BMW i4 Interior Layout & Technology | Top Gear
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Tuesday 3rd October


What is it like on the inside?

Thick consoles and complex door cards make the i4 wrap around you like generations of mid-size BMWs always have. It puts you in the right mood by looking like a driver's machine. The materials are smart, and built with care. The seats are human-shaped, without too many fussy adjustments. Have to say the leather feels a bit hard and cheap, and given the cornering forces the i4 is capable of, bigger side bolsters wouldn’t have gone amiss.

The driving position is good, but not as flawless as most BMWs. For many of us, the steering wheel cuts off your view of the top of the instrument screen unless you sit low. That's OK if you've the widescreen head-up display that's standard on the 50i.

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How do passengers fare?

Carrying on where we just left off, if the driver does sit low, the passenger in the back will have nowhere to put their feet because they'll be squeezed between the driver's cushion and the battery. The middle passenger is worse off. This isn't a flat-floored EV; there's a tunnel which carries cabling. Behind is a decent sized boot and the seats fold. But there's no frunk.

Shouldn’t matter too much. 470 litres is more than either the Tesla Model 3 or Polestar 2 can muster, and the usefulness of that big hatchback means bikes and tip runs are a doddle.

Tell me about the new iDrive.

The screens are quick-acting and have high resolution. The system is pretty versatile. It integrates deeply with your phone, showing Apple or Google maps in the HUD if you want.

You can configure what info appears on the screens, and also set up soft-key shortcuts. But they're not as good as the physical shortcut buttons still used on petrol and diesel BMWs.

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And if you want all this you’re going to be spending a lot of time getting it set up. And probably trouble-shooting it when it’s still not doing what it’s supposed to.

Even more irritatingly, there's no button for the driver assist, so you're left jabbing at the screen.

'People are used to using tablets and phones' say BMW. But that's on the sofa or on the train, when they can give it their full attention. Not when they're trying to control a bouncing car at 70mph and should have their eyes on the road.

Ah well, most functions can still be controlled by the iDrive wheel, which works well for scrolling and zooming, if less well for menus. You can talk to the car too, if that's your thing. But the voice control can't make the car do many of the things the absent switches could do. For instance turn off lane assist.

And no, three years after it arrived on the X5 and every BMW since, we still haven't got used to the strange polygonal speedo.

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