Electric vehicle (EV) pioneer BMW is jumping back into the fast lane with its Tesla-rivalling i4 four-door 'coupe', which will hit the market in 2021.
To build anticipation, the Munich marque staged a digital reveal - in lieu of the cancelled Geneva motor show - of a near-production-ready Concept i4 tonight.
The headline figures are a 0-100km/h time as low as 4.0 seconds, a 200km/h top speed, and a claimed (WLTP) maximum driving range between charges of 600km.
The 390kW motor easily outguns the internal combustion BMW M3's outputs, while the 80kWh-capacity battery with "extremely slim construction and optimised energy density" weighs 550kg.
BMW also claims other power electronics, and the charging unit, are all-new developments. It has not disclosed the maximum DC charging rate, though 150kW has been reported.
BMW has also developed a soundtrack for the i4, or "sound worlds", emitting alerts at low speeds but also making sounds available to occupants under acceleration. There are at least two divergent audio profiles, called Core and Sport.
The wild part? They were created by Hans Zimmer, who has composed the soundtrack to at least a few of your favourite Hollywood films. No, seriously, go look at his IMDB...
The i4's silhouette is most reminiscent of the 4 Series Gran Coupe, meaning a fastback roofline with hatch boot style, a long wheelbase, short overhangs, and four frameless doors.
BMW's design-speak says that "crisp, smooth lines and taut volumes merge into a rich, smoothly contoured sculpture and create a clear surfacing language".
The exterior colour is called Frozen Light Copper and harks back to the iNext concept. The blue highlights all over the exterior are a trademark of BMW's i range. Those wheels are said to be ultra-light and as aerodynamic as possible, without looking goofy.
Despite lacking a combustion engine, BMW has also controversially given the i4 an absolutely enormous blacked-out, closed kidney 'grille' housing key assistance sensors and framed by slim LED headlights.
It also has a transparent and 2D badge, which in some ways reminds this writer of the also-rejigged Volkswagen corporate logo.
As with any EV, driverless technology assistants are at the forefront of designers' minds. However, as BMW says, "the interior of the Concept i4 focuses on those times when the driver chooses to pilot the car themselves. To this end, every element in the front of the cabin is trained on the driver".
The dominant feature is the BMW Curved Display that combines traditional driver instruments and the centre infotainment touchscreen into one piece, a little like what Mercedes-Benz is doing with its MBUX system.
"Its slim form exudes quality and sophistication. Almost all operating functions are integrated into the display as part of an overall approach centred on reducing the number of haptic controls to the minimum. Even the climate control system now works by touch control," BMW's press material says.
The central control panel replaces a traditional gear lever with a toggle-type shifter, the iDrive Controller and seat memory buttons in the doors are finished in a crystal glass, and the seats are composed of microfibre with line graphics and leather that's tanned using olive leaf.
It is minimalist and airy (thanks to a glass roof that appears to be capable of keeping out sun glare a little like the windows in a Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft), and full of the currently in vogue rose gold colouring. Or Gold Bronze in BMW parlance.
While information on the latest iteration of iDrive is under wraps, BMW does talk about "the next-generation operating system from 2021", and promises to offer drag-and-drop functionality and an Assisted Driving View that "shows the driver what the car’s sensors are detecting".
BMW's smartphone-app-based ConnectedDrive Store with all manner of downloadable features will probably get a significant expansion to support its phase-two EV rollout as well.
The Concept i4 has two rear seats, with BMW saying the EV system's packaging benefits enable plenty of space. Whether there's a Tesla style Frunk as well as a boot remains to be seen.
As mentioned, series production of the new BMW i4 will begin in 2021 at the BMW Group’s main plant in Munich, alongside existing ICE cars to maximise scale efficiencies.
"This means that, in the future, combustion-engined vehicles, plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles will be manufactured on the same assembly line," BMW says.
"Integrating the BMW i4 into the existing production system represents a challenging task for Plant Munich. The body concept of the BMW i4 differs from the architectures of the vehicle models produced at the plant to date due to the need to accommodate its high-voltage battery.
"Approximately 90 per cent of the existing production equipment in the body shop can be incorporated into the process... However, the remaining 10 per cent – especially the machinery involved in building the rear structure – will need to be newly built.
"A separate new piece of equipment will be fitted in the assembly halls for installation of the high-voltage battery, as the battery needs to be fitted in the car from below.
"A particular challenge in the conversion/installation process are the crowded structures of the assembly halls. Working within these tight confines, old machinery will have to be removed and new equipment installed and brought on stream within a six-week period.
"This requires long-term planning and precise implementation. The company is investing a total of around 200 million euros in Plant Munich to bring series production of the BMW i4 to fruition," the company adds.
Yes, it's coming.
“We thoroughly look forward to introducing the eventual production version of the BMW Concept i4 to the local markets," the company tells us.
"Australian customers can expect a sports-focused Gran Coupé that not only showcases next generation, zero emission powertrain technology, but also progressive design and renowned BMW driving dynamics."
This translates to a likely right-hand drive production flow that'll arrive during the course of 2022, at a similar time to the iX3.
There are a ton of supplied images available. Just click on one of the embedded pics and scroll through.