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BMW i4 Electric Sedan Concept Previews Your Battery-Powered Status Symbol

The exterior looks familiar, but the inside shows a new look for BMW.

Do we call it the electric 3-series, or do we call it Tesla's next nightmare? Whichever angle you choose, the BMW i4 Concept, scheduled for its debut at the now-cancelled Geneva Motor Show, gives us our first glimpse at BMW's upcoming all-electric mid-size sedan.

If the Concept i4 looks familiar, that's because it borrows liberally from the Concept 4 coupe shown at last year's Frankfurt Motor Show. Cues we recognize include the giant kidney grille flanked by low-profile squinty headlights (so in case you were hopeful that wasn't going to happen, well, it is) and nifty light-pipe taillights. Four doors and an even model number make it a Gran Coupe, and it's interesting (to the car geeks around the office, at least) that BMW is showing this as a 4-series and not a 3-series sedan—presuming BMW intends to keep any consistency between its i range and the rest of its lineup.

The specs are along the lines of what we've come to expect from performance electric cars: 530 hp, 0-60 in under four seconds, 124-mph-plus top speed and 373-mile range in the WLTP cycle (the EPA figure will be lower, probably closer to 240 miles), fed by an 80-kWh battery weighing approximately 1,200 lbs. BMW says the motor, controller, charger and battery are part of its fifth-generation eDrive system which will make its debut in the upcoming iX3 SUV. It's worth noting that the Concept i4 uses a single motor, and we can't help but wonder if a dual-motor M version might be part of BMW's performance future.

Outside, the Concept i4's sheetmetal does an impressive job of maintaining familial familiarity while maximizing aerodynamics. The giant twin-kidney grille is actually two flat plates which house the car's various sensors. The wheels are designed for low weight, high strength, and aerodynamics. The car is finished off in stunning Frozen Light Copper paint with blue accents.

The Concept i4's interior represents a serious break from BMW tradition, particularly in its raw minimalism. They've avoided the portrait-style tablet screen now approaching ubiquity in electric concepts, but the displays have been reduced to two curved high-resolution horizontal displays integrated into a single unit. Metal stand-offs hold them above a minimalist wood-covered dash that has definite Model 3 overtones, but the twin air vents seem like a last vestige of traditional BMW design, as does the crystal dial controller and drive-mode selectors set into the center stack. A full-length glass roof lets the light in, and it reflects beautifully off of the white upholstery and copper-colored trim.

There is a production version of the i4 coming. BMW has tooled up its Munich plant to built combustion-engine, hybrid and electric vehicles on the same assembly line, and the plant will begin producing the i4 sometime in 2021.