As the world prepares for the electric car to permanently replace the combustion engine car, large-volume model launches such as the BMW i4 are approaching. BRAND CARS was at the Munich test center to learn more about the project and make the first kilometers aboard a crucial model for the Bavarian brand.

With the i4, BMW will attack Tesla on its turf, but also the electric sedans of traditional brands that are expected to appear on the market in the next 12 months. Hundreds of thousands of kilometers of tests have already been carried out in the most remote places in the world, to evaluate the behavior of the car on different types of roads, but also the response of the electric propulsion system (especially the high-voltage battery) in climates. extreme, very hot, or very cold (since batteries are known to be very similar in this respect to humans, feeling better when the mercury in thermometers is around 20-25 degrees.

But since it is not enough to go very far (Death Valley in the United States, Lapland in the North Pole, or Cape Town in South Africa) to make sure that the i4 is not seen by anyone the far of some is the home of others  The car rolls through Europe camouflaged as much as possible to make it unrecognizable since both competing brands and the press (and, of course, the public) want to see how much sooner each new model, especially this one that will be the first 100 sedans. % electric of the Bavarian brand. The final tune-up of the i4 takes place at the BMW test center, north of Munich, which is usually already an opportunity to assemble and even roll with a model before its arrival on the market. In addition to the electric sedan, these facilities are also working on the dynamic development of the 4 Series Convertible (which once again has a canvas roof) and the four-door Gran Coupe.

David Ferrufino, director of the i4 project, explains that “the i4 is one of the most important BMW cars in recent years because it is the first 100% electric with a lower and more classic body, to which must necessarily be added its strong character Gran Coupé with sporty proportions and a driving dynamics that should not be inferior to that of cars with a combustion engine.  In other words, it is essential that you contribute to transmitting that BMW DNA into the age of electric mobility. Camouflage to get out of the ‘dressing room after leading me through an endless sequence of doors and a series of labyrinthine corridors, Ferrufino stops in front of a sliding door in area W08, which opens after a short phone call.

And there the i4 is, like a movie star in her dressing room, getting the latest make-up before shooting an important scene in the movie. Well, in this case, it’s layers and layers of film to cover the final lines sculpted by the team of chief designer Adrian van Hooydonk, but also to hide the volume of the i4, which is the mission of camouflage specialist Marinko Petrusic, but always with the concern that so much film, stickers and plastic covers do not alter the results of the aerodynamics, cooling and noise tests, or add excessive weight the i4 prototype weighs only about 10 kg more than the final car and this is overweight we can manage it, explains Thomas Nock, one of the engineers involved in these tests.

Visually it is guessed that the most prominent kidney grille we know of from the i4 Concept will remain, creating a bridge between BMW’s past and future, because even “closed” (no combustion engine requires high cooling capacity), it will serve as a kind of ‘intelligence center’ that houses various sensors. A paradigm shift to date electrified propulsion at BMW has been carried out mainly in plug-in hybrid models (even though the i3 was one of the pioneers among battery-powered city cars)

Next year the Bavarians promise to show Tesla what a German premium car manufacturer can do with the all-important iX3 (the SUV that will hit the market next fall) and this no less relevant i4 sedan model that bears the responsibility of being the first electric BMW model that has to achieve the same high level of competence of this brand that for so long has been synonymous with excellent combustion engines (and with many cylinders), rear-wheel drive and driving pleasure that other brands were trying to get close to. After the exclamation point of the innovative i3, although for a limited audience, there is not long before the first customers receive the truly global iX3 SUV, from which nothing will be like before.

But the i4 is not a separate model, like the i3, nor a vehicle converted from one that already existed, like the iX3, but was developed from scratch, with the 4 Series Gran Coupé alongside the one that will be manufactured in Munich ( see note at the end of this text ). For the first time at BMW, a combustion engine car and a 100% electric car were developed together and will be produced on the same assembly line. We have to be true to the tradition of making cars that inspire their drivers when they drive them, so being tremendously fast when starting in a straight line is far from being a goal,  explains Ferrufino, the father of the i4.

who, since his adolescence in Bolivia, has always been a fan of cars and is looking forward to seeing the results of his efforts in the hands of future clients. This will happen exactly one year from now, in the spring of 2022, expected in a world already free of the pandemic. Differentiated interior other fields in which a quantum leap was already expected to what Tesla offers today is in the quality of the interiors. We have the familiar BMW control modules but associated with the new curved displays (12.3 “+14.9”) that recently debuted on the iX3, and which combine with the new steering wheel to create a new philosophy of focus on the driver.

This panel will be used in the series production versions of the BMW iNext and i4 and almost all operational functions, including the air conditioning, are integrated into the curved display, as part of an overall approach focused on minimizing the number of physical controls. At the same time, the classic gear selector is replaced by a switch. On the other hand, also, the comfortable seats show a perceived quality that, even in a test prototype a year before the start of sales, is already more consistent than we know in any Tesla. The upholstery of the seats (heated in the front and, optionally, cooled) are always leather -partial or full- and Alcantara, but there is a vegan alternative for those who prefer it.

The I4 M – The First Electric M – Will Have 530 Horsepower And Accelerate From 0 To 100 Km / H In Four Seconds.

Initially, three variants and two battery sizes will be available. The entry version will have 272 hp (200 kW) with rear-wheel drive, while the i4 with four-wheel drive (initially without the M logo at the rear) will achieve 476 hp (350 kW). The M will raise the maximum power to 530 hp, to the level of what we were used to seeing in a V8 engine (acceleration from 0 to 100 km / h in 4.0 seconds confirms this, although the maximum speed of the order of 210 km / his, as is usual in 100% electric cars, conditioned by the nature of its propulsion).

Just as important, the evolution of battery technology will allow a maximum range of about 600 km for the top version thanks to a capacity of 80 kWh (and a weight of 550 kg). They will all use a new modular system (the eDrive in its fifth generation) in which the electric motor, transmission, and electronic control unit are all integrated into the same unit and, like the battery, all are manufactured by BMW itself. This eDrive system will have more cells per module, fewer components, it will be more compact and flexible, and can be applied to various electrical models of the Group and with different levels of performance. Important will be the new on-board charger (which BMW will use in electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids) with a charging capacity of up to 150 kW, power with which the 80 kWh battery can be charged from 0 to 80% in just 35 minutes (at a speed of 100 km every 6 minutes).

E Tesla 3 As A Model BMW

Used to be the benchmark used by other brands in the development of their new models, but here, without complexes, it assumes its new position: Tesla’s Model 3 has always been present in this project, since its inception, he admits. Ferrufino. Not surprising, because the Model 3 has made 100% electric mobility tangible and desirable for thousands upon thousands of customers in the United States, Europe, and Asia. The dimensions and proportions of the two models are almost identical, although, with good space for four adults and a generous trunk (470 to 1290 liters), this i4 is clearly not suitable for a fifth occupant, who will always travel too tight and uncomfortable when the center of the second row of seats.

From here, differences begin to be made, especially in terms of dynamics, in everything that goes beyond the ballistic starts that any Tesla has accustomed us and that will also be possible in BMW electric cars. That was what we could see for the impressive braking capacity before each corner, the ability to maintain the trajectory and accelerate fully before returning to the straight, always with a lot of stability in the movements of the body.

We Are Within The Less Powerful I4,

with rear-wheel drive, but with air springs on the rear axle (always standard in all versions), while the variable electronic dampers will be part of the optional equipment. Part of the merit of the balance felt on the track has to do with the specific damping technology to reduce body sag when accelerating, just as the well-known wheel slip limiting system (ARB, debuted on the i3) contributes to improving directional traction and stability, even on slippery floors, making every start instantaneous and without hesitation.

After stopping in the pits to cool the brakes and tires and the first exchange of opinions, we returned to the track, this time with Ferrufino himself at the wheel, who, modestly, immediately warns, with a smile hidden by the mask, that his chassis engineers are better drivers than he is. It is not easy to believe, because just after the first combination of curves we are already over 170 km / h before braking, without feeling strong transversal movements of the body, at the same time that the electric motor does not show any weakness both in acceleration and braking, even after successive repetitions. Ferrufino is clearly satisfied with the results obtained and the initial impression, even as a co-driver, seems to indicate that the dynamic benchmark position in performance efficiency may remain in the hands of BMW when the electric age is no longer just a promise.

The Munich factory is now ready for the i4Over the past summer the BMW factory in Munich was modernized to produce its first electric sedan. More than three months and € 200 million later, 90% of assembly-line production systems can now be used interchangeably for the i4, 3 Series, 3 Series Touring, and 4 Series, with gasoline engines. diesel or plug-in hybrids. The remaining 10% refers to specific equipment used for the assembly of the high-voltage battery, which is made from the bottom rear of the car, according to Robert Englehorn, director of this industrial unit.