2022 BMW i4

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WITH the local introduction of its third new battery-electric vehicle (BEV) since the discontinuation of its pioneering i3 compact BEV and scene-stealing i8 sportscar, which was, admittedly, a hybrid, BMW has taken the next step in its electrification strategy with the i4, which is based on the svelte CLAR-platformed 4 Series Gran Coupe and looks to take on the Tesla Model 3 – the US brand’s medium sedan, which is also a top-selling BEV in Australia.

Having been proactive in signalling its commitment to sustainable, environmentally conscious motoring by introducing the bespoke, carbon-fibre-rich and therefore, pricey, i3 model nine years ago, BMW is ultimately obligated to follow the formula that most legacy car brands have adopted as they look to gradually electrify most of, if not all, their model line-ups.

They’ve introduced BEVs based on existing architectures as they aim to offer ICE, hybrid, plug-in hybrid and all-electric versions of their various products – this way, BMW may argue, no consumers who aspire to buy into its brand will be left out in the cold…

The downside to that strategy is that models such as the i4 have fundamental drawbacks to BEVs that were designed from a clean sheet (such as the Model 3), the latter of which has better weight-saving measures, packaging (with regards to space utilisation) and, to some extent, onboard technology.

In the case of BMW’s all-electric medium sedan, although its front electric motor takes up only a portion of the engine bay, there is no front luggage bay; its interior has a conventional transmission tunnel with no more than nominal oddment spaces; the accommodation for rear occupants is rather snug and, most of all (although it’s not alone in this regard), the range-topping i4 M50 is hefty – it tips the scale at 2300kg.

Still, BMW appears to have given its i4 every chance to avoid being labelled as a “not bad for a first attempt” product… For a start, the Munich-based firm has endowed its new model with the distinctive shape of the neatly proportioned 4 Series Gran Coupe, replete with a few tasteful gloss-black adornments (the oversized kidney grille looks best when darked out anyway and, as for the faux rear diffuser, let’s call it a dash of artistic licence).

Whereas some may find the brand’s new iX large electric SUV a trifle outlandish-looking, the i4 is arguably BMW’s most handsome sedan – it certainly does not lack kerb appeal. 

The interior too seems ideally fashioned for those who are interested in buying their first BEV; there is no oddly shaped steering wheel, no maxi-tablet-sized infotainment screen perched on a minimalist fascia.

Instead, the i4’s cabin feels reassuringly comfortable, well-finished and… instantly familiar, with a conventional transmission lever, a logically laid out centre console and a fetching curved digital display that runs the brand’s eighth generation iDrive software; it looks slick, is intuitive to use (via the rotary controller or touch inputs) and although HVAC controls have shifted to the screen, they’re quickly and easily accessible.  

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