With all of BMW’s electrification hype around their polarizing new iX crossover, a chunk of the public seems to have forgotten about the most normal new offering from the brand. While Audi and Mercedes-Benz have yet to electrify their entry-level offerings, BMW has taken their 4-series Gran Coupe, which is a glorified version of the perennial 3-series sedan, and plopped an electric drivetrain into it. We lived with the 2022 BMW i4 eDrive40 for a week and came to a very clear conclusion.
Bar none, the BMW i4 with this “smaller” electric motor, is all the car most North American consumers need. There is an odd divide in the current EV marketplace, with a massive price difference between the entry-level offerings and the premium entries. The i4 eDrive40, with its $54,990 starting price, is in the same price bracket as the Kia EV6 and Hyundai IONIQ 5. It’s significantly cheaper than the Audi e-tron and Mercedes-Benz EQ models currently for sale.
We have tested the more powerful i4 M50, which is a superb performance car, but the eDrive40 here is every bit as good for the day-to-day commute. It packs a single electric motor powering the rear wheels, and outputs 335 horsepower and 317 lb-ft. of torque. Unlike just about every other electric vehicle, it doesn’t feel organ-rearranging levels of fast, but it’s substantially quicker than most mainstream offerings.
The smaller-motor i4 still has that innate EV personality trait of being able to dart into just about any gap in traffic in a point-and-shoot manner. It’s superbly quiet, and drives beautifully, with sharp steering response and a balanced chassis. Those who require all-wheel-drive will need to step up to the M50 model, but even as someone who lives in a Canadian climate, the rear-drive eDrive40 will be just fine with a good set of winter rubber.
Range is also generous for the eDrive40 model with its 80.7-kWh battery, coming in at an estimated 486 kilometers. After driving the car in an urban environment for a full week, we found this number to be conservative. While other EVs we’ve tested are optimistic in their suggested range, the indicator on the i4 would actually diminish at a smaller rate than the distance traveled. BMW has implemented DC fast charging at up to 200-kW, but our Level 2 home and office chargers managed to get the car to 80% in less than four hours.
The interior of the i4 is extremely functional, with the biggest conversation piece being a 14.9-inch touchscreen housing a completely redesigned version of BMW’s revered iDrive infotainment system. This version, called iDrive 8, has been reorganized into a grid-like view, but is still very intuitive and easy to use. A rotary controller on the console can control things if you don’t want to use the touchscreen or voice controls, and everything is fairly straightforward. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto can both be used wirelessly, and all connectivity is seamless.
The rest of the cabin is well thought out and straightforward. For those used to BMW models made within the last decade or so, there is plenty of familiarity. Material quality is good, though the i4 is definitely built to the price point of the 3-series, which means it’s notably downmarket from the likes of the higher-end 5 and 7-series models. Rear seat legroom is plentiful, though headroom for taller passengers is compromised due to the roofline.
An expectation in just about every vehicle in 2022, the driver assistance suite on the i4 is pretty comprehensive. Top-trim models get advanced lane keeping and adaptive cruise control features that make long distance highway driving seamless, though naturally not autonomous. Let go of the steering wheel for any extended period and the car will moan and groan, and eventually just release the system. Blind spot monitoring, a rear-view camera, and collision warning systems are also standard.
As tested, our i4 eDrive40 came to $71,890, but what’s much more important here is the starting price of $54,990. It’s worth mentioning that the base model doesn’t get things like heated seats, though that is being rectified for the 2023 model year in a shift of packaging. Our tester had a $13,000 Premium Enhanced Package adding a heads-up display, Harman-Kardon sound system, and a few other niceties. More importantly, an M Sport Package adds 19-inch wheels, visual aero bits, and an M leather steering wheel.
While the i4 is a fully electric version of the 4-series, it’s worth mentioning that for those who don’t have charging capabilities at home or the office, gasoline variants still exist. Both the 430i and M440i Gran Coupe models are still available, with 2.0 and 3.0-liter turbocharged engines. They’re the same platform, however the new iDrive 8 infotainment system and related bits are relegated to the i4 only. Gasoline cars get the previous-generation technology, which is a bummer, but even more of a reason to gravitate to the electric model.
As gasoline prices soar and commuters try to find alternatives, it’s refreshing to see a genuinely good, affordable option. The 2022 BMW i4 eDrive40 is the green alternative to its M4 Competition sibling, and it’s impressive to see the brand’s commitment to both ends of the spectrum. Despite being a gasoline-obsessed, manual transmission evangelist, I’ve come around to the idea of electric vehicles as commuters. They’re fast, comfortable, and if you have the convenience of charging at home, easy to get on board with. And this is one of the best examples available right now.