Just 10 years ago, BMW was still making an M3 with a V-8 and a gas guzzler tax. Now, this BMW i4 M50 promises to give you all the performance without a drop of petrol. Let’s put aside the thoughts on whether electric cars are truly better for the environment, and focus on how this latest M Performance model stacks up to its more conventional stablemates.
The 2022 BMW i4 M50 Overview
BMW was smart to develop a platform that could handle multiple drivetrain offerings, and no where is it more evident than the 3/4 Series. Consider that you can get it with a turbo 4 or 6-cylinder engine, hybrid power, or a full-on battery that the i4 here has. Other choices can include an automatic or manual, rear-or all-wheel drive, hatchback, coupe or sedan, and with or without roof.
The downside to this approach is a platform that isn’t optimized for any particular layout, and in the i4, you pay a price. It’s 5,000 lbs, as much as a Mercedes GLE 53 I tested, a much larger SUV. But will the i4 dance on a track?
Performance Score: 6. Torque Tsunami.
The i4 M50 isn’t a full-on M car. Instead, it’s an “M Performance” model, like the M240i I tested a few weeks back. But take a look at the spec sheet, and you’ll see 536 horsepower and 586 lb-ft of torque, figures that dwarf even an M3 Competition.
If the i4 M50 is missing something from the full M experience, it isn’t in the power department. Stomp on the gas, and two electric motors drive all four wheels for a stunning launch off the line. Keep on it, and the wave of torque typical of electric cars never subsides. The i4 would leave my stick M3 for dead in a straight line, and give an M3 Comp with xDrive a run for its money.
BMW has put in a fun little futuristic whir as you zoom around town in Sport mode, but there is no mistaking it for the mini explosions that happen over and over under the hood of a conventional car. Above all else, we enthusiasts will have the hardest time coming to grips with this. Drive a Corolla every day, and an electric car’s silence is welcomed. Drive a typical BMW M car, and you’ll feel like only one headphone is plugged in properly when in an i4.
There’s also the sensations. In the G80, my shifter still vibrates when I’m in neutral, and rowing through the gears produces a sense of satisfaction not replicated in the i4. Stomping on the gas, turning the wheel – it’s all a bit muted in the i4. The future is a really quiet place.
Here, the performance paradigm still holds true. Weight is bad. The i4 can handle itself well enough around an autocross,but it’s not really happy about it. The battery in the floor keeps the center of gravity low. But you always sense the weight.
Think of it another way – the distribution of weight here is 48 front, 51 rear. This from a company renowned for keeping their cars at a 50/50 with a big engine in front. Now that the battery is in the floor, the distribution has gotten worse? Blame the platform, which must account for all the various power configurations and crumple zones.
All the gimmicks are here, from an adjustable air suspension to all-wheel drive traction and performance tires. Staying in line with the M Performance objective, this is a car that’s maybe 70% of an M car’s ability on a track. It’s very soft, with noticeable squat and dive. Variable ratio steering is available on the M50, but still provides less feedback then BMWs of yore. I found it gave no indication of what the front tires are up to.
Turn off the track, and the i4 travels serenely down the road, even taking the brutal bumps of Manhattan with ease. The i4 would make a great daily, and it’s serene ride is one reason why.
Standard BMW M Sport brakes are here, nothing fancy, but they work well enough. Inducing fade on the street or autocross (unless you’re really ham-fisted), is difficult on modern cars. Adding to the stopping ability of the i4 M50 is regenerative braking, which allows you to basically take your foot off the go pedal and still come to a stop. Unlike some other EVs, BMW allows you to adjust the amount of regen braking in the i4 via iDrive, and pushing the shifter to the left enables “B” mode to turn regen braking on and off.
You wouldn’t want to use this on a track, where it unnaturally slows your momentum from corner to corner. Even on the street it’s a bit weird at first, with lurching and tugging as you lift off the gas. You still need the brake pedal, it’s just that you’ll need it a lot less.
Utility Score: 6. Hot hatch.
No engine usually means you get a “frunk”, or front trunk, in an electric car. But the i4 carries electronics in this space, so you basically get the same functionality and usability of a standard 4 Series Gran Coupe.
That’s no bad thing. I find the car comfortable, with plenty of room in the back seat for car seats. The hatch allows for easier loading in the trunk too, a 4 Series Gran Coupe staple. In the old F36 Gran Coupe, I’d hit my head on the roof, but this new one has plenty of room up front.
Efficiency: 10. Look ma, no gas.
I suppose that any electric car I review would have to get a 10 for efficiency. While the standard i4 gets a range of 300 miles, the M50 drops down to 227, and adding the optional 20-inch wheels will reduce range further, the price of beauty.
For the record, the regular i4 gets 109 MPGe city and 108 MPGe highway, but I find that misleading. MPGe compares the use of fuel in a regular car to what an electric car would presumably use, not the actual real-world cost of powering an electric car.
Get the BMW wall box in your garage, and you can charge the car in 1o hours. I don’t think range anxiety is a big thing here – just plug the car in each night, and you should be ok to get through the next day. But maybe rent a 330i for a road trip.
Keep in mind that you currently get a tax credit of $7,500 from the government for any electric car purchase, a perk that will surely go away as electric cars become more prevalent.
Features and Comfort: 8. One Screen to rule them all.
The ergonomics and features inside the i4 are the same as what you might find in my M3, but I want to focus on the new iDrive 8 and its single screen.
I don’t like it. Mercedes has a similar approach, but they leave physical buttons on the dash to touch. In the i4, I need to climb through menus to use the climate control and everything else. Raising the fan speed now requires three steps, not one like in my G80. No buttons on the dash.
If you take a look through the cockpit of say, an F-35 fighter jet, you’ll notice similar logic, so maybe it’s me being old fashioned. But whether in the sky or on the ground, if you’re at speed, you want to keep your vision up and out, not on a screen fumbling for controls.
I will say that it’s nice to have a single dash as oppose to two, and once I get used to it it’ll make it easier to use.
Otherwise, what’s new here? Not much. You get blue trim for BMW i, and the carbon fiber isn’t quite as nice inside as it in in the M3. The seats also aren’t as aggressive; here they are the standard sport seats from an M340i. But otherwise, inside it’s typically like every other car they make. Not a bad thing.
The 2022 BMW i4 M50 is a pretend M3 to prepare you for the real one.
There is no doubt that the internal combustion engine is going away, and with it a long, storied history as it applies to a BMW M3. But the M3 has never followed a trend when it came to engines. 4-cylinder, turbo 6, V-8, all-wheel drive, rear-wheel…the list goes on.
In a few years, BMW will add electric power to the M3 lineage, and enthusiasts will moan and whine as always. Then they will drive it and love it. This i4 M50 is merely a test bed for that future M car. If it were a sedan and handled a bit sharper, they could almost put that badge on the i4 now, so fast and capable it is.
A true test of a car’s soul is if it can make you laugh. I dare you to get in the i4 M50 and stomp on the gas without cracking a smile.
I will always miss the S65 and its addictive wail as I drive through a tunnel. But the i4 is an excellent usher into the electric era for M. Embrace the future.
Short Take: i4 M50 vs M440i, which to get?
It’s unusual to have a car that’s fully electric and a duplicate with a conventional engine. But you can get a BMW M440i Gran Coupe fully optioned for around $67,000.
I have not driven a Gran Coupe, but I have been behind the wheel of an M440i Coupe. It’s wonderful, but not nearly as exciting as a full M car.
Where the M50 differs is in the powertrain, specifically the speed you get. Though a bit more expensive in MSRP cost, with tax credits an M50 might actually be cheaper. When all is considered, there’s no doubt which I’d pick – the M50. It gives you the same driving experience on the road, but with much faster and more fun acceleration and of course, no gas needed.
Commissions may be received for product links on this site. Help out if you can.
I use Nikon camera bodies and lenses, a Westcott Ice Light 2, Manfrotto tripod, B + W filters and an iMac Pro to make the art you see here.
Follow along on Instagram @machineswithsouls
6 thoughts on “The BMW i4 M50 is not an EV M3”