The BMW i4 is a 4 Series Gran Coupe hatchback that’s also electric, and now there’s a new variant, the i4 eDrive35, which makes the i4 more affordable by having a smaller battery.
BMW has an impressive history of delivering cars that are rewarding to drive but that are also practical. The company has even managed to do this as it entered the electric age; the i4 eDrive40 is excellent to drive, and the i4 M50 performs like an electric Touring Car. Now the i4 eDrive35 has gone on sale; this has a lower price tag than the eDrive40, but there’s no such thing as a free lunch – the eDrive35 has a smaller battery, a shorter driving range, less power and less torque. So should you consider the i4 eDrive35 rather than the 40?
The BMW i4 eDrive35 shares the same body style as the 40 model, with rear-wheel drive, but under the skin there’s a smaller battery; whereas the 40 has an 80.7 kWh (net) battery, in the 35 this has been shrunk down to 67 kWh net (70.2 kWh gross). This results in a reduced electric driving range of 276 – 288 miles, compared to 344 – 365 miles in the 40. Power is also down, at 282 hp rather than 340 hp, as is torque (400 Nm v 430 Nm).
Thankfully the interiors are virtually identical; that means an excellent BMW dashboard – more on its functionality later – and it’s a spacious five-seater, with a 470-litre boot, or 1,290 litres with the rear seats folded down.
The BMW i4 eDrive35 M Sport has a towing capacity of 1,600 kg.
The BMW i4 eDrive35 M Sport is a Gran Coupe which means that it sits low down, unlike most new cars, which are high-riding SUVs. That translates to the i4 feeling like a sports saloon to drive; it has excellent handling, combined with very comfortable ride quality – two often opposing qualities, but ones which many BMWs have managed to display over recent years.
The i4’s steering, via the tactile M Sport Leather Steering Wheel, feels direct and responsive, but, like the suspension, it also insulates the driver from imperfections in the road surface.
The i4 eDrive35 has a 0-62 mph acceleration time of 6.0 seconds, which is only 0.3 of a second slower than the 40; in everyday driving, the 35 feels as though it has more than adequate performance.
And we need to talk about weight. The i4 eDrive35 has a kerb weight of 2,065 kg, compared to the 40’s 2,125 kg – ie. the 35 is 60 kg lighter. This doesn’t sound very much, but the 35 feels as though it benefits from this – the rear-wheel drive chassis is agile, adjustable and rewarding to drive.
There are three drive modes – Eco, Comfort and Sport – which are accessed by physical buttons to the left of the driver’s seat. Acceleration in Sport mode results in Hans Zimmer’s futuristic sporty soundtrack (BMW IconicSounds Electric), as featured in other electric BMWs.
BMW doesn’t do steering wheel-mounted paddles to change the level of brake regeneration, but the small gear selector ‘switch’ does give the option of selecting B mode, for increased brake regen.
The excellent driving position, which can be adjusted to give a very low seat (despite the battery being in the floor) also assists with the driving experience, as does the cabin layout. The i4 has BMW’s ‘Curved Display’, which includes a large central touchscreen, with excellent graphics, including clear, detailed mapping. This central display merges with the digital instrument display in front of the driver, which can also provide a simplified map. And then there’s the head-up display, providing information such as speed and satnav directions. This combination of information is one of the best in the business, especially when using satnav, and is a serious issue for the Tesla Model 3, which only has a central touchscreen.
And it gets better, because the i4 has BMW’s excellent iDrive system, with a physical rotary dial between the front seats to control selections on the screen, along with a set of shortcut buttons around the dial (for telephone, media, phone, map and navigation). When driving, it’s so much easier – and safer – to use the iDrive controller rather than reach out to the touchscreen to press buttons all the time, which you have to do in the majority of new cars.
If we’re being picky, we’d prefer separate heating and ventilation controls rather than the small buttons at the bottom of the touchscreen; to demonstrate our point, the buttons for the heated seats on the touchscreen are smaller and more fiddly than the physical heated seat buttons on the dashboard of the iX3.
And although the i4 is enjoyable to drive, the steering is corrupted by the lane departure warning system (as is the case in virtually all new cars) – switching off this system while you’re driving is only possible by taking your eyes off the road to look at the central touchscreen and pressing the button with four squares at the bottom of the screen, and then selecting screens for driving settings and driver assistance.
The BMW i4 eDrive35 M Sport has a WLTP combined electric driving range of 276 − 288 miles. Real-world range was averaging around 220 miles in winter.
The i4 eDrive35 has a maximum ultra-rapid DC charging rate of 180 kW, which should give a 10% to 80% charge in 32 minutes. This is a slightly lower charge rate than the 205 kW of the eDrive40, but it’s still better than many rivals.
AC charging is possible at up to 11 kW using three-phase workplace charging, which should give a 0% to 100% charge in 7 hours. A 0% to 100% charge at a 7 kW home wall box should take around 12 hours.
The BMW i4 eDrive35 has a heat pump which should minimise any reduction in range from heating the cabin in winter.
Electric cars do not charge at their maximum charge rate for an entire charging session – their charge rate typically starts off high with a battery with a low state of charge, then the charge rate decreases as the battery charge increases. See the charge curve for the BMW i4 from Fastned:
The BMW i4 eDrive35 is available from £50,755 in Sport trim, and from £52,255 in M Sport trim. For comparison, the i4 eDrive40 M Sport price is £60,270, so you’re saving a significant amount by opting for an i4 eDrive35.
Our test car had a number of options, including Mineral White metallic paint (£695), Oyster with Grey contrast stitching Vernasca leather (£1,300), Individual Piano Black Interior Trim (£550), Electric Glass Sunroof (£1,155), Sun Protection Glass (£350), Technology Pack (£1,995) and Comfort Plus Pack (£2,050). All packages and options totalled £8,445, taking the total price of our test car to £59,940. That’s quite a lot for a car that’s supposed to be a more affordable point of entry to i4 ownership.
The BMW i4 eDrive35 is available in Sport or M Sport trim. Standard equipment on the i4 eDrive35 Sport includes LED Headlights, 18-inch alloy wheels, Black Cloth/Sensatec upholstery and front heated seats.
The i4 eDrive35 M Sport adds M aerodynamic exterior styling, High-gloss Shadowline exterior, 18-inch M Aerodynamic alloy wheels, M Sport leather steering wheel and Alcantara/Sensatec interior upholstery.
Prices and specifications correct at time of review
The eDrive35 M Sport is the new entry-level i4, featuring a smaller battery, reduced power and torque, and critically, a lower price tag. However driving enjoyment isn’t effected; although there’s a 0.3 second slower 0-62 mph time, the 35 variant is 60kg lighter, which can only have a positive impact on the i4’s handling and agility. The cabin is carried over from the i4 40, offering a highly adjustable driving position and excellent functionality from the dashboard, with BMW’s ‘Curved Display’ and the iDrive system. So BMW hasn’t ruined the i4 with the 35 variant; instead the brand has introduced extra choice. The 35 offers the purest driving experience, and the most affordable model; the 40 provides extra range to those who need it; and the i4 M50 delivers a Touring Car driving experience, but with electric power. This confirms that the i4 is inherently an excellent car in any model variant, and that lovers of petrol and diesel BMWs shouldn’t fear the transition to electric. The BMW i4 eDrive35 M Sport is awarded a Green Car Guide rating of 10 out of 10.