It’s almost time to bid farewell to my beloved BMW i3, my fourth since 2014. Back then, I was new to electric cars but drawn to the concept of an affordable, city-friendly, full carbon fiber vehicle. Leasing was economical, and with limited charging infrastructure in Chicago, opting for a Range Extender was a wise decision. Every two years, I traded up to the latest i3, typically with a bigger battery and a fresh coat of paint. I kept the features minimal – manual seats, eco-friendly seat fabric, and heated seats. That’s all it took for me to consider the i3 an excellent choice for city life and family driving. I transitioned from a black and white i3 (Panda) to an all-black model, then to Melbourne Red, and finally to Midnight Blue. I had my eye on the Galvanic Gold, just like my friend Chuck has, but I was a few months ahead of the production release for that color.
The i3 Journey: From Novice to Enthusiast
Through the years, I grew fonder of the i3 than I initially expected. It proved to be a practical choice with ample interior space for my needs, including accommodating car seats. Plus, driving this distinctive and relatively uncommon car in Chicago felt undeniably cool. It was almost like having our own little car club, as every i3 driver I encountered would exchange waves and smiles. I truly believed I’d hold onto this final i3 REx indefinitely, thinking it would be a forever car. Even though its electric range is modest by today’s standards, it comfortably covered my daily commute and occasional long journeys. The Range Extender was my peace of mind, a $4,000 investment that, in my view, always justified its cost.
During the COVID period, the used car market saw a significant surge in prices, and my i3’s value exceeded my lease pay-off amount. This solidified my belief that it would be economically sound to buy out the lease at the end of the 36-month term and continue driving it for a few more years before considering a trade-in for a newer model. While BMW’s current offerings don’t align perfectly with my lifestyle, I’m quite fond of the iX (more on that soon, as I have a long-term press car). However, it’s always been a bit beyond my budget and a touch more car than I need. On the other hand, the i4 is a fantastic sports car, impressively fast, modern, and boasts more than enough range for my requirements. Still, it doesn’t capture the unique essence of the i3; it feels more like a conventional BMW (which was BMW’s intention). Nevertheless, it’s a popular choice, which speaks to BMW’s success in this regard.
From Forever Car to New Possibilities
However, by 2023, the automotive landscape has undergone a radical transformation. BMW i3 prices, as well as used car values, have sharply declined. Consequently, my 2020 i3 REx is no longer as valuable as it once was. The payoff amount now stands at $29,000, plus applicable taxes, which, given my location in Chicago, totals around $32,000. This figure might also provide some insight into the remarkable affordability of my i3 lease, which came in at just $308 per month – an astonishing rate for a carbon fiber electric vehicle. The true market value of a similar car like mine? Around $21,000 – buying out this i3 REx wouldn’t make much sense.
So now I was back on the market. Contrary to what some might believe, car journalists (even those who cover mostly BMW news and products) still go through the usual buying process. You find a dealer you like, you configure your car, you negotiate a price and you wait. There are no corners to be cut, there are no major discounts, nor any freebies. I mentioned the BMW EV options already, so the choices were limited. I would have loved the iX1, but unfortunately it’s not coming to the United States. I would have equally loved an iX2, especially since it has grown in size, it has a decent electric range and looks quirky and somewhat cool.
However, BMW of North America had a different path in mind for these electric crossovers, leaving me with just one option: the BMW i4 Gran Coupe. I had the opportunity to drive this car on a few occasions, including a prototype version. In fact, I was among the first individuals outside of BMW to experience an i4 prototype – quite the bragging rights. The performance and handling instantly won me over; it felt like a fresh, high-quality product with double the range of my i3. Even though it lacked the practical interior and distinctive quirkiness of the i3, it’s a car that fits my personality. Especially in the i4 M50 form.
Considering the i4 Options
In the United States, BMW presents customers with four distinct i4 options: the entry-level i4 eDrive35, the i4 eDrive40 and xDrive40, and the high-performance M50. My immediate decision was to exclude the eDrive35 and the i4 M50. The former, while a great choice for an entry-level electric BMW, offers less range compared to the eDrive40 and slightly slower DC Fast Charging. As for the latter, it exceeded my requirements and came at a somewhat higher cost, with fewer incentives available at the time of ordering. This left me with a straightforward choice between the RWD and AWD variants of the i4.
Chicago receives a decent amount of snow each year, although less than before. The winters are cold and icy, making an xDrive BMW typically more practical. However, having driven the i3 RWD with winter tires for the past nine years, I’ve grown accustomed to confidently navigating snow with rear-wheel drive and proper tires. Plus, it allows me to save some money. Therefore, I settled on the 2024 BMW i4 eDrive40 as my choice.
The Configuration Surprise
I’m not quite ready to unveil all the specific details of my configuration; I’ll save that for a future article to bring a smile to your faces. However, I can tell you that it genuinely surprised both my significant other and my dealer. Interestingly, the folks at Laurel BMW of Westmont even reached out multiple times to confirm my choice (A quick thank you note to Lilly Kolarski). Given that it’s a lease, and I’m likely to replace it in 2026 with a Neue Klasse BMW or perhaps an iX, I decided to go all out. The options list remains relatively concise; I prefer a straightforward driving experience and satisfy my tech cravings with the new BMWs I frequently test. Of course, I’ll miss some of the driver assistance and comfort features that my current iX offers, but I aimed to keep the lease costs down, especially since it’s several times more than what I pay for the i3.
Regrettably, next month, my cherished BMW i3 will return to the dealership. However, I plan to film a video review and share my experience with the car, as I remain a staunch advocate for the i3. I firmly believe it’s one of the finest products BMW has ever crafted and, in my view, a potential future classic. If you come across one in the used car market with relatively low mileage, especially from the 2018-2019 models and beyond, I wholeheartedly recommend taking a closer look. And if range anxiety is a concern, the Range Extender version is a solid solution.
A New Chapter with the i4
My entire family will bid farewell to the i3; it has been a constant presence in our lives for as long as we can recall and was the vehicle that initially convinced me of the merits of electromobility. While I’ll always have a proper sports car (the 1M still resides in my garage), the second car will undoubtedly remain an electric vehicle. So, it’s time to set out on a fresh adventure with the BMW i4, and I’ll be sure to take you along on this journey, sharing my insights on the experience of owning an i4.
Stay tuned for the spec reveal!