What's the electric BMW i4 like on a track day?
When a car-obsessed friend of my wife’s, who I’d literally just met at a party, invited me to a private track day at Goodwood, I thought it was probably the beer talking and I’d hear no more. But a month or so later, true to his word, Ollie Bowen came through with an offer to join him and his friends for a day of smashing about on the Goodwood track… in whatever I could get my hands on.
Bingo. A Huracan STO was due to be on loan across those dates so I informed Ollie – owner of a guards red (997) 911 GT2 RS, among other things – that I’d be sliding through in this slice of primo Italian exotica. Fast forward to the day before and the Lambo loan has fallen through leaving me with a couple of options: cancel and leave Ollie in the lurch or take the i4 – an electric four-door family saloon - to mix it with McLaren Sennas, Carrera GTs, Ferraris and Lambos. Perhaps stupidly, I chose the latter.
A few raised eyebrows when I glide into the car park, then a barrage of questions, mainly “at what point during my first lap will I run out of charge?” Heathens. The compulsory noise test before pulling into the pit lane is fun – close shave but we pass - as are my first few exploratory laps, because the i4 isn’t the blancmange you’d expect. Tip it into the fast right-hander at the end of the start-finish straight and you’re very aware of weight and momentum working against you, but you can still sense talent in the chassis, actual feedback in the steering wheel and a control to the body roll that breeds, well, over-confidence.
Within a couple of laps it’s ESC off and I’m skidding about doing my best to breach the noise limits with the rear tyres alone – I shall later be knuckle-rapped by the marshals for this misbehaviour. But this is exactly what a BMW should be – even in cooking-spec, non-M trim and with several 100kg extra to lug about there’s depth to the driving experience. My main criticism is not having a gearstick or paddles to play with, there’s just so little to do, a point that’s rammed home as the Carrera GT screams past, blips a downshift into the chicane and screeches off into the distance. The i4’s stinging low-speed acceleration on the road is blunted above 50mph too, so it feels a bit overwhelmed on the really fast, flowing stuff.
Energy consumption? I gobble 30 per cent of the battery in just six laps, which isn’t great on paper, but I had enough for a couple of decent-sized stints in the morning, lobbed it on a 50kW charger during lunch, more laps in the afternoon, then charged again to ensure I had enough juice for the 60-mile drive home. Track day-ing an EV then: it isn’t perfect, but when rapid chargers become part of the furniture in every pit box, it’s not the fish-out-of-water experience it seems. Rather have done it in an STO, though.