMW estimates a 300-mile range on the US EPA test cycle.

The dual-motor, all-wheel-drive i4 M50 is definitely the star of the show, cranking out a healthy 469 hp and 538 lb-ft of torque, or 536 hp and 586 lb-ft for 10-second blasts via a boost mode. That's enough to get this 5,018-pound porker to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, which I know isn't exactly Tesla Model 3 quick, but it's exhilarating all the same. The M50's increased performance will obviously take a toll on range, with BMW quoting a 245-mile preliminary EPA estimate.

Like the iX, the i4 can accept DC fast charging at speeds up to 200 kW, taking the battery from a 10% state of charge to 80% in 31 minutes. On a conventional Level 2 home charger, the i4 draws in juice at a rate of 11 kW, so you're looking at 8 hours and 15 minutes to go from empty to full. Consider it motivation to get a good night's sleep.

The i4 feels more M4 than M440i.

BMW

Drives like an M

I was pretty impressed with the i4 M50 prototype I drove in California earlier this year, a car BMW's engineers said was about 85% representative of the final product. Happily, nothing really changed in the final sprint between prototype and production, and the final i4 you see here is not only every bit as entertaining as I remember, but much more interesting to drive than competitors like the Polestar 2 or Model 3.

The i4 M50 comes standard with a lot of sporty equipment that's optional on the eDrive40, including adaptive dampers, an additional strut tower brace and larger M Sport brakes. The base i4 rides on 18-inch wheels but the M50 gets 19s, and larger 20-inch alloys are optional as part of a $2,500 package, with grippy 255/35 front and 285/30 rear summer tires. The M50 also has a quicker steering ratio -- 14.1:1 as opposed to 15.5:1 on the eDrive40 -- and it's a speed-sensitive variable setup: nice and light in parking lots but weighty and sharp at speed. Unfortunately, there's very little in the way of actual communication through the wheel -- a common bummer among new Bimmers.

The M50's adaptive dampers do an excellent job of smoothing out small road blemishes, and the low center of gravity keeps the i4 nice and flat while cornering. I'll be curious to drive the eDrive40 with the standard suspension setup; BMW employs the same lift-related shock absorber tech first introduced on the 3 Series, and I'd love to see how they handle the added weight of an EV powertrain.

Quick, nimble and happy to party, the i4 M50 is much closer to an M4 than an M440i in the fun-to-drive department. And with its strong electric power and incredibly planted road manners, it's definitely the 4 Series I'd pick to live with everyday.

The hatchback Gran Coupe shape makes the i4 super functional.

BMW

Techy brakes for a techy car

Like the iX SUV, the i4 largely relies on energy recuperation for braking, though drivers can adjust the parameters. The default setting is sort of like brake-based adaptive cruise control that's always active, slowing the car down via regenerative braking if the i4's radars detect a car ahead of you in traffic. This tech also uses GPS data to automatically reduce speed as you approach tight turns or traffic circles, increasing and decreasing the amount of regen as needed. Don't want to let the electronic wizards do the heavy lifting? Turn one-pedal driving on or off, or go for a midrange setting that splits the difference.

Blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning with low-speed emergency braking and park distance control are standard on all i4s. BMW offers its Active Driving Assistant Pro with cross-traffic alert and lane-keeping assist as part of a $1,700 package, though this also gets you BMW's awesome Extended Traffic Jam Assistant, so you can use the lane-keeping tech in conjunction with the full-speed ACC for easy-peasy highway driving. A $700 Parking Assistance Package adds a 360-degree camera system so you won't curb those fancy wheels -- in theory.

Other techy add-ons include adaptive LED Laserlight headlights for $1,000 as well as BMW's Iconic Sounds Electric -- you know, those future-tastic noises that play through the interior speakers, created with the help of Academy Award-winning composer Hans Zimmer. Sadly, much as I hate those Iconic Sounds, I'd get 'em, as they're bundled into a $1,050 package that includes desirable goodies like heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, lumbar support and nifty ambient lighting. At least you can turn the noises off.

BMW's Curved Display with iDrive 8 is the highlight of this cabin.

BMW

iDrive 8 is the best part of the interior

The i4's raddest tech is found inside the cabin, where a 14.9-inch digital gauge cluster and 12.3-inch infotainment screen are packaged together on the extremely cool BMW Curved Display. There's a thin layer of non-reflective glass that covers both screens, and the whole design is seamless, angled ever so slightly toward the driver, and able to be controlled by touch, voice commands or BMW's usual circular knob on the center console.

I went into more detail about iDrive 8 when I tested the iX, but suffice it to say the amount of functionality here is impressive. Individual driver profiles, a favorites menu, charging locators, myriad connected apps... short of immature crap like Fart Mode, everything you could ever want in a modern EV is here. The integration of wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is seamless, too, and third-party navigation data will even display in the gauge cluster, so you can still enjoy the full-screen map experience 'if you don't feel like using BMW's native tech.

iDrive 8 is great, but it's somehow less impressive in the larger scope of the i4's interior. In the new BMW iX, iDrive 8 looks right at home alongside other trendy styling elements, from the textured upholstery to the exquisitely detailed glass controls. In the i4, everything aside from the Curved Display is exactly what you'll find in the standard 4 Series Gran Coupe, though of course, that's by design. There's nothing inherently wrong with the 4 Series' cabin, mind you, it's just a little... basic.

At least it's plenty functional -- one of the major benefits of the Gran Coupe shape. There might only be 10 cubic feet of space in the trunk, but fold the rear seats flat and you've got a whole mess of storage space, easily accessed through the i4's large hatch. The Polestar 2 has a similar setup, and both are better than the conventional trunk design Tesla uses on the Model 3.

There's a lot to like about this EV.

BMW

4 Series, but make it electric

The 2022 i4 officially goes into production in November and the first US-spec models will arrive early next year. The base eDrive40 costs $56,395 and the more powerful M50 will set you back $66,895 -- prices that include $995 for destination but do not include any federal or local tax incentives.

To put that into perspective, the i4 M50 is $7,700 more expensive than the new M440i xDrive Gran Coupe, and considering the big boost in performance, better tech and extra cool factor, that price premium doesn't seem like too big of a pill to swallow. The i4 combines the 4 Series' best attributes with the added benefit of electrification. And if this is BMW's new normal, I look forward to what's next.


Editors' note: Travel costs related to this story were covered by the manufacturer, which is common in the auto industry. The judgments and opinions of Roadshow's staff are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.