Cars > Electric

The BMW i4 eDrive35 GranCoupe is a sensible luxury electric cruiser

A practical all-around Bimmer experience for P4,490,000

The lesser variant isn't necessarily a downgrade. PHOTO BY SIMONN ANG

Having recently driven the wonderfully mad BMW i4 M50 during our electric team day out, I feared that being handed the keys to its tamer brother would lead to a certain level of disappointment.

Like when you had Dom Pérignon last week, and today you’re being handed a bottle of Prosecco. They’re both fizzy and nice, but one is undoubtedly more of an event for your senses than the other.

Luckily, the fact these two electrified Bavarians are very different actually turned out to be a good thing. If you want a riot, get the M50. If you want a powerful and refined electric cruiser, get the eDrive35.

This EV is still guaranteed to put a smile on your face when you step on it. PHOTO BY SIMONN ANG

That’s not to say that the i4 eDrive35 GranCoupe is a slouch. You can still make necks snap when you stomp on the accelerator, and pressing the giggle button (Sport) not only turns the dials red but also sharpens everything up again for even more fun.

But this four-door coupe is definitely more at home going through corners with the driver facing forward rather than sideways, and you’ll find yourself activating Sport mode only when the occasion demands it. In everyday driving, Comfort or Eco Pro are the ones to go for.

The i4 is a looker despite the controversial grille. PHOTOS BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

Yes, it does have the silly big kidney grille, but it actually looks quite good in real life, and the plate location balances the front a bit. There’s no denying that it is a bit of a looker and comes with bucketloads of road presence.

Big 19-inch rims give it a sporty stance, and its lines are elegant yet assertive. It’s a proper BMW and one you’ll catch yourself looking back at after you park it. You’ll also see a lot of other people looking at it, such as when you’re charging it in town.

Everything here oozes traditional German build quality. PHOTOS BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

Step inside and you’re greeted by the reason BMWs demand a premium over other cars.

Everything says and feels quality on a level few other manufacturers can rival. You’ll find yourself running your hands over the leather steering wheel, looking around the cabin, breathing in the unique BMW new-car smell, and thinking: “This is really nice!”

The i4 seems way ahead in build quality, ride comfort, and general refinement to anything coming out of China or the USA. It feels solid and well-built, and you can almost visualize the German engineers spending thousands of hours trying to make everything perfect. They almost succeeded.

No front trunk here, though. PHOTOS BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

I say “almost” because this being a four-door coupe, there are some practical aspects that need to be taken into consideration, such as the fact that the rear of the cabin will be more comfortable for citizens of Lilliput rather than 6ft-tall Germans.

Getting in and out wasn’t a very elegant experience for me, and if you’re of a slightly larger stature, then the best seats are definitely at the front.

The better seat at the front is the left one, of course. There’s a little bit of a BMW cockpit feel from days gone by about it, and the instrument panel and the infotainment screens are big enough to give you the required data, but small enough not to be annoying or distracting.

Mercedes-Benz and its silly Hyperscreen should take note. Voice commands actually worked quite well, and are a great way to handle basic functions without having to take your hands off the wheel.

The right mix between physical and onscreen buttons, and a user experience refined over decades make operating all the various functions very intuitive.

This electric Bimmer can be both an angel and a road warrior. PHOTOS BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

As for the drive, the best way I can describe it is serene with a splash of oomph. The fully electric single-motor drivetrain is already mega-quiet during normal operation. Pair it with how this car isolates you from the outside world, and you’ll end up with one of the most relaxing driving experiences you’ll ever have.

I used the i4 to test if EV ownership for condo dwellers who can’t charge at home is realistic. As part of this experience, I spent almost four days trying to find charging stations all over town, and often had to drive through busy traffic and stressful situations.

I swear this car has a massive calming effect. Everything is so gentle and quiet; it just soothes you and lowers your blood pressure.

This is an exquisite shape. PHOTO BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

Even getting stuck in the evening long-weekend rush hour didn’t faze me. Singing along to my favorite Protomen songs on the excellent stereo, I actually ended up enjoying this slow drive through the night.

That’s not to say the i4 is slow. With 286hp and 400Nm of instant torque, you can still go gap-hunting in traffic with ease, and surprise your fellow motorists who don’t expect that this car can suddenly move this quickly.

It can also move quite far, with a range of 483km per charge according to BMW. I didn’t quite manage that, and had to settle around 300km, but range anxiety was still never an issue.

I reluctantly returned it to BMW Greenhills, and now I’m wondering what my bank manager will say if I ask him for P4,490,000 because I need to buy a new blood pressure medication. Maybe if I take him for a drive, he’ll understand.

Frank Schuengel

Frank is a German e-commerce executive who loves his wife, a Filipina, so much he decided to base himself in Manila. He has interesting thoughts on Philippine motoring. He writes the aptly named ‘Frankly’ column.