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Long-term review

BMW i4 eDrive40 M Sport - long-term review

£54,075 / £63,975 as tested / £773pcm
Published: 05 Jan 2024

Farewell, BMW i4: after six months, what's life been like with the electric saloon?

Wearing the trousers of a motoring journalist, there’s a barrage of questions to fire at the BMW i4. “Why isn’t the range as good as a Tesla Model 3?”. “Why isn’t it as innovative as the BMW i3 and i8 from a decade ago?”. “Why does it have the Silly Big Face Grille?”.

But let’s take a breath. We could dismiss almost every electric car if it were judged only on maximum range, and while those early is (that’s i, plural – blame Apple) were clever carbon things, they weren’t a sales success.

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As for the third question… I don’t think anyone outside BMW knows why it persists with such a facial cul-de-sac. Were they animals, you can imagine Attenborough would be fascinated. Emphasise, and pause, for the full effect: “The anterior nares, or nostrils, of the i7 have ballooned, to such an extent, that the headlights have divided, an evolutionary peculiarity that has left this member of the BMW family, with little resemblance to its ancestors.”

We digress from this oxymoronic four-door coupe. It’s now the heartland of a BMW i range that also encompasses SUVs and saloons. All conventional stuff, and with only the iX1 cheaper, if you’re a traditional BMW customer who’s spent decades in 3 Series saloons, this could be your future.

It’s a different proposition though. You’re not going to be able to knock out 500 miles between fills like in a 320d, and while rear-wheel drive and over 300bhp promise much, nor does it dazzle quite like a 335i with a sonorous straight-six did. And because of battery weight, and because BMW's lack steering feel, there’s no chassis dazzle to fall back on once you’ve become accustomed to the instant electric torque. It’s good to drive, but not great.

Nor does it make a great family car. You might not buy it for that, that’s what all the SUVs are for, but I have children and so am duty bound to tell you about them every month. Part of the struggles are somewhat my own, like when my near 2m-frame has to buckle the kids’ seatbelts, but it’s still all a bit cramped, and a transmission tunnel (didn’t EVs do away with these?) eats up fifth-passenger foot space. Nonetheless, the boot is a big hatchback, and can swallow four golf bags (or so the editor-in-chief tells me). That’s maybe more the target market…

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Yet there’s also much to admire. Especially the interior, which ducks the overt bling of some bigger BMWs for a measured amount of chrome glitz. The leather is lovely too, the Harman/Kardon surround sound system (part of the £1900 Technology Pack) is ace. And my brain is on the same page with whoever designed the control layouts and the infotainment screen’s menus – I get where everything is and how it works instantly. It’s just a lovely place to be.

It's this I keep coming back to. A slinky saloon isn’t the life-simplifying box-on-wheels that an SUV is, and of course this EV will alter in atypical scenarios like the once-a-year five-hour schlep to the in-laws, but I can’t fault it for making you feel exactly how a BMW should.

Words: Ben Pulman

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