Of 44 cars I have reviewed through 2022, 16 have been electric wites Brian Byrne. That’s more than a third. And significantly more than the 15pc which electric cars represent in the 2022 national car sales figures. But the key figure there is that this year sales of EVs increased by some 83pc over 2021, so the trend is unmistakeable, and only going in one direction.
For the record, the biggest seller by several of the proverbial country miles is Volkswagen’s ID.4, with almost 3,000 delivered, from Hyundai’s Ionioq 5 (1,164), Tesla’s Model 3 (1,042), Kia’s EV6 (955), and VW’s ID.3 (922) together making up the top five models among the more than 60 different electric passenger vehicles available here.
My review car this week, the BMW i4, is down in 15th place, which is still a respectable position for a premium D-segment saloon in liftback format. The really interesting part here is that what is BMW’s first dedicated electric non-SUV model outsold its related 4 Series internal combustion siblings during this year.
The i4 is smooth and stylish in its large 4-door coupe design. It’s virtually the same as the latest 4 Series Gran Coupe, the only difference being the ICE car is a few millimetres lower, probably related to the battery positioning. There’s a classic symmetry in the overall shape of the car and how that has been executed. I suppose I’ve gotten used to the big grille style of recent BMWs, which I initially felt as being somewhat brutish. Meantime, everything else about the i4 is refined sporty strength through elegance.
Inside, the evolution of BMW’s trim design retains a continuity from previous models, with enough moving forward to stay with modern themes. The extended graphics screen incorporating both the driving and infotainment instrumentation is straight out of the current design playbook adopted by many other brands, especially in the premium market space. Maybe I personally find the ‘corner’ design in the main instruments a little hard, but like everything else I’d probably get used to it. One particular reservation is solid, though — having to manage the seat heating controls by four distinct taps on the screen is not appreciated, purely in terms of distraction from minding the road. That might sound a little nerdy, but the fact is that seat-heating is the preferred range-saving way of maintaining temperature in an electric car during the winter, and a simple real click button would be preferable.
But that’s about the sum of my cribs about the i4. Which means things can only get better from here on. And they do. The car is immediately comfortable, roomier both front and rear than might be expected from its low-slung and coupe design, and a breeze to drive. The silence from the electric powertrain is part of what made my time with the i4 one of the most relaxing driving experiences of the year, albeit somewhat curtailed by my local roads being dangerously icy during the Arctic spell we experienced. Still, on those roads, even with the substantial overall weight of a big electric car, I never felt it inclined to slide away with me. Touching brakes as little as possible is best in icy conditions, and the ‘one-pedal’ element of driving an EV, set to charge on lifting the throttle, is a big help with that.
The review car came in M Sport specification, which added interior and exterior detail touches. The base car comes well specified, but this one had a range of paid-for ‘packs’ added related to lighting, comfort and infotainment, upgraded alloys, ‘pro’ grade driver assist, and adaptive suspension. Probably anyone buying at this price level will go for most of them.
The electric powertrain in the car offered 340hp and was rear-drive — there’s an xDrive AWD version too with dual motors and a whopping 536hp. The car had an 84kWh battery and a rated range of 493–580km. My average energy consumption of 21kWh/100km would suggest a real-world 400km range, but I did find in a mix of motorway-main road-suburban driving that up to 480km could be achievable.
The weather of the week meant I couldn’t safely do a long trip to properly test out that last. But, all in all, my underpinning sense of the i4 was at a high level of appreciatio. Relaxed, comfortable, and reassuring all the time.
PRICE: From €68,825; Review car €78,965. WHAT I LIKED: Classic style in tomorrow’s world.