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I drove the electric BMW i4 and found a more luxurious, familiar alternative to a Tesla

I drove the electric BMW i4 and found a more luxurious, familiar alternative to a Tesla
The BMW i4 eDrive40.
The BMW i4 eDrive40.Tim Levin/Insider
  • I tested the BMW i4 eDrive40, a new electric sports sedan.

  • The i4 isn't futuristic or quirky like some other EVs. It just looks and feels like a BMW.

  • It's fun to drive, familiar, and approachable.

Not everyone dreams of owning a newfangled Tesla or Rivian. Some car shoppers just want a zero-emission version of a vehicle they already know and love.

That's where the BMW i4 comes in. It doesn't try to reinvent the driving experience, nor is it overflowing with gimmicks or huge touchscreens. It's just a sporty, premium-feeling BMW that happens to also be electric.

After testing a 2022 BMW i4 eDrive40 for a few days, I found it's a excellent option for first-time EV buyers who want something more familiar and luxurious than a Tesla Model 3. Plus, it's a great choice for anyone feeling left out by the flood of new electric SUVs.

At a glance, you'd need a keen eye to determine that the i4 runs on electricity instead of gas.

The BMW i4 eDrive40.
The BMW i4 eDrive40.Tim Levin/Insider

Some basics: The 2022 i4 eDrive40 that BMW lent me for a week cost around $68,000, including some options and a destination charge. The base-model i4 eDrive35 will run you $57,300.

It looks nearly identical to BMW's combustion-engine offerings, save for a few tells.

The BMW i4 eDrive40.
The BMW i4 eDrive40.Tim Levin/Insider

That may be a selling point for Bimmer buyers who don't want to veer too far from what they know.

Eagle-eyed observers will notice the lack of a tailpipe and mostly closed-off (though still enormous) grille.

The BMW i4 eDrive40.
The BMW i4 eDrive40.Tim Levin/Insider

The i4 needs a bit of airflow to cool its drive unit, but not as much as an engine requires. That's why most electric cars you see don't have that familiar opening up front.

It's a departure from BMW's first electric effort, the quirky i3 hatchback.

2013 BMW i3.1
BMW i3.BMW

The i3, launched in 2013 and killed off in 2022, constituted an early EV experiment that kicked off before practically the entire auto industry decided to embrace electrification.

Now that BMW is more serious about EVs, it's launching more broadly appealing models like the i4, larger i5 sedan, and iX SUV.

Inside, too, the i4 doesn't make an attempt at being too futuristic or unexpected.

The BMW i4 eDrive40.
The BMW i4 eDrive40.Tim Levin/Insider

There's no TV-sized screen, minimalist ambiance, or sprawling glass roof.

The BMW i4 eDrive40.
The BMW i4 eDrive40.Tim Levin/Insider

You do get a moonroof, though.

Instead, the i4's cabin is what you'd expect from a BMW. It's understated, sturdily built, and makes use of high-quality materials.

The BMW i4 eDrive40.
The BMW i4 eDrive40.Tim Levin/Insider

Rivals like the Tesla Model 3 and Polestar 2 serve up refreshingly minimalist vibes and uncluttered cabins, but they lack the traditional luxury feel that BMW and Mercedes buyers have come to expect. (Mercedes' equivalent to the i4 is the EQE.)

The funky door handles have a nice weight to them, and the doors shut with an immensely satisfying thunk.

The BMW i4 eDrive40.
The BMW i4 eDrive40.Tim Levin/Insider

None of this is to say that the i4 is stuck in the past. It comes with a generously sized curved display that's crisp, bright, and easy to use.

The BMW i4 eDrive40.
The BMW i4 eDrive40.Tim Levin/Insider

It's split into two sections. The portion behind the steering wheel displays crucial info like your speed, range, and battery life.

The BMW i4 eDrive40.
The BMW i4 eDrive40.Tim Levin/Insider

It's somewhat customizable, but not as much as the instrument cluster in Mercedes' electric cars.

The righthand section houses the navigation, tons of vehicle settings, media options, and more. It reacts to taps with minimal lag time, making it more pleasant to use than some other automotive interfaces.

The BMW i4 eDrive40.
The BMW i4 eDrive40.Tim Levin/Insider

You can also operate the screen using a handy dial in the center console. That helps when you need to select something while driving, which, to be clear, you should avoid.

One gripe, however, is that all climate controls aside from temperature are hidden in a menu. Call me petty, but I think fan speed and heated seats should be one tap away.

The BMW i4 eDrive40.
The BMW i4 eDrive40.Tim Levin/Insider

My tester also offered up a handy head-up display, which projected some basic information onto the windshield.

The BMW i4 eDrive40.
The BMW i4 eDrive40.Tim Levin/Insider

It's nice to not have to look away from the road to see your cruise control settings and the like.

Another pain point: rear-seat roominess. The way most EVs are built allows manufacturers to create extra interior space.

The BMW i4 eDrive40.
The BMW i4 eDrive40.Tim Levin/Insider

Without a transmission and other bulky drivetrain components, there's typically more packaging flexibility in EVs than in gas vehicles.

But BMW left a big hump on the floor, just like gas cars have. It makes an already cozy back seat even more cramped.

The BMW i4 eDrive40.
The BMW i4 eDrive40.Tim Levin/Insider

Plus, its sloping roofline doesn't do any favors to headroom, particularly for taller passengers.

The i4 has a hatch instead of a regular trunk, giving it a fairly spacious, versatile cargo area.

The BMW i4 eDrive40.
The BMW i4 eDrive40.Tim Levin/Insider

Still, rivals like the Tesla Model 3 and Polestar 3 have it beat in one respect. They both have front trunks, while the i4 just has a big piece of plastic under the hood.

The BMW i4 eDrive40.
The BMW i4 eDrive40.Tim Levin/Insider

Out on the road, the i4 drives like you'd expect a BMW to — especially when you switch it into Sport mode.

The BMW i4 eDrive40.
The BMW i4 eDrive40.Tim Levin/Insider

There are also "Comfort" and "Eco Pro" settings.

It delivers the tight, responsive steering and planted feeling BMW's sports sedans are known for. That makes it a joy to whip through turns.

The BMW i4 eDrive40.
The BMW i4 eDrive40.Tim Levin/Insider

Note: My tester came equipped with the "Dynamic Handling Package," a $1,750 option.

It's also freakishly quick from a stop. BMW says the rear-wheel-drive eDrive40 has 335 horsepower and scoots to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds.

The BMW i4 eDrive40.
The BMW i4 eDrive40.Tim Levin/Insider

Those desiring even higher performance can opt for the i4 M50.

Switching into B mode using the gear selector dials up the regenerative braking and turns on one-pedal driving.

The BMW i4 eDrive40.
The BMW i4 eDrive40.Tim Levin/Insider

In that mode, the car brakes and recoups energy into its battery pack as soon as you let off the throttle.

My test car was EPA-rated for 282 miles of range. Not too shabby.

The BMW i4 eDrive40.
The BMW i4 eDrive40.Tim Levin/Insider

The i4 can provide all the way up to 307 miles of estimated range, depending on which trim and wheel size you choose.

And it can charge at a highly competitive rate of 200 kilowatts at fast-charging stations.

The BMW i4 eDrive40.
The BMW i4 eDrive40.Tim Levin/Insider

One helpful touch: The range estimate the i4 displayed changed in response to the climate settings. So when I switched on the energy-sapping A/C, my range dropped by a few miles.

For long highway stints, the i4 offers an impressive driver-assistance system that automatically keeps the car in its lane and keeps up with the flow of traffic.

The BMW i4 eDrive40.
The BMW i4 eDrive40.Tim Levin/Insider

Tap the turn signal and, if there's an opening, the system will change lanes without the hesitation I've experienced using other brands' features.

The i4 may not be as futuristic or forward thinking as some rivals. But its refined styling, engaging driving feel, and satisfying technology make it a highly appealing choice for anyone who isn't trying to venture too far from what they know.

The BMW i4 eDrive40.
The BMW i4 eDrive40.Tim Levin/Insider

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