BMW’s electric Concept i4 has two words for Tesla’s Model 3: Watch out

In 2020, buyers who want an electric alternative to anything in the Tesla range won’t find it inside a BMW store. That will change in the coming months, because the German carmaker is busily bringing at least three battery-powered models to production. It previewed one by unveiling a concept named i4 during an online press conference.

The 3 Series-sized i4 will stand proud as BMW’s first electric sedan. The concept that previews it wears the proportions normally associated with the firm’s cars, meaning it’s characterized by a long hood and a short trunk lid. The fastback-like roofline earns it the Gran Coupe label currently worn by the 2, the 4, and the 8.

It’s impossible to ignore the giant grille that takes up most of the real estate on its front end. This styling cue has divided the public’s opinion more than the company’s front-driven cars, but BMW has stated time and again that the gaping maw is here to stay. The feedback it has received from customers has been surprisingly positive.

Minimalism is the name of the game in the cabin. The driver sits behind a three-spoke steering wheel that’s almost retro-styled, and key information about the car and its surroundings is displayed on a pair of screens fused into a single curved unit. BMW explained it asked its engineers to think outside of the automotive industry and draw inspiration from the latest electronic devices when they created the infotainment system. There’s a core mode, which shows the basics, a sport mode, which focuses on performance, and an efficient mode, which provides information about what the car’s various sensors are seeing in real-time, and how much electricity is left in the battery pack.

Speaking of, the i4 is fitted with an 80-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery that holds enough electricity for up to 270 miles of driving range. Its electric motor delivers 530 horsepower, an output on par with one of BMW’s V8s.

Years of covering auto shows have taught me BMW’s concepts are normally well on their way to production by the time they’re shown to the public. The i4 is no exception. It’s scheduled to enter production in Munich, Germany, the company’s hometown, in 2021. It will be manufactured on the same assembly line as gasoline-powered and plug-in hybrid models. Expect the i4 to arrive in American showrooms in time for the 2022 model year.

By the time it arrives, BMW’s global EV range will include the production version of the iX3 concept — which is essentially a battery-powered X3 made in China — and a 5G-connected SUV code-named iNext. The innovative i3 city car will not spawn a direct replacement, and a more mainstream model will fill its spot in the lineup.

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