MUNICH—For all of my existence, the BMW 3 Series has been the default alternative for an upmarket compact sedan with good driving dynamics. Or it was till a number of years in the past, when the Tesla Model 3 arrived and started to eat the 3 Series’ lunch. But now there is a battery electric car that will flip issues round for BMW, in the form of a five-door fastback sedan referred to as the i4.
After an early lead after which a bit of a stumble, BMW has recharged its electrification efforts. Last month, we went to Germany and drove the automaker’s latest flagship, a technology-laden sporty SUV called the iX. But the iX is not the solely new BEV that BMW has been engaged on, and we obtained to spend a day with the range-topping $65,900 i4 M50 as nicely. The i4 is the first of BMW’s electric cars to be blessed by its legendary M division, and it comes with a pair of electric motors wrapped up in a modern 4 Series Gran Coupe physique. At the danger of spoiling the remainder of this evaluation, it is actually reasonably good.
Our first clue about the i4 got here again in 2017, when BMW confirmed off an electric four-door concept called the i Vision Dynamics. Last 12 months, the firm adopted up with one thing a lot nearer to the manufacturing automobile, the Concept i4. In June, I obtained face time with—however did not drive—the entry-level automobile, the $55,400 i4 eDrive40. That model makes do with a single motor driving the rear wheels, giving it 300 miles (483 km) of vary.
But the halo mannequin is the M50, which makes use of an electrically excited synchronous motor at every axle to supply a mixed output of 536 hp (400 kW) and 586 lb-ft (795 Nm)—nicely in extra of the current M3 and M4. Those figures make this the strongest BMW EV so far. (The entrance motor is rated at a peak of 254 hp/190 kW and 317 lb-ft/430 Nm; the rear motor is rated at 308 hp/230 kW and 270 lb-ft/365 Nm.)
As befits an organization referred to as the Bavarian Motor Works, the drive items are made in-house at BMW’s Dingolfing manufacturing facility close to Munich. The items are compact and have a 50 p.c increased energy density than the drive unit in the i3. Being electrically excited, they eschew the use of uncommon earth supplies of their development. BMW says the motors have an effectivity of 93 p.c.
The motors are equipped with power from a lithium-ion battery pack that is proper the place you count on it to be: beneath the i4’s ground and between the entrance and rear axles. It’s made up of 4 72-cell modules and one other three 12-cell modules, for a complete useable capability of 80.7 kWh (gross capability: 83.9 kWh).
The 4.3-inch (110-mm)-tall prismatic cells equipped by CATL and Samsung SDI have a 40 p.c increased volumetric power density than the cells in the outgoing BMW i3. BMW says the design and selection of supplies let it recycle as much as 90 p.c of the battery if vital.
In the cheaper, less-powerful i4, the battery is good for a variety of 300 miles. But between the i4 M50’s increased output and its greater, wider wheels and tires, it loses a few of this capability for an estimated EPA vary of 245 miles (394 km). (For our worldwide viewers, the WLTP vary estimates, which bear a lot much less resemblance to US driving types, are 521 km for the M50 and 590 km for the eDrive40.)
Those vary estimates look affordable based mostly on the power consumption of our take a look at i4 M50. Over the course of 267 miles (430 km) and eight hours, the automobile used 2.6 miles/kWh (23.7 kWh/100 km), taking into consideration that these miles have been all pushed in Germany and embrace working at the automobile’s high velocity of 140 mph (225 km) on derestricted autobahns.
The i4 will settle for a DC quick cost of as much as 200 kW by way of the industry-standard CCS plug. BMW says that charging from 10 to 80 p.c with a 200 kW DC quick charger ought to take 31 minutes. For extra common, sluggish AC charging, count on the battery to take a bit beneath eight hours to go from 10 to 100 p.c state of cost because of the i4’s 11 kW onboard charger.