Spy shot of i4 electric, i4 proto pics, 430i, and my 328i towed to the shop.
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Test Drive: Dropping Off my 3 Series For a Week in a Loaner BMW 430i: the Setup for the Soon Coming i4 Electric

Sometime next year BMW will be introducing their first real non-compliant full production all electric car. It won’t look as funky as i3 does. It’ll actually look like a real normal car. And it’ll be based off the 4 series. So with my BMW in the shop AGAIN, and the dealer giving me a 430 coupe as a loaner, I decided to take this opportunity to give you a dynamic of what to expect from a 4 series electric by looking at the gas one and my car, a 3 Series, first.
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I rarely drive when I’m home so I’m in no rush to buy an electric. In fact I spend a lot of my home time on the internet doing a lot of intensive research about electric cars, to find content to write about, and for my personal edification. But I will be joining many of you soon in the electric car market. I may even convert my 2011 BMW 328i Cabriolet or a classic gas car to electric as a daily or frequent driver. So I skipped the early adopter and hybrid era for this moment in time when we all are now getting serious about all electric cars, with the dozen or so models we’re expecting to come with the first incursion this year, then the dozens to follow with the startups, starting next year. This includes the billions of dollars that charging networks and Volkswagen Group has spent last year to suddenly spruce up the nationwide network to get ready for these incursions. And the BMW 4 Series is going to play a big role in all of this for BMW. Let’s take a closer look:

  • I give you incite with my own BMW electrical problems as to the dynamic of what may await you with a BMW electric. I love the brand anyway.
  • BMW has been all over the place with their electric program at their own detriment even at Mini’s endangerment of existence.
  • They’ve been accused of too little too late.
  • They have only two models coming out in the next two years that are confirmed, an SUV and a 4 Series car in 2020, but they promise 12 all electric models by 2025.
  • They are unique in that they don’t intend to use the now considered industry de rigueur all electric skateboard platform, to instead rely on the traditional ICE based platform for their all electrics. Aston Martin is doing the same for now.
  • The SUV is based on the X3 and the car based on the 4 series as a four door and/or two door Grand Coupe.
  • This will put the brand in direct competition with Tesla Model 3 and Model Y with their introductory electric models.
  • BMW suggests 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 4.0 seconds and a range of around 600 km (373 miles).
  • This can be done only with a ~100 kWh battery and a super low drag coefficient.

Here’s what Inside EV’s noticed different about the electric 4 Series:

• The front end will be different compared to the 4 Series Gran Coupe, as there is no need for a huge grill and it must fit the modern EV style.
• Door handles seem to be different – it looks like you just slide your hand under to open the door.
• Battery pack probably slightly raises the ride position compared to the 4 Series Gran Coupe.
• Painted exhaust pipes – thankfully those will not come standard on the i4
BMW i4 expected (unofficial) specs:
• BMW i4 80 sDrive (for rear-wheel drive)
• BMW i4 80 xDrive (for dual motor all-wheel drive)
• 80 kWh (plus 60 kWh version)
• 5th generation eDrive platform for BEVs will be offering ranges between 550-700 km (340-435 miles)

About my 328i

I currently drive for the last seven years a 2011 BMW 328i Cabriolet with currently 85,000 miles I purchased CPO after shortly moving to California. The car is meticulously maintained as I even have scratches and dings removed from the car on a regular basis. I’m a diehard BMW man ever since I started driving and eventually purchasing them for my security clients in New York City, including the then startup reboot of the Rolls Royce brand at the turn of the century after BMW’s Rolls Royce acquisition and lease of the trademarks, and for me, shortly retiring thereafter from the police service.

I am also a diehard certified preowned purchaser of just about all of my vehicles, short of certain vintage models I also had along the way. While I purchased my BMW from another Southern California BMW dealership as a CPO late model used with only about 8,000 miles on it, I have taken the car except for body work to another certified dealership almost exclusively for the entire ownership tenure of the car to New Century BMW of Alhambra, California, which is in East LA.

DISCLOSURE: New Century BMW, BMW North America, and BMW AG knew nothing about this article beforehand. While my loaner car was for free, it was part of the courtesy given to me as a loyal BMW owner and a loyal New Century BMW customer for almost 8 years. I did not notify any BMW entity of this article until after the car was returned. I thank Sidney Chan, my loyal dedicated Service Advisor at New Century BMW for his professional services over the years, and for lending me this car. It is people like those at New Century that keep me loyal to the BMW brand.

My car needed service for a broken key fob ignition switch in the dashboard that costs $770. Incidentally I may have put the fob in the dash a total of a half dozen times since I bought it; how something like this could break without using it, is beyond me. So I had to go down the road of the dealer trying to find out that this was the cause of all my warning lights to go off, for eventually all the electrical accessories not to work, not even things like the brake and blinker lights, the a/c, or even the convertible top or the speedo or fuel gauge. At the first sign of trouble with the car going into fail safe mode, I drove it directly to the dealer without an appointment. They accommodated me right away.

By spending an additional $500+ in diagnostics alone were we able to find the cause. I was told by Sidney that this kind of servicing most likely could only be done at a BMW dealer, as few independent shops would carry such equipment to diagnose this problem. After their diagnostic equipment proved useless, either the appropriate equipment was brought in or the car was shipped somewhere else where the equipment was located.

Over the years I’ve had issues with my BMW. Recently I had a long term issue that I only saw the car in a nine month period for only three weeks. At 65,000 miles my car needed a partially exterior engine rebuild, including a $1500 ECU replacement, a total cost of $25,000 just in parts. Thank God Sidney had to twist my arm to get the extended warranty when the original was about to expire. I had no problems with the car up until then. Man am I glad I listened to him. I only paid the copay of $50 for God only knows how much the repair with labor would have cost. I remember his boss telling me that had I leased the car, they would’ve just swapped instead of what I had to go through. Now remember, this is the gas version. Electrics should be more simpler in design and build, but electrics are electrics.

And Sidney and his boss took real good care of me over the years, regardless. With exception of the five through seven series, I’ve driven just about every other BMW as a loaner car. In the meantime Sidney lent me a 2019 BMW 430i two door Grand Coupe for the 10 or so days it took for diagnostics. Overall I’m blessed with the luxury service BMW provides that compensates for the quality build they have with their cars. This is where I tell people you’re now better off leasing these cars, especially a BMW, as opposed to purchasing them. Electrics will only intensify this issue. My faith in the brand was shaken no doubt, but I’m still with them to enjoy the brand.

The 430i I Borrowed

Ever since 2013 when BMW decided to split the 3 Series into two different models, confusion set in that since BMW has never really been able to clarify. And now that they’re making a variant of the 4 series in all electric, it may complicate things even further. While the 7 Series is the flagship model of the range, it is the 3 series that is the bread and butter of the BMW line that makes the most money and reputation for the brand. To keep the 3 Series pure, the only way you can now get a 3 Series is either in a compact executive car saloon or in a four door shooting brake wagon form. The coupe, called a Grand Coupe, is now in a larger more mid sized 4 series iteration, in fastback two and four door, a drophead hardtop that may soon come instead as a soft top, and a CUV version.

Getting into a 2019 430 I’m not quite impressed with interior craftsmanship quality and materials. I miss the real walnut dash and side panels that’s inside my cabrio, but I’m old school. It almost seems that BMW engineers and designers have spent too much time coming to the states renting Cadillacs at airports. I think my 2011 interior is closer to the brand’s standards than this new model. What do like about the 4 Series that I envy not to have with my 3 is the larger interior and more expansive hood area that kinda reminds me of land yachts of yore. All that’s missing is the hood ornament that BMW hasn’t had for decades. You definitely have more sheet metal around you in a 4 Series in case of collision, and you can tell that BMW engineers took full advantage of this extra size in the driving and comfort dynamics when designing and building this car. The back seat in my 3 Series is tight, it’s really a 2+2 rear seat in a pinch only, but the 4 Series two door back seat may give you a little more room, but it ain’t the same as a Bentley Brooklands Coupe either, for that matter.

I could also never understand why BMW can’t put a great quality easy to use infotainment system into their cars. My Harmon Kardon upgrade has great speakers but a horrible radio that goes with it. It’s a Manhattan project to set and Bluetooth pair, and an Apollo program to use. iPhone integration for 2011 was so horrible, that I eventually disconnected the Bluetooth to just use the speakerphone when someone calls me in the car. While Bluetooth integration has improved for 2019, Apple CarPlay has much to be desired.

In fact, I don’t see what the big deal is with CarPlay with the cars I’ve used it in, especially inside a BMW. The car kept constantly searching for my iPhone to eventually give up. Occasionally I had to help the car along in settings, but even sometimes that even failed that I eventually reached my destination without tunes or navigation assistance. A shame. There were times the car snatched up my phone before I even drove off. Go figure.

There are some of you out there who wonder why the hell do I put up with all. this. If you are wondering this, then you’ve never driven a BMW to really appreciate the driving dynamics. I have a Class A CDL drivers license with all endorsements, so I’ve driven just about everything on the road from a ‘76 Honda Civic to a Mercedes Benz S Class to a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow to a Silver Rolls Royce Phantom 7 to a half million dollar Mercedes Benz Setra Coach to a Mach Tractor. I’ve taken all kinds of tactical police pursuit courses and high speed executive protection security driving courses to be a professional driver. With this all said, there is nothing truly like driving a BMW. It truly is the ultimate driving machine. You will never get this in a Lexus, an Alfa, maybe a Jaguar, and with the exception of the S Class, not in a Mercedes either, except maybe their high end performance cars. Ever.

And so it is when you start the turbo in line four cylinder in a 2019 BMW 430i. This is such a torquey high powered high energy power plant that is so sparing on gas, that there really is no reason to upgrade to the six cylinder. When stepping onto the highway, the torque was almost electric-like that came on almost on demand despite its turbo boost. I didn’t really detect any lag.

What I also envy about this 4 Series that I don’t have with my 3 is fuel economy. I was doing median high twenties low thirties in my tenure of an combo city/highway driving through East and South LA with a stint up to gorgeous Ventura County up north, and I wasn’t being a fuel miser either. I’m getting 2011 full size SUV mileage of about 17 mpg in my 3.0 litre in line six. As much as I love the six I’d trade it in for the turbo four, and eventually for the electric if I had a choice. You’d scoff at 373 miles for range, but if you think about recent developments in battery tech, that the efficiencies are going up and costs going down, 373 doesn’t seem that far fetched by 2020-2021 when this car in electric iteration will be in full production hopefully.

I was originally a Cadillac then a Mercury man, to be partial to that smooth boulevard ride those cars were famous for. The only European car that I think has found a way to have the best of both worlds of precise handling and ride with quiet library floating serenity is the S Class. The Queen of the Roads truly found her sweet spot. Nothing beats S Class, not even Bentley or Rolls. The 4 Series makes a good effort at trying to reproduce that quality of ride, but a little on the bumpy side. And this is where you know that the electric version will inherit this from her gas sister, that ability for the car to stay on the road and hug the curves and curbs as it exits the highway without flinching or fish tailing. I’m just hoping there’s no nose dive when emergency braking. And I’m hoping with that heavy battery pack without the skateboard that’s put all over the place in the car for even weight distribution, that the bulk will help keep her down and closer to the ground for better handling.

The electric steering I can take or leave. The 4 Series is on the numbing side that leaves just enough to want you to have more feeling of the road. This is where I prefer my car’s steering that it feels like it doesn’t have any power assist at all at times, and I kinda like that feeling. I miss that inside the 4.

Assessment

I see that other reviews put the 4 Series somewhere in the 7-8/10 category and I concur, and that’s a decent rating. The 4 Series falls right in line with the BMW dynamic, probably for the better and worse. I’m eternally hopeful that the turbo four is more reliable than the six ever was, but it having more intricacies like a turbo probably reduces those chances. I’m hoping her electric sister will offer all the virtues of BMW dynamics with less of the problems. I do know this: if you want a comfortable car that is a joy to drive to zip around town or do some serious autobahn-like driving on the interstate, the 4 Series is your girl. The electric can only be an improvement. Just lease them, don’t buy. Here’s to 2020!

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The photo of the camo 4 electric that spread the story is from CarPix. Photos of the BMW electric protos courtesy of BMW Media. The photos of the white 4 Series were taken by me, Al Castro. Images are published here and all under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, and news reporting. My photos now belong to Hareyan Publishing. Please ask my boss permission if you want use them if not for these purposes. Ask CarPix and BMW for theirs.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: There is someone I’d like to thank for the seven years of faithful unyielding dedicated service of keeping my 2011 BMW 328i in the shape it is in today. One could swear that Sidney Chan of New Century BMW in Alhambra California, is like I once was, a faithful civil servant. In many ways he is and has been for the seven years I’ve had the car that his dealership has serviced it to perfection. There have been tough times and trying times in keeping my car that way at New Century, but in the end as always, New Century has been there for me. The least I can do is recognize Sidney for his professional dedicated service and the dealership he works for. I can think of no other BMW dealership, and no other service advisor who matches New Century and Sidney, respectively. Thank you for the service and the loaner, Sidney Chan. And thank you, New Century BMW!

UPDATED NOTICE: I am so grateful that my publisher allows me the generous privilege within reason to express my opinions about matters related to the auto industry. I try to be judicious and respectful about the content. I ask you do the same in the comments section by refraining from inappropriate language and content. Please be nice; there’s no reason to get nasty, this is only about cars. The irony is if you came up on me on the street to recognize me I’d grab a beer or coffee with you and we’d talk about cars for me to thank you for being a reader! I may disagree but I truly do love you all, I’d take a bullet for many of you. And please keep in mind that the opinions expressed here are solely mine, and not those of Hareyan Publishing or its employees, including my staff colleagues.

Al Castro is a security expert and a retired LEO who is a staff and opinion piece writer on electric and autonomous vehicles for Torque News.

What do you think of the BMW 4 Series as a setup for BMW’s first all electric full production car? Please let us know below!


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Comments

Thanks Al for the BMW article, past, present and future. I have a BMW 545i, which has a great solid feel, and a smooth, powerful V8. Unfortunately I have hardly driven it over the past few years because it is hard to compete against the low price of plugging in my Volt (now ELR) at home. Costing pennies per mile to drive. I had read about BMW's small EV BEV. I was never a fan of the i3, which to me looks like an awkward design (compared to the i8 which looks great), so I am happy to hear of the i3's replacement, and I am surprised that they are planning to release a 4 series BEV (i4?) in 2020. I hope that it doesn't get delayed. I am certain the the great success of the Tesla Model 3 has accelerated the development and production of these new EV models. 373 miles of range seems ambitious for a 100kWh battery. Tesla manages 335mi with the Model S 100D. But we shall see. I am also eager to see what the pricing is, because even though the later 60kWh battery model will be price compatible with the entry Model 3, the initial 100kWh i4 will probably be priced higher.
Thanks Dean, yes it will be called the i4, but in the 4Series range and not as a separate vehicle the i3 once was. I’m sure it was a great zippy little car but I didnt like the looks of the i3. Why did they have to make electric cars look that way, so Nissan Leaf and Prius looking? Anyway, since you have no more use for it, you need to give me the keys to that 545i. Now.