The first electric 4 Series is also the best electric 4 Series
M50 version offers more power than an M4 competition
Hans Zimmer soundtrack showcases electric drive experience
When you take a BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe and throw the engine in the trash, interesting things happen. Especially when that engine is replaced by a pair of electric motors and a big ol’ battery. Ditch the standard BMW infotainment and gauge cluster for iDrive 8 and a pair of bezel-free screens and you get the 2022 BMW i4. The result, and we’re going to skip ahead here, is what we think is the most BMW 4 Series ever made. Here’s how it works.
The BMW iX comes with a chassis heavy on carbon and aluminum, designed from the jump for electric power, and that plays a serious role in how the SUV drives. The i4 doesn’t get the benefits of that new architecture, instead, it’s a repowered 4er. In the case of this M50, a repowered M440i.
BMW is planning a lower-cost and longer-range version of the i4, the 430i-crushing eDrive40 with 335 hp (vs 248 for 430i), rear-wheel drive, and an estimated 475 km (295 mile) range thanks to its 83.9 kWh battery, but forget about that one for now. It’s the first electric car developed by M (so says BMW), the i4 M50, that really shines. With 469 hp and AWD, it positively destroys the 382 hp of the M440i and trails the M4 by just 4 ponies. Oh, plus an estimated 385 km (239 mile) range.
That not impressive enough? The M50 has a more powerful party trick for you. Tap the drive mode selector to Sport Boost (or just tell the car you’re bored and it’ll do it for you) and for up to 10 seconds at a time you get 536 hp along with a 48 lb-ft boost to 586 lb-ft.
That smokes the 503 of the M4 Competition, and while it might not offer the same soundtrack as the latter’s twin-turbo six, you won’t notice. The i4 M50 bolts from the line with its launch control quickly enough that it dulls your hearing, blocking out the Hans Zimmer special M soundtrack, your body forced to focus on the road ahead and not irritations that don’t affect forward progress. It’s the kind of launch that only EVs can deliver, and while it might not have the outright quickness of a Tesla Model S or Porsche Taycan, with a 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) of 3.9 seconds you’re splitting hairs in the real world for a fraction of the price.
Part of what makes the launch so brutal is BMW’s new near-actuator wheel slip limitation. Even the best gas-engine systems rely on cutting power to rein in wheelspin, and with a gas engine that takes time. Lots of time. BMW has integrated the traction control system into the motor management and combined with the response time of an electric motor it acts before the brain of anyone short of a pro race driver could even notice slippage starting.
Floor the accelerator coming out of a corner and the i4 just goes. Rocketing toward the next bend without so much as a chirp from the tires or the need for any corrective lock, without any of the feeling of sluggishness you’d experience in a gas car. Can you hang the tail out? Probably, but on these narrow German roads that’s not something that was on the menu.
Added chassis bracing on top of the stiffness that comes with the battery gives the i4 incredibly sharp turn-in, especially with the variable sport steering in one of the Sport modes. Adaptive M suspension is standard on the M50, on Germany’s glass-smooth pavement the ride was on the soft side even in Sport Boost, but we’re confident that you wouldn’t want it to be much firmer on North American roads. The damping was typical BMW extremely well controlled, and Comfort mode was pleasantly plush even while pursuing top speed on the Autobahn where this powertrain pulls hard well into triple-digit speeds.
Tearing up hillside switchbacks in the Bavarian Alps, the i4 M50 devours the pavement. The steering might not offer the pavement feel of a vintage E36 BMW, but the weight and response are at least a match. The chassis is unflappable even when I try to get it out of sorts, and even the regenerative braking is part of the fun.
That’s thanks to BMW’s new adaptive recuperation. It captures up to 195 kW which is enough to equate to some seriously heavy braking. The system will, if you let it, automatically slow the car for corners, changing speed limits, and for traffic ahead, but the impressive part is in Sport it will get you to the corner at enthusiast speeds, not Sunday driver plodding. B mode on the shifter gives you what is essentially a one-pedal mode, but standard D works exceptionally well.
BMW’s integrated braking system blends regen and steel brakes seamlessly, with pedal feel consistent regardless of what component is doing what amount of the work. Let off the brake at a stop and the i4 creeps forward like a gas car making it better in stop-and-go traffic. Yes, even the Alps gets stop-and-go on occasion.
The cabin is largely standard 4 Series with BMW’s blue i-indicating trim accents, but there are some improvements to go with the EV. A 12.3-inch digital dash and 14.9-inch infotainment display are combined into one bezel-free panel that spans more than half the cabin and uses BMW’s iDrive 8 operating system. This means a more customisable dash, quicker operation, and significant upgrades to the natural speech recognition. While the screen’s quick enough to not need them, there are buttons for front and rear defrost. There is also a volume dial on the dashboard. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both present and wireless.
Rear passenger space is cramped (there is plenty up front), but thanks to the hatchback rear the i4 offers 470L (16.6 cubic feet) with the seats up and 1,290 (45.6) with them folded. Fast charging happens at up to 200 kW, meaning 10-80 percent in 31 minutes, or it will charge at up to 11 kW (7.6 hrs 0-100) on Level 2. Our mountain and Autobahn driving showed an indicated 23 kWh/100 km (37 per 100 miles), making the estimated range seem reasonably achieved.
With this i4 M50, BMW has created the best 4 Series it has ever made. Forget about the famously smooth inline-sixes of yore, this next-gen electric powertrain offers more smoothness, more power, and (more importantly), better power delivery. This car is a return to the best things about BMW’s 3 Series coupe models, this time in a package that emits zero emissions and is made about as sustainably as an EV can be. Starting from $54,990 in Canada (for eDrive40) and $72,990 for M50 ($55,400 and $65,900 in the US), it’s not exactly a bargain, but it is a very good value.