With any new electric car, the question is usually: “Is it a Tesla-beater?” For the past few years, every new EV has seemingly has been tasked with beating a Tesla, whether it be the original Model S or, more recently, the Model 3.
And not without reason. Both have led where rivals have followed, boasting class-leading electric ranges and access to Tesla’s world-beating charging network, not to mention breathtakingly rapid performance and achingly minimalist interiors.
But “legacy” car makers are catching up with Elon Musk’s relatively new firm, and now BMW is staking its claim to this modern iteration of what it considers to be its home territory: the sports saloon.
It’s doing so with this, the i4. While we’ve already tested it in range-topping M50 form, we’ve always had a sneaking suspicion the eDrive40 version, with its smaller wheels, softer suspension, lighter weight and lower price, might be the one to have. And that it might, at last, be the car to knock the Tesla Model 3 off its perch. Time to put that theory to the test.
Under the skin
If the i4 looks familiar, that’s because it is. What you’re seeing here is, to all intents and purposes, an electric 4-Series Gran Coupe with a fancy badge. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the 4-Series is a fine car in its own right, but it does lead to some compromise, which we’ll come to shortly.
This might be “only” the entry-level i4, but it has the same power of battery as the faster i4 M50, with an 80.7kWh usable capacity. Despite this, the eDrive 40 weighs in at almost 200kg less than the more powerful car, which brings with it efficiency savings – you’ll get up to 3.9 miles per kilowatt hour (mpkWh) here, compared with only 3.3 in the faster car.
So not only will the eDrive 40 use less energy than the M50, saving you money on your electricity bill, but it’ll also go further on the same charge – a whopping 365 miles, if the WLTP figures are to be believed (which, frankly, they’re not – expect to get anywhere between 260 and 300 miles out of the i4, depending on the temperature and the type of driving).
If you’re keeping score, that isn’t quite as far as the Model 3’s 374-mile official range in comparable Long Range form. But then again, the Model 3 will set you back about £1,500 more – £166 per extra mile of range, in other words.