From £53,4808

For the very first time, BMW targets its spiritual heartland with an all-electric model

Nobody can accuse BMW of rushing the i4.

As far back as 2010, the company was already putting experimental versions of an electric Mini into the hands of civilian testers to gather as much everyday data as possible. The findings went on to inform Project i: an ambitious attempt to put BMW ahead of premium rivals in the sustainable mobility game. Launching in 2014, it almost succeeded.

Spec advice? First, think carefully about whether you want the M50 at all. In truth, the eDrive40 is the more sweetly balanced and easy-going driver’s car. Otherwise, we’d have the Comfort Pack and
M Sport front seats.

After years of tantalising concepts, Project I bore production-ready fruit in the form of the all-electric BMW i3 city hatch and the plug-in hybrid BMW i8 coupé – sophisticated models and cast-iron future classics both, but they pushed the envelope too far for existing BMW customers and neither caught on quite as successfully as BMW would have hoped. Then nothing for seven years, until an electrified iX3 arrived in 2021, allowing BMW to plant a flagpole square in the centre of the SUV EV Venn diagram.

It succeeded in doing just that, but still we waited for an all-electric BMW that might just have the breadth of aesthetic and dynamic appeal as the evergreen, ever-popular, ever-brilliant BMW 3 Series.

Finally, here it is: the i4, which you could fairly describe as the first ‘proper’ electric BMW and therefore an exceedingly significant car for the brand. Certainly, the execution has been given the gift of time.

Back to top

This saloon, whose launch is so important it is being prioritised over other BMW models regarding the allocation of precious semiconductor chips, arrives one decade after the Tesla Model S, five years after the smaller Model 3 and two years after the Porsche Taycan. In short, others have already demonstrated that it’s possible to build an electric four-door with usable driving range, engaging handling and the polish that luxury sports-saloon owners have always sought.

But while BMW isn’t breaking any ground, there’s still room at the top of this incipient class for a car with an exceptional combination of performance, practicality, quality, dynamism and price. Indeed, if you were to simply electrify the existing G20 3 Series, the result might well be that car.

Of course, while the i4 is based on the same platform as the 3 Series, simply swapping powertrain technology and achieving compelling results is much easier said than done.

The BMW i4 line-up at a glance

For now, the i4 can be had in only two guises: the less powerful RWD eDrive40, or the M-flavoured M50 tested here, which gets an extra motor on the front axle, for 4WD. Other derivatives may follow.

BMW has recently introduced an extremely powerful M60 version of the iX, and it has certainly left space for an entry-level i4 with less than the eDrive40’s 335bhp and a correspondingly lower asking price.

BMW i4 First drives