Any apprehensions I may have harboured around the daily practicality or validity of an all-electric world was summarily erased after just 24 hours behind the wheel of the 2022 BMW i4 M50.
This isn’t the kind of unconventional electric Noddy car from BMW we saw with its quirky i3, as cool as that thing was with its high-tech carbon-fibre tub and renewables-based cockpit. No – the i4 M50 is an entirely different proposition altogether and infinitely more addictive.
First and foremost, it’s a bona-fide game changer. Not just for BMW, mind, but for any enthusiast type who might be looking for a pain-free approach to the transition from combustion-engined cars to electric vehicles (EVs). The i4 M50 makes it almost seamless.
It’s also the first pure-electric performance car from BMW M, but I need to make a distinction here that sets the scene for an even more thrilling sequel – as hard as the i4 M50 jets off the line, it’s still not a full-blown M car. That will likely come in the form of the i4 M in the not-too-distant future.
I’ve got to be brutally honest with you, though. When I first got the word I’d be driving a half-baked BMW M Performance EV, my enthusiasm dropped a few notches – out of pure ignorance of course.
Then the BMW PR guy hit me with the i4 M50’s top-line figures; two synchronous electric motors (one front, one rear) driving all-four wheels, 400kW/795Nm and a 0-100 sprint time of 3.9 seconds.
If that wasn’t enough to get my heart rate going, insiders have also confirmed my suspicions that it’s even quicker, and BMW is downplaying its real-world performance. I’d love to prove them correct. Either way, this is an immensely powerful car also that boasts a claimed range of up to 465km from its 84kWh battery, with a DC charging rate of up to 200kW for ultra-fast top ups.
It sounds downright compelling, right? At least on paper. Quite frankly, I really didn’t know what to expect given my limited time behind the wheel of battery electric vehicles. In fact, I can count those I’ve driven on one hand; BMW i3, Tesla Model S P85, Tesla Model 3, Porsche Taycan, and not much time in any.
I’m also one of those people who don’t think much of Tesla’s design language despite its overwhelming success to date. Characterless is how I would describe it, but I’m also the first to give Elon Musk a big shoutout for the enormous impact the brand has made on EV ownership and charging infrastructure.
On the other hand, the Taycan is an EV that so perfectly personifies one’s perception of a fast EV from the Porsche brand, whereas the BMW i3 was unique in every way and totally cool with its quirkiness and F1-inspired carbon-fibre tub.
While the i4 M50 doesn’t look futuristic or possess any of those design peculiarities one might associate with the latest EV from a tech innovator like BMW, it is quintessentially BMW M through and through which is what I like about it so much.
It took a while, but I’m now sold on the BMW’s latest design, as enormous as those kidney grilles are. It’s not beautiful like a 1974 3.0 CSi, but it’s got so much presence even standing still in a car park.
Then there’s the satin-finished ‘Individual Frozen Portimao Blue Metallic’ paint job on our tester – almost enough to get me to sign on the bottom line on its own, which is a first. Until now, I’ve never been a fan of matte or satin finishes, but nothing besides the badging itself says M better than this exterior paint.
Apart from the paint, there’s some subtle design cues that hint towards its all-electric drivetrain like the flush door handles and rear diffuser devoid of the usual integrated quad exhaust tips you’d find on an M car with these performance credentials.
The standard-fit, blue-rimmed Laserlight headlights are a bit of a nod, as are the M High-Gloss Shadow Line accents as part of the M Aerodynamics package that adorn front and rear bumpers (including the tell-tale closed-off kidney grille), as well as the side sills. It’s all just a bit different, but still largely conventional M in style.
For those looking for more convenience in their BMW EV, the i4 M50 covers that off nicely, too. It’s built off the same body-in-white as the 4 Series Gran Coupe, meaning it’s effectively a five-door hatch designed to look like a well-proportioned sedan.
Inside, there’s still a sense of conventionality and luxury, except for the huge curved screen that stretches across two-thirds of the dashboard and more than matches those you find in top-end Mercedes-Benz vehicles – pixel for pixel.
Oh, and if you’re wondering where the cool Jetsons-style noise comes from inside the cabin – we can thank German film score legend Hans Zimmer (The Lion King, Gladiator, The Dark Night) for creating a suite of cool surround sounds that seem to enhance the your EV experience from the moment you climb in to the moment you hit the Sport Boost setting.
The i4 M50 (AWD) is the top specification in BMW’s i4 range and priced from $124,900 plus on-road costs and options.
Our tester was also fitted with the following options:
- M interior trim finishers in carbon-fibre: $1200
- Comfort Package: $1300
- Heated steering wheel
- Heated front and rear seats
- M Sport Plus Package: $1200
- M Lights Shadowline
- M seat belts
- M High-gloss Shadowline with extended contents
- M Sport seats for driver and front passenger: $2000
- M Carbon exterior package: $5900
However, gaining entry into BMW’s all-electric 4 Series Gran Coupe range kicks off with the i4 eDrive40 M Sport (RWD), priced from $99,900 plus on-roads.
Rivals are few and far between, but include the top-spec Polestar 2 Long Range Dual Motor ($69,900) but it can’t match the power output, performance or range of the BMW.
There’s also the Tesla Model 3 Performance from $91,672 plus on-roads. It undercuts the BMW by some margin and is quicker from 0-100km/h while boasting slightly more range.
The Model 3 is a conventional five-door sedan and therefore can’t match the luggage capacity of the BMW despite the addition of a frunk, which the i4 doesn’t offer due to cabling and components.
It’s worth noting the base i4 eDrive40 M Sport is already loaded to the hilt with features, while the additional outlay for the i4 M50 primarily centres around the additional electric motor and performance gains rather than a host of extra features.
i4 M50 highlights:
- Five-year Chargefox membership
- Adaptive M suspension
- Ambient lighting
- Three-zone climate control
- Auto tailgate
- 19-inch M light alloy wheels with performance tyres
- M wing mirrors
- Metallic paint
- Exterior trim in Cerium Grey
- M interior trim in aluminium rhombicle anthracite
- Head-up display
- BMW Iconic Sounds Electric (by Hans Zimmer)
- BMW Laserlight
- BMW Live Cockpit Professional
- 14-inch touchscreen infotainment screen
- 12.3-inch digital driver’s display
- BMW iDrive 8.0
- DAB+ digital radio
- Keyless entry and ignition
- Adaptive cruise control with Stop&Go
- Electric glass sunroof
- Harman/kardon 16-speaker audio system
- Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (wireless)
- Wireless smartphone charging
- Auto lights and wipers
- Electric lumbar adjustment for driver
- M anthracite headliner
- M leather steering wheel
- M Technology package including increased braking performance
- M rear spoiler in body colour
- Front and rear parking sensors
- Surround view cameras with 3D view
- Parking Assistant plus incl. Active Park
- Sports seats for driver and front passenger
- Seat heating for driver and front passenger
- Sport Boost function (+50kW and +65Nm) for five second stints
- Heated door mirrors with anti-glare driver’s mirror
- Tyre repair kit
- Variable sport steering
- M Aerodynamics package (front and rear bumper trims and side sills)
- Domestic socket charging cable Mode 2 (five-metre with max power 1.8kW)
- Type 2 CCS charging port on driver side – Max AC charging 11kW, Max DC charging 200kW
The i4 in any guise has not been crash tested by Euro NCAP or ANCAP, and as such has no safety rating score… yet
However, the combustion-powered BMW 4 Series Coupe on which the i4 is based was crash tested by Euro NCAP in 2019, and achieved a five-star safety rating with the following category scores – Adult occupant protection: 97 per cent, Child occupant protection: 83 per cent, Vulnerable road users: 93 per cent, Safety assist: 72 per cent.
Moreover, the i4 M50 is all-wheel drive and is equipped with eight airbags (front airbags for driver and front passenger, side airbags for driver and front passenger, head airbags for all four seats), as well as more powerful M Sport brakes.
The i4 also gets acoustic protection for pedestrians, which is a turbine-like external sound that’s emitted outside the car when driving forwards or backwards at speeds up to 30km/h.
There’s also a suite of the latest active safety systems including:
- Autonomous Emergency Braking
- Adaptive cruise control with stop/go
- Steering and Lane Control Assistant
- Semi-autonomous highway mode
- Lane departure warning
- Lane change warning
- Front and rear cross-traffic alert
- Crossroads warning with Evasion Assistant
- Parking Assistant Plus
- Front and rear parking sensors
- Reversing Assistant
- Surround View camera system
If you’re captivated by the design and detail of the i4 M50’s bodywork, you’re most likely going to love what they’ve done with the cabin.
Even with the rather lacklustre black colour scheme in our tester, there’s still a strong sense of top-shelf build quality with high-quality leather, real metal accents and genuine carbon-fibre trim. Not too much of anything that would make it appear too blingy, though.
The optional M Sport seats are a must with this car, not just for the additional support and bolster they provide, but for the sheer all-body comfort and aesthetic value they offer. The detail is nice too, with contrast twin blue stitching all over the seat as well as an all-black M badge in the headrests.
I’ve always liked the tri-colour M stitching on the seatbelts, too. It’s subtle enough for passengers not to notice, but for you to enjoy just the same.
There are more subtle blue accents that extend to the perfectly-round M steering wheel, shifter and start button which give you an innate sense you’re in a BMW i electric car.
However, the standout feature in the cabin is the huge high-tech curved display that runs across at least two-thirds of the entire dashboard. It offers crystal clear graphics, vibrant colours as well as fast processing and response.
Although it might appear as one seamless unit, the driver’s display is a 12.3-inch configurable screen that changes with each of the drive modes, whereas the infotainment touchscreen is a whopping 14-inch unit, but again, endlessly configurable either using the touchscreen or iDrive controller.
Naturally, it’s got wireless smartphone mirroring but this system is ultra-fast and as robust as I’ve come across. Even before I’d sat in the driver’s seat, Apple CarPlay would already be on screen every time I got in. Such a pain-free experience is BMW’s iDrive 8 (they now call it Operating System 8.0).
Thankfully, BMW have left us a couple of dials (volume and iDrive) and shortcut buttons for everyday convenience rather than an all-digital cockpit, though climate control settings are on-screen only, but in this case they’re easy enough.
The old-school shifter is a pleasant surprise, too, though I suspect we’ll see a Porsche-style toggle replace it in the not-too-distant future.
There’s the usual odd-and-ends storage up front including cup-holders, console bin, USB-C ports and a wireless charging pad where your phone can sit.
It’s also comfortably wide enough for driver and front passenger to get plenty of elbow space.
Not so in the second row, where there’s room for two only if comfort is the priority due to a decent transmission tunnel bulge. In any case the centre seat is small while foot room is only ample across the back row, rather than generous.
That said, rear-seat passengers get their own digital climate controls and USB-C ports (two), as well as a centre armrest and cup-holders.It’s also where you’ll find the most hard plastics – namely the seatbacks and lower portion of the door trim.
Luggage and gear-carrying practicality is built into the i4 M50 given its hatchback design, which opens up to 470 litres behind the second row and grows to 1290 litres when folded in a 20:40:20 pattern. Nothing better than this style of boot which effectively transforms your sedan into a veritable station wagon capable of swallowing much larger stuff like boards and bikes.
Unlike many EVs, the BMW i4 doesn’t get a frunk due to the componentry that sits under the bonnet.
Well, not much in the way of space at least and nothing you can actually see. There’s a black cover with an M logo and underneath are cabling and motor components.
The power source for the i4 is the BMW Gen5 Integrated Drive Unit, which in the i4 M50 amounts to two very clever electrically-excited synchronous motors (one at each axle), a high-density lithium-ion battery, with it all seamlessly controlled by sophisticated systems that manage everything from the power and torque sent to each axle, to the adaptive energy recuperation and regenerative braking.
The power itself is sent to both axles through a single-speed automatic transmission with a fixed ratio, the amount of which is carefully apportioned depending on which drive mode is selected; Sport, Comfort or Eco Pro.
Outputs are immense – 400kW of power and 795Nm of torque, and that’s from the very instant you give it the beans. BMW claim it will go from standstill to 100km/h in 3.9 seconds, though it feels quicker to me.
Both versions of the i4 get the same 84kWh battery (81kWh net) with up to 200 kW DC/11kW AC charging using three-phase power. It also means you should be able to charge the i4 M50 from 5 to 80 per cent in as little as 30 minutes using an Ultra-Rapid Charger.
Depending on which drive mode you select the range will differ. BMW claim the i4 M50 will get as much as 465km on a full charge if driven in Eco Pro. It’s noticeably less if you stick with Sport (or Sport Boost) my experience saw around 395km of real-world range.
So, you’re an enthusiast and never driven an all-electric car before – no problem, the BMW i4 M50 is the car for you.
Just hop in, foot on the brake, hit the blue Start/Stop button once and you’re set to jet after engaging Drive via the shifter in the usual manner. There’s no warming up the motor, you just go. It’s that easy.
And, does it go. Select Sport Boost on the touchscreen or via the shortcut buttons on the centre console, and you better hold on to that beautifully-crafted M steering wheel for dear life if you intend to apply full throttle. You don’t drive this thing, rather, you just fly low.
In fact, the only time the i40 M50 unleashes maximum thrust is in Sport Boost which adds 50kW and 65Nm to its electric drive.
Truly, throttle response is mind-blowing in this mode. It caught me by complete surprise the first time I punched it at the lights. So much so I backed off immediately, because it felt too damn quick for public roads at that split second.
In all seriousness, I’d bet my house the i4 M50 is as fast to 60km/h as the Porsche 911 Turbo on any given day.
However, under full load the car’s posture is a bit odd. I didn’t notice it at first, likely because I was having so much fun and there’s seemingly no dynamic penalty. But the car sits back on its haunches while the nose lifts in the air a bit like a speed boat under power before it starts to plane.
It’s likely the effect of the i4 M50’s unique combination of air-suspension down back with springs and dampers up front, which also produces class-leading ride and handling. More on that shortly.
While quick off-the-line getaways from the inside lane become routine, it’s the sheer freedom to always have the power to switch lanes safety and find that gap in traffic that’s not always possible with many petrol-powered vehicles.
And it’s effortless, requiring nothing more than a deliberate prod of the throttle while enjoying the unique (let’s call it M-turbine) sound that’s at its most audible in this mode. That’s the man-made sounds by German composer Hans Zimmer for BMW’s e-mobility – “a fusion between energy and strength”, according to Zimmer.
You still get the turbine sounds in Comfort that mirrors the engine revs in an ICE car, but the notes deepen and the volume amplifies in the Sport setting. It’s very cool and while I thought I might have grown tired of it, I wanted more.
What amazes me more than any other factor with this car is its agility and genuine light-on-its-feet feedback through the steering wheel despite tipping the scales at over 300kg heavier than an M4.
To me, it handles corners and chicanes with the same level of confidence of a very well-sorted sports sedan. In fact, it feels and reacts as a much lighter car than its 2215kg kerb weight would suggest. I still don’t believe this figure, it can’t be, but it is.
The steering is quick and nicely weighted depending on what mode you’re in, while body control is kept in check so there’s very little roll even on turn-in at solid pace. I’m not entirely sure how BMW M has managed this engineering feat but I’m a dead-set fan.
Even in Comfort there’s a degree of regenerative braking at play, but scroll through to Sport Boost and you can effectively drive your i4 M50 with the throttle pedal alone as friction braking will bring you to a complete stop at times. You’ll need to get used to it though, or it can induce nausea.
Ride comfort is downright exemplary regardless of the drive mode.
Potholes, broken edges or any other road in Sydney’s ‘burbs are more-or-less suppressed, but not at the expense of handling. There’s more of that M engineering trickery at work here.
And if you want to tow, the i4 has a 1600kg maximum towing capacity.
The BMW i4 range is covered by is covered by the company’s three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. The battery is also covered for eight-years or 160,000km – whichever comes first.
BMW has fixed-price service plans for the i4 range, with four years priced at $1240, and six years at $1765.
Buyers of the BMW i4 also get a complimentary five-year subscription to the Chargefox EV charger network, meaning you can top up at Fast and Ultra-Fast charge stations free of charge for the first 60 months of ownership
While these Chargers range from 50kW (Fast) to 350kW (Ultra-Fast), the i4 is capable of up to 200kW. I saw 50 per cent to 95 per cent in around 30 minutes in my experience.
Best to download the MyBMW app to find those charging stations and to remotely access your range and other vehicle functions via your smartphone.
Without a doubt it’s one of the most thrilling and immediately addictive cars I’ve driven this year, and that’s in the company of some serious exotica including the Porsche 911 GT3, Ferrari 296 GTB and Aston Martin DBX707.
The i4 M50 is a game changer not just for BMW but for any enthusiast driver that wants a seamless transition from ICE cars to the full EV experience; a car that so perfectly blends design, performance and dynamics in a package that will thrill you every time you climb into the driver’s seat.
Naturally, I’d like the range to be longer in Sport mode and for there to be less hard plastics in the second row, but these are minor complaints and do nothing to dampen my enthusiasm to get my own i4 M50. It could be the perfect new-world daily.
Or, do I wait for the i4 M?
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