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BMW i4 - Test Drive

pdk42

Active Member
Jul 17, 2019
1,320
1,434
Leamington
My Model 3 LR is coming up three years old so I'm sort of thinking about what may be next. Another Model 3 is a definite possibility since overall I've been pretty happy with the car. Despite it being a Fremont build, it's been reliable. No bits have fallen off and apart from some minor panel alignment issues on the bonnet (which I'm sure an hour or two with a spanner could fix), the build is OK. My main complaints about the car are: 1) cabin refinement, esp on noisy road surfaces and; 2) its relatively harsh/un-compliant suspension setup. It would be nice to find a car that addressed these.

In the past I've been somewhat of a BMW fan (the Tesla broke a line of four consecutive BMWs before it - both 5- and 3-series) and I said at the time I got the Model 3 that I'd go back to BMW once they came up with a decent EV. The i4 seems to tick that box, so I thought I'd go and test drive one. The model I drove was the "eDrive 40" (rear wheel drive single motor) in M-Sport trim. It had two option packs installed - the "Sport Plus" pack (adaptive suspension, bigger wheels and red brake calipers); and the "Tech" pack that adds the Harmon Kardon upgraded sound system and a HUD. Overall, I was quite impressed, but it didn't wow me. In summary:
  • It's definitely got a higher quality feel on the interior. Materials feel better and it makes for a more luxurious place to be. Advantage i4.

  • But, the interior feel is also more claustrophobic. The test car had the M-Sport trim which has a black headliner. Add in black seats, high window lines, a transmission tunnel, no sunroof, and a long bonnet, and the result is very much a feeling of lowering yourself into a cockpit rather than sitting on a seat in an airy space. I'm not saying either is better - it depends on what you like and what you're used to. I remember feeling odd in the Model 3 when I got it after the 3-series I traded in. Deuce!

  • The infotainment system on the i4 is really good. The screens are big, bright, and responsive. The features are pretty good in the main with excellent CarPlay integration that just worked out of the box with my iPhone 8 over BT. The UI is more of an automotive approach than Tesla's all-touch approach, and in general it works well. I really liked the buttons for home, menu etc that the Tesla just doesn't have. However, even though the test car had the Harmon Kardon upgraded sound system, I was seriously disappointed in the sound quality. No matter what I did with the sound settings I couldn't get it to sound decent, no matter the genre of music. Classic music in particular sounded awful - thin and confused. Maybe I've been spoiled by the excellent "Premium Sound" in the Tesla. Overall - advantage Tesla, but it's a close thing. If the i4's sound quality was better I'd have gone with the i4 as the winner.

  • Getting back to a car with a speedo display in front of me was a welcome return to normality. The test car also had a HUD, which was nice, but TBH, I've never really got on with HUDs, so it's not an issue for me that Tesla don't provide one. However, I really would like a steering display. Advantage i4.

  • In terms of performance the i4 goes well, but the Model 3 is a bit better. Acceleration in "Sport" mode was brutally applied when I pressed the go-pedal to the carpet, but overall the Model 3 feels quicker and it puts its power down better (I guess dual motor vs single motor). Advantage Model 3.

  • In terms of steering, the i4 wasn't as good as I was hoping for, feeling a bit wooden and vague. I was also amazed to see that its turning circle is worse than the Model 3 - I didn't think such a thing was possible! Advantage Model 3.

  • Throttle response and regen braking was actually quite similar across the cars (the BMW in "B" mode), with both allowing one-pedal driving. The Tesla's initial deceleration seems higher, but I think most people would adjust to the differences quite easily. About the only slight complaint I have with the BMW is that there seems to be a small but perceptible delay between pressing the go-pedal hard and the car responding. Slight, but noticeable. Thankfully in "B" mode, there's no fake transmission creep like on so many other European EVs. Deuce.

  • The i4's suspension is definitely superior to the Tesla's. I drove the car mostly in Sport mode (adaptive dampers remember) but even so, the ride was notably more compliant than my Model 3. When cornering, it was definitely taughter - but OTOH, the extra weight of the BMW made it feel less composed in corners than the Tesla. However, I don't drive too hard these days and I think the BMW's suspension for typical UK roads is a definite improvement. Advantage i4.

  • Cabin refinement on the i4 was several steps up on the Tesla. I hit 90 a few times on dual carriageways without realising it since the cabin noise levels are significantly better than I'm used to. It's a much quieter car and as a consequence, it feels like a car from a higher quality class. I know that MIC Model 3s are a little improved in this regard (I test drove a recent Model 3 recently), but it's still a long way behind the i4. So, big advantage i4!

  • Cabin space OTOH was generally worse on the i4. Rear seating feels very cramped compared to the Model 3. The hatch on the i4 is a benefit over the traditional boot of the Tesla though. Advantage Tesla.

  • Efficiency wasn't great. I didn't hammer the car too much, but managed only 3.1 miles/kWh, which is 322 Wh/mi. That's really bad given that my drive to/from the BMW dealership delivered me 235 Wh/mi and mine is a dual motor. The car's display showed long-term consumption of 2.9 miles/kWh (344 Wh/mile) which isn't great either. I know that demo cars get hammered, so it's hard to draw firm conclusions from this, but even the official WLTP figures show that the single motor BMW trails the Tesla dual motor by about 10% which should really be the other way around given the drive configuration. Advantage Tesla.

  • Charging etc - I didn't get chance to charge it but it seems from Google searches that it supports pre-conditioning for rapid charging and can take a max of 200kW, which I think is to all practical purposes the same as the Model 3 (yes, I know the Model 3 does 250kW in principle but I've only ever seen that rate once and it didn't stay there too long!). Of course, the Tesla network is still mostly locked out to non-Tesla cars, so it's hard to get away from that as being anything but a big advantage to the Tesla. Maybe over the next year or two things will get much more even, but I think at the moment it's still advantage Tesla.

  • Price - the BMW ain't cheap. The car I test drove would be stickered at £62k with the options installed. Granted that this includes a HUD and adaptive suspension, but even so, an SR+, which has a similar performance and drive config, would come in at £48.5k. Even an LR would be under £60k and you're getting all-wheel drive.

  • Availability - here is the big sting in the tail. Chances are that you're in for a year-long wait for an i4. Worse, they won't bake the price in until the build is started and given inflation right now, the price you pay will likely be another 10% on today's price. At least with Tesla, the wait is probably half this, and the price is baked in at the point of order. I think that's a big advantage to Tesla.
So, overall, a fairly balanced scorecard with the Tesla nudging ahead for me. But as I said at the start, I wasn't "wowed" by the i4. It's a nice enough car and it does some things much better than the Model 3, especially cabin refinement and suspension compliance; but there are areas where the Tesla wins out such as efficiency, charging, and sound system quality.
 
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pdk42

Active Member
Jul 17, 2019
1,320
1,434
Leamington
Did you test drive the new model 3? There are some improvements to the noise and handling in corners. Plus, the new hairpin motor has some untapped power that, hopefully, someone will unlock in the next couple of years.
Yes, I drove a MIC LR earlier this year. Tesla were doing some sort of promotion so I went along for a drive. I do agree that it sounded more refined inside - not a huge difference, but certainly noticeable.

What's this about "hairpin" motors? 😀
 

pdk42

Active Member
Jul 17, 2019
1,320
1,434
Leamington
The fact the i4 looks like a beaver showing off it's teeth is a big negative for me lol...

But I mostly agree with the above.. in the end I ordered a model 3 performance...
Yeah, the grille is "challenging". In fact, on the styling front, the i4 has its strong points, but the grille isn't one of them. The styling on the rear valence is odd too - it looks like there are cutouts for exhausts ! Overall, I think the i4 is better looking than the Model 3 though. I've never been a huge fan of the Tesla's looks, but it has grown on me somewhat over the past three years. The problem IMHO is that the front is badly proportioned - the bonnet line is too low for the height of the car (or to put it another way, the windscreen is too high). The effect is more obvious on the lighter-coloured cars. In hindsight, I should have gone with MSM rather than white.
 
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Any comparison of autonomous driving features and apps? Been a lot of Tesla slating on here recently, but interested to hear what the competition is like (hard to tell in a test drive I know).

Seems like the sensible option is to order both, the sell one when they finally turn up. Will probably make a few quid too!
 

pdk42

Active Member
Jul 17, 2019
1,320
1,434
Leamington
Any comparison of autonomous driving features and apps? Been a lot of Tesla slating on here recently, but interested to hear what the competition is like (hard to tell in a test drive I know).

Seems like the sensible option is to order both, the sell one when they finally turn up. Will probably make a few quid too!
I'm not a lover of automated driving systems so didn't really play with it. Basic cruise control seemed to do what it said on the tin though. I turned lane assist off since that sort of thing just drives me bananas, but I'm told it's something you have to do on every drive. My wife's ID3 does this too and it's maddening!

Apps - good question, didn't get near to checking it, but my understanding is that it's pretty good and does a lot of what the Tesla app does.
 
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I’ve just driven a considerable distance in the last couple of days on hols in the uk. Given the state of non Tesla chargers at the services I’ve been too, and most places being mega busy, I wouldn’t be without superchargers regardless of how good the bmw is. I mainly charge at home, but on the rare long journey like today, no way I could be arsed with other chargers.
 
Nice comparison between the 2 cars. I like them both personally and like you have a soft spot for the Munich manufacturer.
I am interested in your observation regarding NVH, I have never been in an Model 3 however I did own an F30 3 series and although overall refinement was very good, I found tyre noise on rough surfaces to be very loud, certainly a lot more than the Citroen I am driving now. Keep in mind, the 3er was on RFs which may well have made a difference.
 
Good review. I've had test drives of the M3P and i4 M50, and most of what you say also applies to the M50 version as well. The performance of the M50 is obviously higher than the 40, but in terms of handling I found the steering response in the M50 to be much more relaxed, and lower geared than the M3P. The i4 is more relaxing to drive, but is that the point with performance versions? I can imagine on a long, say continental, drive the i4 would be the better bet, it is more of a fast GT than a sports saloon. One advantage that the i4 has over the M3P is the hatch-back, especially if like me you're not keen on the jacked up stance of SUV's, but want the practicality of a hatch back (e.g. if you have dogs). Acceleration wise I think the M3P is slightly quicker off the mark, but after 60 the i4 has a small advantage. The i4 range also suffers greatly if you specify the 20" rims, losing 16% of range (266 miles WLTP vs 315 in 19's). It's not the wheel diameter that's the problem, its the fact that on those rims they fit 285 section tyres on the rear, and 255 on the front. Rolling resistance is the problem. The one thing I noticed was that when you start pushing the i4 you become very aware of the weight. Low centre of gravity, or not, the laws of physics dictate that it is always going more difficult to make 2.3 tonnes change direction and stop quickly. Try driving a Caterham 7 or an Elise (which I used to own) on a winding B road, as examples of extremes!
 
Yes, I drove a MIC LR earlier this year. Tesla were doing some sort of promotion so I went along for a drive. I do agree that it sounded more refined inside - not a huge difference, but certainly noticeable.

What's this about "hairpin" motors? 😀
There are some existing discussions on this forum and some Chinese sites about hairpin motors. The technology is known to increase torque or reduce size. It's not clear what Tesla has done with it, though.
 

pdk42

Active Member
Jul 17, 2019
1,320
1,434
Leamington
Nice comparison between the 2 cars. I like them both personally and like you have a soft spot for the Munich manufacturer.
I am interested in your observation regarding NVH, I have never been in an Model 3 however I did own an F30 3 series and although overall refinement was very good, I found tyre noise on rough surfaces to be very loud, certainly a lot more than the Citroen I am driving now. Keep in mind, the 3er was on RFs which may well have made a difference.
I think I'm quite sensitive to NVH. I had two F31s (3-series touring) - one a 330d and I found the diesel clatter drove me mad! I replaced it with a 335i and that was miles better in terms of engine noise, but I was never totally happy with its road noise intrusion. Swapping out the RF tyres helped, but it was never what I'd call a quiet car, esp given that lovely silky straight-six petrol engine. In that sense, the Model 3 is no worse, but neither are good. Before I got the first of the F31s, I had an F11 (5-series touring) and that was miles better for NVH, but it was a barge and my wife hated driving it because of its size. The i4 is streets ahead of all of them though - even the F11.
 
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Hi all,

New to the forum and this post was of interest - you see, I ordered the i4 M50 last year (December) and it's been delayed so many times. My latest update from the dealer was another delay until next year (and an increase of £180 per month hitting close to 900 per month!!) however my current lease (a PHEV with 300hp) goes back end of October so I have no choice but to cancel.

I seen ZenAuto had the Model Y LR in stock (registered June) so I managed to grab a 1 hour test drive of the MY in Glasgow Tesla (lovely people and experience I have to say!). I loved the inside of the car but I'm going to be honest, I hate the front looks. The drive was fun and did make me grin - loved the acceleration, the steering feel and the ride quality was good enough. The amount of space is just bonkers and my son is exciting to try camp mode :)

I wont lie, I'm genuinely gutted that I'm not getting the i4 but I'm seriously excited to get my hands on the MYLR with the acceleration boost. I also went with the 20" induction wheels and maintenance to cover tyre replacements :) I've been told 4-6 weeks for delivery even though it registered (I even got the car in the Tesla app as I have the VIN but not connectable yet)
 

pdk42

Active Member
Jul 17, 2019
1,320
1,434
Leamington
Hi all,

New to the forum and this post was of interest - you see, I ordered the i4 M50 last year (December) and it's been delayed so many times. My latest update from the dealer was another delay until next year (and an increase of £180 per month hitting close to 900 per month!!) however my current lease (a PHEV with 300hp) goes back end of October so I have no choice but to cancel.

I seen ZenAuto had the Model Y LR in stock (registered June) so I managed to grab a 1 hour test drive of the MY in Glasgow Tesla (lovely people and experience I have to say!). I loved the inside of the car but I'm going to be honest, I hate the front looks. The drive was fun and did make me grin - loved the acceleration, the steering feel and the ride quality was good enough. The amount of space is just bonkers and my son is exciting to try camp mode :)

I wont lie, I'm genuinely gutted that I'm not getting the i4 but I'm seriously excited to get my hands on the MYLR with the acceleration boost. I also went with the 20" induction wheels and maintenance to cover tyre replacements :) I've been told 4-6 weeks for delivery even though it registered (I even got the car in the Tesla app as I have the VIN but not connectable yet)
Lead times of 12 months or more are really hard to deal with, esp if the price is not locked in. I can see a lot of people making choices in future based on availability rather than the usual reasons. I'm sure you'll love the Y. So much to like, even if front styling isn't one of the reasons! I do agree that it's "challenging". Worse than the 3 and that's not great either. But once you're inside, you'll never notice!
 

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