TEST DRIVE: 2022 BMW i4 M50 – Delivering Sheer Driving Pleasure

If you're used to BMW products, the BMW i4 should be an easy car to transition into.

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The electric offensive from Munich kicks off in 2022 with a new range of electrified products. The headliners are the BMW i4 Gran Coupe and iX crossover. While the latter will sit at the top of the electric lineup and on its own platform, the former will be, for a while, BMW’s entry-level electric model. Not only that, but the i4 will also be the first electric BMW “massaged” by the M division. The 2022 BMW i4 M50 is the pinnacle of the 4 Series family aiming to be a strong contender in the premium midsize segment of electric cars.

Back in June, 2021, we were invited to California to sample an early production BMW i4 prototype. At the time, no specs nor the model name were shared with us, but it was clearly evident that I was driving the highest performance i4 there is. Fast forward a few months later and BMW was ready to lift off the veil of their i4 M50. Only this time around, I was invited to its birthplace – Munich – to test the i4 through a variety of different scenarios.

Sheer Driving Pleasure And Electric Cars

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Based on the 4 Series Gran Coupe

While the BMW iX I tested the day before was positioned as a comfortable and luxurious electric crossover, the BMW i4 M50 takes a different approach. BMW engineers in charge of the i4 project mention countless hours of work to prove that “Sheer Driving Pleasure” slogan can live on with BMW electric cars. But how can BMW ensure its customers have the driving experience and performance they expect in a car with a roundel on it and no combustion engine?

It all starts with one of BMW’s best driving series models. The canvas for the i4 is the new BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe, an elegant (subjectively), spacious and practical five-door coupe. The BMW i4 measures 4.785 meters (188.3 inches) in length and sitting five people. The overall dimensions are 1,852 millimeters (72.9 inches) in width, 1,448 millimeters (57 inches) in height with a wheelbase of 2,856-millimeters (112.4 inches). It is exactly 13 millimeters (0.5 inches) wider than the 3 Series sedan.

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Thanks to the the high-voltage battery positioned low down in the vehicle floor, the center of gravity is quite low – 37 millimeters (1.45 inches) for BMW i4 M50 or 53 millimeters (2.1 inches) for BMW i4 eDrive40 lower than on a 3 Series Sedan. That gives the car a really dynamic stance and arguably a better driving experience.

A Shared Platform

Unlike the BMW iX, which is built on a bespoke electric vehicle platform, the i4 shares its underpinnings with the rest of the rear-wheel drive family of BMW cars. The flexible CLAR platform allows the Bavarians to build no less than four different variants on the same architecture: petrol, diesel, plug-in hybrid and electric.

On paper, that’s a smart move on BMW’s part as it allows them to shift production according to demand. But from the point view of an electric car aficionado, this approach has its shortcomings. And it all starts with the packaging. The platform was adapted to the requirements of an electric vehicle which include a large battery pack in the floorpan, two electric motors distributed evenly across the two axles, and plenty of power electronics hidden under the bonnet. Therefore, the inside space resembles that of a conventional 4 Series Gran Coupe, rather than a more spacious interior reserved for dedicated EV platforms. Like the i3 and iX.

Speaking of the battery pack, BMW says that it has four modules each with 72 cells. An additional section of the battery is housed in the center tunnel containing three modules with 12 cells each.

Flexible vs. Dedicated Architecture

TEST DRIVE: 2022 BMW i4 M50 – Delivering Sheer Driving Pleasure
Non-Functional Kidney Grille

The exterior design is also a consequence of the flexible architecture. While BMW designers had plenty of freedom in the styling of the iX, not the same can be said about the i4. From distance, and even upclose, the BMW i4 looks like a regular 4 Series. Yet, BMW says that strategy will play in their favor. Several BMW executives and engineers describe a BMW customer who prefers the conventional look of a BMW car, irrespective of the drivetrain. The idea here is that if a customer wants to move from a combustion-powered into an electric-powered BMW, the transition – at least visually – would be seamless.

The jury is still out on which strategy is the right one and only time will determine which automaker made the right bets. But it’s fair to say that there are plenty of advantages in using a dedicated platform which allows a lot more freedom in engineering, design and packaging.

M-Tuned

TEST DRIVE: 2022 BMW i4 M50 – Delivering Sheer Driving Pleasure
M Aero Package

The BMW i4 M50 is by no means an electric M car, but rather a first attempt by the sportscar division to leave their mark on electric BMWs. As expected, the i4 gets the typical M Sport bits, starting with an aggressive front bumper complemented by large air curtains. In the back you can also see the sculpted and dynamic diffuser adorned with blue accents, typical to a BMW i car. The standard equipment for the BMW i4 M50 is typical of an M Performance Automobile: Adaptive M Suspension, M Sport Brakes and M interior design. There is also a new feature for M-tuned electric cars: BMW Iconic Sounds for M cars.

Aiming to still be the Ultimate Driving Machine, the i4 M50 brings several improvements to the chassis as well, compared with the entry-level i4 eDrive40. For example, the driving dynamics were enhanced by increasing longitudinal and torsional stiffness of the body structure. The rear axle features air springs along with bracing elements. The front axle’s handling was enhanced thanks to increased negative camber. The near perfect weight distribution is also an important factor in the driving experience: 48.2 / 51.8% distribution.

An Electric Heart

The BMW i4 M50 is the only all-wheel drive model of the new i4 family. The dual-motors make 544 horsepower (400 kW) and 586 lb-ft of torque (795 Nm). All i4 cars use the same 81.5 net-energy battery pack but the i4 M50 has around 245 miles of range. If you want more range – around 300 miles on EPA rating – you can opt for the rear-wheel drive i4 eDrive40. Thanks to the massive power and torque, the BMW i4 M50 runs from 0 to 62 mph (0-100 km/h) in 3.9 seconds. The top speed is limited to 140 mph (225 km/h). The i4 M50 checks in with a DIN weight of 2,215 kg (4,883 lbs), and an EU weight of 2,290 (5,048 lbs).

The Driving Experience

TEST DRIVE: 2022 BMW i4 M50 – Delivering Sheer Driving Pleasure
Elegant Side View

A trip to Germany will always bring a combination of driving on curvy roads and the, sometimes, unlimited speed Autobahn. The BMW i4 M50 made no exception. Just like with the iX, the test route took me through Bavaria, into the Alps, and eventually on a section of the Autobahn leading to the airport. Therefore, I covered a typical route which many European customers will encounter in their daily life. And of course, efficiency and range preservation was at the bottom of my checklist. In the end, the i4 M50 is a proper sportscar and has to be driven accordingly.

The interior of the car was quite familiar: a large and curved digital panel, iDrive 8, and the typical setup of the center console which includes blue accents. The driver-oriented layout is also present, along with sport seats and a sport steering wheel. The rear seating are what you’d expect in a gran coupe: restricted headroom if you’re on the taller side, but overall a comfortable riding position.

The i4 M50 also gets a SPORT Boost function increasing the system’s combined drive power by 67 hp. At the same time, combined torque is upped by 48 lb-ft. The extra burst of acceleration is accompanied by an M-specific soundtrack.

BMW’s engineering team has also worked extensively on the braking module. The i4 features an integrated braking system which brings all the components into a single module. The result is a short and direct pedal feel, along with fast balancing between regenerative braking and friction braking.

The integrated brake system and Brake Energy Regeneration is rated at 116 kW for the base i4 eDrive40 model and 195 kW for the i4 M50. While the BMW i3 had a single brake-regen mode, the new i4 comes with no less than four options. The idea here is that you can still get the one pedal feeling. but if you want to drive longer distances, maybe you want to have more comfort. This is why you can choose the amount of recuperation in the i4.

You have three levels and one adaptive mode. You can change from the one-pedal feeling to coasting where you have no recuperation. And you have a mode in between. If you don’t care about switching the modes, there is an adaptive mode which does the work for you. For instance, if you drive behind another car and get closer, the i4 will start to recuperate. But if you don’t have anyone in front of you, the i4 coasts so you don’t lose energy in recuperation.

In braking situations, the first thing the car does is to recuperate energy. But if you need additional braking force, only then it will use the mechanical brakes. So during my drive I played around with all these modes. On backroads, I mostly used the High mode which did most of the braking for me. At the other end of the spectrum is the Low regen-mode which feels like you’re driving a “normal” BMW where you need to do all the braking.

TEST DRIVE: 2022 BMW i4 M50 – Delivering Sheer Driving Pleasure
Largest Display In A BMW

Starting up the car is done just like in the conventional 4 Series – A quick push on the blue Start/Stop button. Just like most new BMWs, the i4 comes with three different driving modes: ECO PRO, COMFORT and SPORT. Each mode can be further customized. Clearly, the ECO setup will aim for the best efficiency and highest electric range. The SPORT option gives you a more direct steering and pedal feel, and the chassis setup is stiffer and more responsive.

The power delivery is quite smooth in the beginning and as you’d expect, the i4 M50 is extremely responsive. But keep flooring that pedal and the car will continue to pull aiming to please even the most speed-chasing customers. The acceleration setup allows to control that power with ease, and you can tell that BMW has spent quite some time and efforts on it. It makes for a pleasant drive, regardless of the environment you find yourself in.

The electrically-assisted steering is a bit mute on feedback, and that’s something I expected in an electric car. But at the same time, it is precise and agile, transferring the loads very fast when pushing the car through tight corners. Of course, the variable dampers and the variable sports steering system – standard in the i4 M50 – play an important role in delivering that BMW driving experience. Yet at the same time, driving inside city centers is pleasant as well. The i4 M50 is quite easy to maneuver, offering brisk overtakings when necessary.

As soon as I reached the Autobahn, I switched over to the SPORT mode so I can engage the Boost feature. The increase in power output and torque is temporary, but enough to sharpen the car’s ability to quickly overtake. You can quickly build up speed and 140 mph top speed comes in no time. That’s “one of the faults” of electric cars: you constantly have to watch the speedometer since the lack of sound will quickly get you in trouble with the authorities.

TEST DRIVE: 2022 BMW i4 M50 – Delivering Sheer Driving Pleasure
Top Speed Comes Quickly

Despite being a quite heavy car, the BMW i4 M50 feels light on its feet. It also feels extremely balanced, thanks to its low center of gravity which keeps the weight in check through corners. The wide and sticky 20 inch Pirelli P Zero PZ4 Elect performance tires play an important role in the cornering performance of the i4. The actuator-related wheel slip limitation – also known as ARB – is another decisive factor in the fun aspect of the i4. It was developed specifically for the requirements of an electric drivetrain. It is completely integrated in the ECU, resulting in shorter latency and 10 times faster response than conventional setups.

For the first time, the ARB comes split across both axles, so you get better accelerations, better braking potential, and more precise and stable steering on all kind of surfaces. The i4 M50 can also go from a rear-wheel drive bias to four-wheel-drive, depending on the driving situation. Under heavy cornering, you can feel the electronic rear differential putting in the work, as you’d expect in a performance car from BMW.

Through the Alps, the BMW i4 M50 bravely handled the chicanes with quick and confident turn ins, delivering plenty of grip to all wheels. Naturally, the always-on torque will play in your favor. You can quickly control the car’s behavior with slight throttle touches keeping that tail and body-roll in check. This is where the High energy regeneration mode comes in handy when you’d like to save some energy while having fun driving.

Of course, you can always pick the Driving Position D with its standard Adaptive Regeneration and the i4 M50 will pick the best setting for you.

The air springs are making themselves known through imperfect sections of the road. The adjustable ride height and adaptive dampers come into play as I navigate through bumps or uneven surfaces.

Electric Range And Efficiency

TEST DRIVE: 2022 BMW i4 M50 – Delivering Sheer Driving Pleasure
Portimao Frozen Blue Color

My BMW i4 M50 test was far from being a standard one. I found myself too often pushing the car to its limit, and 140 mph top speeds on the Autobahn were often achieved. None of those things play in the car’s favor when it comes to conserving the battery charge and range. But the onboard computer showed that I was within 10 percent of the expected 245 miles range (EPA). The same computer displayed an efficiency of 2.8 miles per kWh.

As with most electric vehicles, the electric driving range is less important if the charging infrastructure is well developed. The i4 can charge at up to 200 kW, with a compatible DC fast charger. At that speed, the BMW i4 40 can recharge 102 miles of range in just ten minutes, while the i4 M50 only gets 87 miles of range in the same time. It can also charge at 11 kW from a Level 2 home charger, which will take eight hours to fully charge the battery. This is a significant jump in charging tech considering that the BMW i3 can charge up to 50 kW.

Is The BMW i4 M50 For Me?

If I were to describe the BMW i4 M50 in a sentence, I would say that’s an alternative to the M340i rather than the electric counterpart of an M3. So while the M3 might be a bit quicker in tighter corners, due to less weight and rear-wheel drive (for now), the BMW i4 M50 is just as fast in most real-world situations. For now, I’m assuming that your typical M3 customer won’t cross-shop the i4 M50 and typical EV buyers won’t cross-shop the M3 Competition.

However, they both should. Both cars are priced incredibly similarly, have very similar power figures, similar performance metrics, the same amount of doors and seats, closer overall ranges than you might think, and handling dynamics that aren’t too far away from each other.

The i4 is also a great alternative to the likes of Tesla Model 3, Polestar 2, and others. It does fall a bit short when it comes to Tesla’s range, but it makes up in the areas of driving experience and premium materials and finishes. So in the end, if you’re used to BMW products, the i4 Gran Coupe should be an easy car to transition into. The 2022 BMW i4 M50 starts at $66,895—a few thousand dollars less than the gas-powered M3, while the rear-wheel drive i4 eDrive40 begins with a price tag of $56,395.

As a four-time i3 owner, I can only leave you this: the electric hatchback is fun to drive, but the BMW i4 M50 is a blast.

2022 BMW i4 M50

Exterior Appeal - 7.5
Interior Quality - 8
Steering Feedback - 8
Performance - 9
Handling - 8.5
BMWness/Ultimate Driving Machine - 8
Price Point - 8.5

8.2

The BMW i4 is a great alternative to the likes of Tesla Model 3, Polestar 2, and others. It does fall a bit short when it comes to Tesla's range, but it makes up in the areas of driving experience and premium materials and finishes. So in the end, if you're used to BMW products, the i4 Gran Coupe should be an easy car to transition into