Home Lifestyle The Electric i4 challenges its Bavarian sibling

The Electric i4 challenges its Bavarian sibling

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At least in some circles it is called the European Tesla.

Which can be flattering or offensive.

It looks just like any other car in a posh BMW dealership.

The same sweeping profile. The same powerful position. The same aggressive but cultivated style.

The 3 Series has long been a triumph of engineering evolution, with each of the seven generations since its launch in 1975 becoming distinctly better and more refined.

It is undoubtedly one of the most iconic and popular models in automotive history. And this one just looks like part of the family.

But this is no ordinary 3 Series, by any means. A small badge just below the trunk trim gives it away – it’s an all-electric i4.

This is not the first electric BMW to hit the market (that honor goes to the i3 and i8). And it’s not necessarily the most impressive electric car the Bavarian marque has made – the company’s iX beats it.

But the i4 is intriguing nonetheless.

This is pretty much the first comparison between a regular BMW and its electrified alter ego.

And the comparison is stunning.

The i4 with two electric motors (one driving the front wheels, the other driving the rear) delivers a staggering 400kW of power and 795Nm of torque. Yes, 795.

According to BMW, it has a range of just over 500 km on a single charge.

And if you put your right foot, it accelerates to 100 km/h in 3.8 seconds. Enough said.

So what is the internal combustion equivalent of this car? The “regular” car that best competes with it is the iconic M3 – the most popular and sought-after model in BMW’s M range.

The M3, in its latest and most powerful guise, almost matches the i4 with its 375kW (for the M3 Competition variant). It also delivers 650Nm of torque. This in turn means a 0-100 km/h sprint time of 3.5 seconds.

So compared to its silent cousin, the venerable M3 is barely quicker than the rather unassuming electric i4. A car that will sit at a traffic light, all innocent and light, and then tear into the weeds anything but premium. With barely a sound.

Impressive, right?

But the most impressive thing may be the price.

The BMW i4 M50 tested here costs $124,000 plus a contribution to treasurer Jim Chalmers to own.

M3? Well, that tips the scales at $163,500. That’s 40k more than the i4. Or about 10k for every split second gained by choosing M3.

Oh, and the i4 uses no gasoline and emits no nasty carbon.

Still think these electric things won’t catch on?

The i4 is also available in a more sedate guise – sans the M50 badge – which still matches most conventional cars in terms of performance, but it comes with a tempting $99,990 price tag.

There is no M60 yet – this designation is available only in the “purely” electric flagship iX M60 (455 kW, 1100 Nm). But this stunning performance is worth much more than 200 thousand.

It makes the M50 look quite a bargain.

And there is no hook.

In fact, it uses technology (including nice infotainment screens) that hasn’t made it to other 3 Series models yet (the current 3 Series is due for an update in the coming months).

The latest widescreen display brings with it some never-before-seen software that makes BMW’s traditional i-Drive system look a bit archaic.

Initially, the i4 was offered in just one body style, a five-door hatchback known as the “GranCoupe” in BMW parlance. Technically, the donor car is part of the 4-Series, hence the i4 designation.

With an electric range of over 500 km and an additional 160 km with just 10 minutes on a fast charger, the i4 is unlikely to entertain weekend style.

In most other respects, it’s largely in line with the regular 4 Series – admittedly a bit heavier, and consequently not as nimble and dynamic.

The M3 comfortably shades it for tight handling, even if the i4 is quicker in a straight line.

But it’s as comfortable, smart and fun to drive as almost any car from the Bavarian Motor Works, with a zero-emissions eco-feel.

So is it fair to compare the i4 to the M3 at all? Well, of course it is. With almost any other “electrified” electric vehicle, this privilege costs at least $10,000 or $20,000.

It’s just the opposite – offering all the benefits of an electric car at a staggeringly lower price.

The big question, of course, is how is it that BMW can produce a disguised M3 and sell it for 40k less than the original? The answer probably lies in the simplicity of electric cars, given the technology and 40 years of evolution that the M3 represents.

Some might suggest provocatively that Mr. Musk’s Tesla Model 3 managed to significantly reduce the price of the i4. However, with all due respect, the little propeller badge in the middle of the hood commands respect.

So, which of these vehicles should you buy? Ironically, it’s still the M3 – not least because it’s likely to disappear in its current form soon.

The styling, crisper handling, street cred and of course the sound it makes all remain an intoxicating drink. So long as it’s around.

BMW i4 M50

* HOW BIG? It’s a true 3 Series that has grown big enough over the years for four adults, plus around 500L of cargo space in the boot.

* HOW FAST? Not quite as fast as the M3, but pretty damn close. It will hit the top speed in 3.8 seconds, which is truly supercar territory.

* LONG LASTING: It will need a recharge approximately every 460 km. But it can be stretched with the rightful use of air conditioning and other luxuries. Ten minutes on a fast charger adds about 150 km.

* HOW MANY? The $124,900 receipt will make M3 owners cry.

https://www.perthnow.com.au/lifestyle/motoring/electric-i4-challenges-bavarian-brother-c-8272008

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