There are many fitting names BMW could have given to its latest concept car: Grillzilla…Grillanosaurus Rex…Lord of the Grilles…Grilltanic (my personal favorite). In the end, the Bavarians decided to simply name it the Concept i4, and it is meant to be a thinly veiled peek into what the company’s electric production vehicles will look like in the very near future. Designed to give the Tesla Model 3 a run for its money, the car features the huge grille we have come to know from other Bimmers like the 7-Series or last year’s Concept 4. And it’s bound to split opinions yet again. Some will say the face is bold and gives the vehicle a unique identity, while others might describe the automobile as a supermodel that has been smacked in the kisser with a frying pan. Still pretty somehow, but something’s just not right with the face.
Regardless of what you think of the design—and much of it is quite beautiful, really—the Concept i4 represents a significant visual improvement from the design language used on cars like the i3, and brings the brand back to the kind of shape traditional BMW buyers are used to and comfortable with. Taut, modern, sleek but not too experimental. It promises to be quick, too, with 530 in-house-developed electric horses standing to attention whenever needed. Performance figures are said to be around the four-second mark for the 0-100km/h sprint, and top speed will be in excess of 200km/h. Range is given as up to 600km, which is quite tidy and should definitely cure any remaining range anxiety among potential buyers.
This is also the first BMW to sport the firm’s new logo. Yes, the famous blue-and-white roundel has been redesigned for the first time in over 20 years, and now features a two-dimensional design—presumably to make it better suited for the digital age. A new retro font replaces the old ’90s-style letters and the outer circle is no longer white but clear. This means it will look quite different when attached to a car, but we kinda like it.
By the way, contrary to popular belief, the logo doesn’t represent a propeller. Its blue and white colors are simply a nod to the home of BMW (Bavaria) and its official flag.
Some people might describe the automobile as a supermodel that has been smacked in the kisser with a frying pan
Inside, the first thing that catches the eye is the large rectangular touchscreen that curves toward the driver. Called the BMW Curved Display, it represents a digital return to the old-style BMW cockpits that were always angled toward the driver. Many fans of the brand will be happy about this development. Of course, this being a modern EV concept, it comes with all sorts of features, such as three different Experience Modes called Sport, Core and Efficient, which mainly change the way information is displayed to the driver. Choose Sport mode, for example, and the car will present a more focused view of the key instruments, while activating Efficient mode enables a feature called Assisted Driving View, in which passengers get a deeper view of all the things the vehicle is monitoring with its various sensors.
When asked what they don’t like about EVs, many people will answer the sound—or the lack thereof, to be exact. BMW obviously knows that its customer base likes a bit of vroooom in their ears, and the company is guaranteeing a unique sound from the Concept i4. This was apparently achieved by locking in-house sound designer Renzo Vitale and Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer in a room until the two came up with various sound worlds that aim to satisfy the emotional needs of even the most demanding fossil-fuel audiophiles. We’re really hoping for a mix between the Batmobile from The Dark Knight and that Spitfire from Dunkirk, but it will probably be way more civilized.
The high-voltage battery at the heart of the Concept i4 weighs around 550kg and has an energy capacity of around 80kWh. To refill it, the car’s onboard charger reportedly boasts a 150kW fast-charging capability, which would get the battery to an 80% charge in around 35 minutes. Not quite as quick as gas-guzzlers yet, but not bad either. Production of the BMW i4, which will pretty much look like the near-production concept you see here, is scheduled to begin in 2021 and will take place at the German manufacturer’s main plant in Munich.