The BMW Concept i4 Is Our Closest Look Yet At BMW’s Main Weapon Against Tesla

The BMW Concept i4 Is Our Closest Look Yet At BMW’s Main Weapon Against Tesla
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BMW’s chief technical officer Klaus Fröhlich told reporters last year that the upcoming BMW i4 is going to compete directly with Tesla sedans. Up until now, we’ve only seen the futuristic “BMW i Vision Dynamics,” but thanks to leaked photos, we now have a look at the BMW Concept i4, which looks pretty close to production ready.

BMW is set to reveal the BMW Concept i4 tomorrow at a “digital press conference” instead of the Geneva Motor Show, which has been cancelled due to concerns about Coronavirus. The company made that announcement last week on its media site, and included this teaser of the car:

But there’s no need to analyse the image above to try to figure out what the Concept i4 will look like in the light and from other angles, because various online forums and blogs have leaked what appear to be very official press photos of BMW’s most promising upcoming EV sedan.

The front end looks nice and aggressive thanks to two tall nostrils and slim headlights with interesting halo-esque daytime running lights. The car looks like it’s fairly close to production feasible, though I talked with my coworker Jason Torchinsky, and we think the mirrors, lack of provisions for licence plates, wheels (they’re a bit tight in the arches), apparent lack of wipers, and futuristic headlights will likely see changes before production.

The rear end looks ok. The centre of the trunk lid has a deep crease in it that connects the two taillights, which start out slim and widen as they wrap around the rear corners of the car, then come to a duller point as they reach towards the front of the vehicle.

The side profile shows a long hood, aggressive lines on the doors, and a nice, swooping, fastback-esque rear end that ultimately cuts off sharply at the trunk lid:

The interior looks great. There’s a beautiful white three-spoke steering wheel with gold accents to match the Concept i4’s exterior colour, and that theme of gold accents with white leather/cloth continues throughout the cabin:

There are two giant screens, one acting as a gauge cluster behind the steering wheel, and the other as the infotainment screen in the centre of the dash:

The controls for the infotainment and various drive modes appear to be on the centre “tunnel” between the driver and passenger. The leaked images also show the rear seats, which appear to accommodate only two:

Overall, the Concept i4 looks pretty good. Yes, the grille is huge, but I’ve never really had an issue with big-grilled BMWs. I will say that the rear end is a bit odd thanks to the deep crease in the trunk lid, whose rounded bottom half flows into a rounded rear bumper to give the tail a bit too much of a bulbous look. Still, the face looks aggressive, the side profile looks sleek, and the interior is gorgeous.

It’s obviously going to take a lot more than just looks to compete with Tesla, but if BMW can engineer this thing well enough to offer similar performance, I think the styling here—especially on the interior—could work well for a BMW meant to go toe-to-toe with California’s EV juggernaut.

Early reports suggest that the i4, which BMW’s tech boss Fröhlich told me will be built on the company’s CLAR architecture and will contain especially slim batteries beneath the floor, is meant to offer some seriously impressive specs. Here’s what we wrote after learning from CNET’s Roadshow that the i4 is rumoured to offer lots of power and range, in addition to fast recharge times:

CNET’s Roadshow has confirmed that one variant of the upcoming i4 will debut in 2021 with 530 HP and a range of 600 kilometre (as measured on the European cycle), all while hitting 60 mph (97 km/h) from a stop in four seconds. Effectively, that positions the i4—which is expected to resemble the i Vision Dynamics concept that debuted in 2017—as something quicker than an M340i, and possibly even a viable electric M3 alternative.

Further sweetening the news is the revelation that the i4, and the other upcoming production cars on BMW’s new fifth-generation batteries, will be capable of reaching an 85 per cent charge in 35 minutes. Since these batteries are graded to put out between 90 and 300 kW of power, Roadshow also speculates that the i4 will utilise two batteries—the amount it would need to hit the 390 kW of power needed to translate into 530 horses.

The i4 is looking and sounding pretty promising. It’ll be interesting to see what the production version looks like, and how it performs in the real world.