Electric BMW i4 Vs. 4 Series Gran Coupe
If you’ve been dreaming of a sleek BMW sports coupe with enough room and practicality for your whole family, the brand just gifted you two new models in 2022: the all-new 4 Series Gran Coupe, which replaces the previous generation that ran for eight years – or the all-new i4, an electric version of the same car.
Both are great to look at, great to drive, and offer a raft of premium features. Whether you go gasoline or electric, you get BMW’s latest curved display which contains the instrument panel and infotainment system; the latest iDrive 8 software for ultimate connectivity, and a suite of driver assistance functions including automatic collision braking, lane departure warning, and more. BMW’s tech features are some of the best and easiest to use on the market, and the i4 and new 4 Series Gran Coupe continue that trend.
The question is: which one should you choose? Going with gasoline gives you stirring engine sounds, a crisp eight-speed transmission, and the peace of mind of knowing you can fuel it anywhere, on any trip, without having to worry about locating a charging station. On the other hand, going electric gives you the latest drivetrain technology, and offers the potential to save thousands of dollars in fuel – without sacrificing any style or features.
Let’s have a look at both, and do some math.
How to Tell Them Apart
It’s not easy to tell the electric i4 and the gas-powered 4 Series Gran Coupe apart. They both feature BMW’s new “face,” with giant kidney-shaped openings on the front – functional grilles on the 4 Series, and a blank panel behind which a lot of sensors sit on the i4. The side profile is sleek and elegant, and big wheels give a powerful stance.
You can tell them apart by the details. Besides the lack of grilles on the electric car, you will notice the rear end features a pronounced aerodynamic diffuser instead of mufflers and a pair of exhaust pipes. There are some subtle blue trim pieces that BMW uses to denote electric drive. And the wheel designs are different – more aerodynamic, to improve range. That’s also the reason the door handles are recessed into the body, instead of protruding from it.
Both the i4 and the 4 Series Gran Coupe are available with an M sport aerodynamic package, which gives them a more aggressive look. The package is standard on the more powerful models – the i4 M50i in electric and the M440i in gasoline.
What They’re Like to Drive
There’s a lot to love about how both the 4 Series Gran Coupe and the i4 drive. They are, after all, BMWs, and both have the best attributes of the brand: fantastic steering, terrific poise through corners, decent ride quality, and, of course, impressive acceleration. How they go about delivering driver satisfaction, though, is different – though both are compelling to drive in different ways.
Whether you choose the rear-wheel drive 430i Gran Coupe or the higher-performance M440i, the gasoline versions are swift and powerful, and their eight-speed automatic transmissions are wonderfully smooth when cruising, but surprisingly crisp when snapping through gears when you’re driving more aggressively. Both cars actually sound great, too, with the M440i in particular singing a seductive six-cylinder tune under hard acceleration. The 430i will reach 60 mph in 5.8 seconds, while the M440i does the same trick in 4.4 seconds – both are more than swift enough for daily use, and the M440i has 382 hp under the hood to keep pace with a lot of sports cars.
The two i4 models – the 355-hp i4 eDrive 40 and the 536-hp i4 M50 – are equally thrilling, though very different. Thanks to their single-speed transmissions and electric motor (motors in the i4 M50), there are no gear changes, so progress is swift and seamless, no matter what the speed. Despite being a close match on paper in terms of acceleration, the electric BMWs also feel a lot faster: electric motors produce instantaneous torque right away, not needing to build up revs or turbo boost to deliver full power.
Most interestingly, and excitingly, despite not having reciprocating pistons, and tuned exhausts, the two electric BMWs sound great as well. The company actually hired Oscar-winning film composer Hans Zimmer to come up with what they call “BMW iconic sounds,” which play through the sound system. While on paper this sound ridiculous, the Zimmer noises actually add to the electric driving experience, making both cars feel even more emotional and exciting. The sound is high-tech, and dare we say, cinematic – making you feel like you’re behind the wheel of some kind of futuristic rocket ship. Which you kind of are.
Comparing Running Costs
Going electric still comes with a substantial initial price premium. The BMW i4 in eDrive40 trim – single motor, rear-wheel drive – starts at $55,400 MSRP, $10,200 more than the $45,200 MSRP 430i Gran Coupe, which is also rear-wheel drive with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Opt for the high-performance all-wheel drive versions of each, and the gap is smaller: $65,900 MSRP for the electric BMW i4 M50 is $7,700 more than the M440i Gran Coupe. However, both i4 models, thanks to their battery size, are eligible for a $7,500 federal incentive, substantially narrowing the price gap – and basically erasing it in the case of the i4 M50. And that’s before you start factoring in what you might save on fuel.
Over the course of four years at 10,000 miles a year, we calculate that, thanks to its combined EPA-estimated fuel economy of 34 mpg, the 430i Gran Coupe would consume about 1,176 gallons of premium fuel. Using a conservative estimate of $4.50/gallon, that’s $5,292 worth of fuel consumed. Using the same number of miles driven, we estimate the i4 40 would save you 1,428 gallons of fuel – even at a low estimated cost of $4.50 a gallon, that’s $6,426. The savings is magnified even further when you move to the high-performance versions, as the powerful M440i is estimated at 29 mpg by the EPA. (Check out the GreenCars Buyer's Guide for more.)
The nice thing about the i4 models is that they offer enough range to comfortably deal with everyday tasks as well as many road trips. The rear-drive i4 eDrive40 has a range of between 282 and 301 miles, according to the EPA’s estimates, while the more powerful i4 M50 still gives you 227 to 270 miles (choose the smallest wheels for the best range). Your bladder will run out before the electrons.
Maintenance costs, at least for the BMWs, are a wash. All BMW models come with four years of free scheduled maintenance, meaning that even though your 4 Series Gran Coupe will be getting oil changes and your i4 won’t, both of them will cost you basically nothing to service in the first four years of ownership. After that period, the gasoline vehicles will cost a lot more.
Adding it all up, the extra money you pay up-front for an i4 compared to a similar 4 Series Gran Coupe is quickly erased – the federal incentive takes care of much of the price premium, and even compared to the most fuel-efficient gasoline version, the more innovative, swifter electric version is ahead in your second year of ownership. Plus, you get to enjoy the benefits of smooth, seamless electric driving; better performance; and the knowledge that you’re doing your part to reduce greenhouse gases.
We’ve said it a few times with new-model introductions: with every passing year and every new vehicle, going electric is increasingly a no-brainer. If you find the design of the sleek new BMW four-door alluring, and you like its high-tech interior – and who wouldn’t? – the electric drivetrain makes the best pairing both for logical and emotional reasons.