2022 BMW i4 M50 First Drive Review: Something Old, Something New
A modern powertrain built atop old BMW bones.
BMW genuinely wowed us with the all-electric iX. While it may not be the prettiest flower in the field, the brand's new electric SUV is futuristic, dead posh, and great to drive. But after hopping out of the iX and into the 2022 BMW i4 M50 – the brand's newest electric sedan and the first EV with an M badge – in the span of a few days, it felt a bit like stepping back in time.
The i4 M50 is old BMW with a battery underneath, not the stunning future that the iX promises. There are fewer high-quality materials inside, less technology, and even though the massive center screen with iDrive 8 trickles down from the iX – really, the only element that does – it feels like a tacked-on afterthought.
Thankfully though, the i4 M50 is at least fun to drive. We spent time with the electric four-door on the twisty roads that line the Bavarian Alps, and on the Autobahn, and found the powertrain to be the most impressive thing about the i4. It’s on par with some of the best performance EVs in the class. The suspension is stellar too, both in terms of performance and comfort. And for as much as the i4 shares with the traditional 4 Series Gran Coupe visually, its styling still seems timeless.
|Quick Stats||2022 BMW i4 M50|
|Motor:||Dual Electrically Excited Synchronous|
|Output:||536 Horsepower / 586 Pound-Feet|
|Range:||245 Miles (est)|
|Charge Time:||8.25 Hours @ 11-Kilowatts AC / 31 Minutes @ 200-Kilowatts DC (10 to 80 Percent)|
|Base Price:||$66,895 + $995 Destination|
Gallery: 2022 BMW i4 M50: First Drive
The Same But Different
The electric i4 and its gas-powered counterpart are virtually identical, from the oversized kidney grilles and frameless windows to the obvious coupe-like roofline. Hell, even the 20-inch M Sport wheels on our tester are the same. That said, you can opt for smaller 18- and 19-inch wheel options specific to the i4 50 that are supposedly 15-percent lighter than traditional alloys for improved range.
The subtle exterior elements that do separate the two include a new gurney flap on the rear for additional downforce, plus custom detailing on the diffuser where the exhaust tips would theoretically be. The i4 looks good, similarities with the 4 Series Gran Coupe notwithstanding, but if you were hoping for something more dramatically styled, sorry to disappoint.
The only major difference between the i4 and the 4 Series GC inside is the addition of the iX's massive and gorgeous curved display. It houses a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a 14.9-inch touchscreen, with the new central screen adopting the iDrive 8 interface, which is a huge improvement over the previous iteration. There are fewer knobs and dials, too, compared to the gas model. But a few uncouth carryovers from the old interior remain.
Hard plastics and cheap fixtures abound – and not just compared to the iX, but against alternatives like the Tesla Model 3, Polestar 2, and others. The now-outdated iDrive rotary controller remains on the center console and does little work given iDrive 8’s intuitive touch controls. The traditional drive mode buttons still occupy the console, too, located to the left of the ungainly plastic gear shifter, and there's still a traditional volume knob rather than a rocker-like dial. But we actually prefer the old-school method in this rare instance.
Hard plastics and cheap fixtures abound – and not just compared to the iX, but against alternatives like the Tesla Model 3, Polestar 2, and others.
At least iDrive 8 is much cleaner, far easier to use, and offers more features, with all of the options organized neatly on the home screen within a row of vertical boxes. And thanks to the curved nature of the display, they're all easy to reach while driving. Augmented reality navigation makes its way to the 4 Series for the first time in the i4, and it works well on the German backroads where we have our test. It's joined by features like wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the “Hey, BMW” voice assistant, and Gesture Control, which is still as silly as ever.
A sport steering wheel and sport seats come standard in the M50 model, and those buckets provide hours of comfort as we peddle the i4 up and down the Bavarian Alps. They're much improved over the standard seats in the gas model and even the standard leather chairs in the i4 eDrive40.
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Unlike the iX, BMW will offer both versions of the i4 in the US at launch. The eDrive40 trim is the entry model, using an 83.9-kilowatt-hour battery pack (80.7-kWh usable) and a single electric motor mounted on the rear axle producing 335 horsepower and 317 pound-feet. The i4 M50 is the punchier of the two – and the one we tested – producing 536 hp and 586 lb-ft from the same 83.9-kWh battery pack, but now with an electric motor mounted on each axle.
For those of you keeping track at home, yes, the BMW i4 50 does have more horsepower and more torque than the gas M3 and M4 Competition models. There's even a Sport Boost function that uncorks all of that power at once over short bursts. So while it may not be a full-blown “M” by name (yet), the M50 feels nearly as quick as its dino-sipping alternatives in a straight line. The EV blasts to 60 miles per hour in just 3.7 on to a limited top speed of 140 miles per hour.
From the moment you hammer the accelerator pedal, all 586 lb-ft of torque come to life. The immediate twist is intoxicating, like it is in similar performance EVs, with the BMW offering a shove akin to what we've experienced in rival cars like the Porsche Taycan 4S. And that oomph is impressive all the way to the limit; we hit the Autobahn and watched the digital speedometer hurry to 140 mph – or 225 kilometers per hour on these European spec cars – without hesitation. On top of it all, a futuristic “exhaust note” tuned by Hans Zimmer filled (almost too loudly) the cabin.
Shades of the M3 and M4 shined through as we took the i4 M50 up to the Alps – for better and worse. The i4 displayed impressive lateral quickness with precision and poise around the tight mountain roads. It dove eagerly into turns, massive nose-first, with the front-mounted electric motor helping yank the four-door out on the other side. The steering felt a bit boosted and vague – not totally uncommon in modern M cars – but the i4’s low center of gravity (4.9 inches of ground clearance) and superb chassis tuning keeps the i4 flat and neutral.
Shades of the M3 and M4 shined through as we took the i4 M50 up to the Alps.
The M50 model is one inch wider than the standard 3 Series on the front axle, and nearly 1.5 inches lower too. Although, its dimensions are nearly identical to the 4 Series GC. The i4 M50 uses the same aluminum subframe and adjustable dampers as its gas counterparts, which helps keep it nimble. But on top of that, BMW added another element to the mix to help handle the i4's hefty 4,883-pound curb weight: an air suspension.
The i4 M50’s standard air suspension doesn’t make itself immediately known as it might in a massive luxury SUV. Instead, the i4’s setup adds agility and quashes imperfections in ride quality without feeling like too much of a good thing. Had we not looked at the press release, we probably wouldn’t know it’s there.
The i4’s air suspension adds agility and quashes imperfections in ride quality without feeling like too much of a good thing.
Beyond contributing to cornering performance, the air suspension gives the i4 M50 a sublime ride. When you’re not hammering it, the i4 feels comfortable and composed, floating over imperfections and shrugging off broken pavement. Our trip from the top of the Bavarian Alps to the Munich Airport saw us traverse more than 200 kilometers of ultra-smooth highway over a span of two and a half hours, and at no point did the i4 feel too stiff.
The i4 offers the same advanced safety suite as the 4 Series – and many other BMW products. This setup is still solid and useful over long distances, offering features like adaptive cruise control, lane-centering, and more. And off of those elements worked well enough in our test. But it’s clear that BMW is phasing this system out in place of the more advanced setup found in the iX, which uses advanced cameras and radar systems hidden behind those massive kidneys.
Cost Of Performance
The BMW i4 eDrive40 starts at $56,395 (with $995 for destination) in the US, while the sporty M50 model asks $65,900. That puts the BMW just above alternatives like the Tesla Model 3 Performance ($53,690) and the Polestar 2 with the optional Performance pack ($54,900). But, the Bimmer is nowhere near as pricey as the Porsche Taycan, which costs $82,700 to start.
But as is common with BMW, options hike the price of this car pretty significantly. The Driving Assistance package is $1,700, the 20-inch M wheels are another $2,500, and a bevy of other options bring the final asking price of this car to nearly $80,000
In terms of range and charging, the M50 will travel an estimated 245 miles with the ability to recharge at a rate of 88 miles in 10 minutes with DC fast charging at a rate of 200 kilowatts. The eDrive40 will be more efficient, offering an estimated 300 miles of driving range, with the ability to recoup 108 miles in just 10 minutes on DC fast charging.
If you want an electric sedan that’s great to drive, the BMW i4 M50 is second only to the Porsche Taycan. The powertrain is fantastic and the suspension is perfectly sorted, which makes this EV three-and-a-half tons of fun to fling around. Still, though, we wish more of the elements from the iX trickled down beyond the center screen, which would make this car more competitive to alternatives from Tesla and Polestar. We’ve seen what you can do, BMW, now make that the new standard.
i4 Competitor Reviews:
|2022 BMW i4 M50|
|Motor||Dual Electrically Excited Synchronous|
|Output||536 Horsepower / 586 Pound-Feet|
|Drive Type||All-Wheel Drive|
|Speed 0-60 MPH||3.7 Seconds|
|Maximum speed||140 MPH|
|EV Range||245 Miles (est.)|
|Charge Type||11.0-Kilowatt AC / 200-Kilowatt DC|
|Charge Time||11 Hours / 31 Minutes (10 to 80 Percent)|
|Cargo Volume||16.6 / 45.6 Cubic Feet|
|Base Price||$56,395 + $995 Destination|
|Trim Base Price||$65,900|
|As-Tested Price||$80,000 (est.)|
Gallery: 2022 BMW i4 M50: First Drive