With the arrival of the original Model S and Model X from Tesla feeling like a lifetime ago, the Jaguar I-PACE since having been joined by Mercedes’ EQC and the Audi e-tron with a Sportback variant on the way, and Elon’s Model 3 proving a runaway success in both the retail and leasing segments, fleet favourites BMW may seem a trifle slow in some minds to enter the larger, premium EV scene.
Munich’s all-electric future is looking rosier, though, with the world only five weeks away from being able to say that production of the i4 will be happening ‘next year’, the factory set to swing into action in 2021. With a fashionable four-door Gran Coupe design, we envisage it ruffling the Model 3 saloon’s feathers at the very least by finally giving stalwart BMW buyers and leasing customers an alternative.
What does the electric BMW i4 look like?
The BMW i4’s silhouette doesn’t look a million miles from the uber-popular 4 Series Gran Coupe, but it’s much more futuristic and daring, almost as rakish as an i8 in some ways, the lid evidently having fallen off the chilli flake jar in the designers’ canteen. Like most of BMW’s latest models, the Vision Dynamics-inspired i4’s tall front grille isn’t exactly shy and retiring and looks likely to sport a smoothed-off look typical of other EVs, complete with the bumper cutting through it, while the rear uncannily manages to give Lexus a run for its money in the edginess stakes while having echoes of the Z8 about it. Nice work, BMW.
Under its distinctive skin, which we feel is more attractive than the perhaps tame and frontally-debatable Model 3, BMWs i4 electric saloon will run on entirely new motors, a high-voltage yet lightweight 80kWh battery and new electronic gubbins comprising the Germans’ fifth-generation eDrive technology. Some i4 fanciers will be wooed by its reported 373-mile zero-emissions range and 150kW charging capability enabling 80% to be topped back up in just over half an hour, while others will go all gooey on discovering that the i4 will deliver V8 petrol-matching dollops of power to the tune of 530hp, or 390kW in EV-speak. Hitting 62mph in 4 seconds will feel even more exhilarating thanks to the instant torque and ludicrous acceleration associated with electric cars, and the i4’s top speed of 124mph can hardly be disappointing to anyone who lives in the real world.
Agility has long been one of BMW’s hallmarks and while the i4 unsurprisingly won’t be driven by the rear wheels, it should still handle quite niftily, underpinned by all-wheel drive, a pair of electric motors, torque vectoring, and low-slung batteries under the chassis floor. The men and women in white coats from Munich haven’t confirmed exactly what architecture and materials the i4 Gran Coupe will be based on, but it’s anticipated that bits and pieces will utilise carbon fibre reinforced polymer while aluminium makes up a large chunk of the rest. Official prices haven’t been released either but to ensure that it will appeal to current 3 Series buyers and leasing customer while giving the Tesla Model 3 a run for its money, it’s likely that the BMW i4 will cost from close to the £40,000 mark.
Meet the 2 Series Gran Coupe
Between now and the electric i4 arriving, BMW has launched its most compact Gran Coupe-badged model yet, born into the 2 Series family although it’s actually based very closely on the latest 1 Series, with which it shares its face and plenty of bones. Demonstrating how large modern cars are becoming, the new BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe manages to shadow the 3 Series generation that ended in 2013.
Some sections of the press along with social media comments point to the side profile and rear of the new BMW as respectively being too plain despite sporting a frameless look and too fussy, but we got excited the minute we clapped eyes on BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe images, especially of the initial M235i xDrive range-topper. The new G30 3 Series with its smoked taillights has clearly influenced it, which we reckon is a wholly good thing, and we welcome the echoes of Gran Tourer GT that are also found in the newbie’s design.
The trim lineup kicks off with Sport, and we won’t pull any punches in admitting that M Sport models are more visually exciting with extra aerodynamic body-styling, larger alloy wheels, Dakota leather sports seats as standard plus other goodies like the Professional version of Digital Cockpit, but our 20+ years of experience have typically shown that M Sport models are the most popular anyway. This is especially true among drivers who opt out of company car schemes for tax reasons and jump across to personal leasing with their cash allowances.
Borrowed from the MINI, the tried and tested 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol unit in the 2 Series Gran Coupe 218i will prove peppy enough for many drivers, with a decent 62mph time of 8.7 seconds, and it’ll also go down well in running cost terms with up to 56.6mpg possible through hypermiling. Its starting price of £25,815 makes it pretty affordable, too, with monthly lease costs expected to be equally attractive.
BMW hasn’t ditched diesel despite all the angst out there in the media, with the 190bhp 220d and its very healthy 400Nm torque likely to account for most business contract hire customers for tax reasons plus its 119-110g/km CO2 emissions and claimed fuel economy of a whisker over 67mpg.
The feisty M235i xDrive
Performance-seekers should find themselves smitten with the M235i xDrive, the 306bhp it pumps out helping this compact and relatively light car across the 62mph line in 4.9 seconds, backed by intelligent all-wheel drive that splits traction 50:50 when the going gets dicey. Handling is further bolstered by BMW Performance Control, Driving Experience Control, a new limited-slip differential of the mechanical Torsen variety, M Sport brakes, steering and adaptive suspension with VDC, plus the i3s’ wheel slip limitation (ARB) technology. No, it won’t be as beastly as the potential M2 Gran Coupe we hope rocks up in the future, but it’ll do nicely in the meantime and prove a nicer daily drive.
Apart from its two extra doors, which pour water on any difficulties people with far-from-orang-utan-like flexibility often face when contorting into 2-door coupes, the new BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe also offers 33mm of additional legroom and 14mm extra headroom, while the 430-litre luggage space makes its boot 40 litres more accommodating than the coupe many of our leasing clients have grown to understandably love over the years.
BMW has always been one for lengthy options lists but the silver lining is that customers are able to tailor their cars more precisely, and the 2 Series Gran Coupe will be specifiable with the rather cool BMW Digital Key enabling it to be unlocked from a Samsung Galaxy phone. Then there’s a full-colour 3D head-up display, BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant controlled by saying “Hey, BMW”, the optional Harman Hardon surround sound system, BMW Live Cockpit Professional which opens up the possibilities of the firm’s O.S 7.0 even more, and a whole ploughman’s of other safety assist systems, over-the-air connected services and other toys. It’s good to know that Apple CarPlay integration comes as standard for the first year.
UK deliveries of the new BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe begin in March 2020, just a handful of months away, so anyone interested in leasing one on business or personal contract hire needs to get their proverbial skates on and contact Vehicle Consulting to stand a chance of securing one on a ‘20’ registration plate.