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BMW i4 eDrive40 new car review

This ‘ultimate driving machine’ from Europe is gunning for the US brand, packing luxurious features into an eye-catching prestige package.

BMW built its reputation on selling “the ultimate driving machine” to enthusiasts.

The new BMW i4 delivers a green spin on the brand’s traditional rear-wheel-drive executive sedan.

It’s an electrified BMW 4 Series

There are two kinds of electric car. Some are designed from a clean sheet of paper as electric vehicles, while others are petrol cars that have their engines, gearboxes and fuel tanks replaced with batteries and motors.

This is the latter, a car that has a lot in common with the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe, itself a sporty spin-off from BMW’s 3 Series sedan.

This approach usually translates to a car with less clever packaging than dedicated electric vehicles, at a more palatable price. Such is the case with the i4.

Electric cars aren’t cheap

On sale from $99,900 plus on-roads (about $110,000 drive-away), the entry-level rear-wheel-drive BMW i4 eDrive40 costs at least $10,000 more than an equivalent petrol model.

But it is a whopping $36,000 less than the bespoke BMW iX electric car that has a similar electric motor and battery, or $15,000 less than the X3-based BMW iX3.

You can get a much more powerful all-wheel-drive Tesla Model 3 for the price of a two-wheel-drive i4 – a dual-motor BMW comes at a $25,000 premium to the model shown here.

You get quality hardware

The rear-drive BMW i4 has a single 250kW/430Nm electric motor mounted on the rear axle. That’s a lot of grunt for a single-motor electric car, and enough for a claimed 5.7-second sprint to 100km/h.

BMW says a 84kWh lithium-ion battery delivers an impressive 520km of range. The cabin feels like a proper luxury car, backed by a huge twin-screen digital display that curves across the dashboard, along with luxuries such as a powered tailgate and active cruise control. But you have to pay extra for heated seats and lumbar adjustment, which should be standard.

There are clever electric keys

Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer crafted a space-age electronic soundtrack that is piped into the cabin when you start the car and drive – it’s also played on the outside at low speed to warn pedestrians.

BMW also offsets the i4’s price with five years of free membership to the Chargefox network, where you can zap from 10 to 80 per cent charge in 31 minutes. An optional home wallbox also reduces charging times from seven hours to 1 hour and 23 minutes for every 100 kilometers of range.

It’s not quite the driver’s pick

The i4 is a refined machine that delivers swift and near-silent progress. It rides well, helped by self-leveling air suspension on the rear axle.

The electric energy regeneration is well integrated, too. But it doesn’t match the athleticism of its conventionally-powered cousins, as the i4 weighs nearly half a tonne more than a petrol equivalent. The electric car’s reactions to bumps and driver inputs are slower than its siblings, the steering is lighter than BMW customers have come to expect and careful mapping of its throttle response returns smooth progress rather than the instant snap you get from a Tesla.

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