BMW i4 M50 test: padded catapult

With the iX3 SUV, the i4 sedan-coupé is currently the spearhead of BMW’s electric offering to ensure “large volumes”. Two models remained close to their respective thermal cousins, the X3 and the Series 4 Gran Coupé, unlike the flagship iX only available in the electric version. If we have already put the eDrive40 access version of the i4 to the test of a long journey to test its autonomy and the speed of its recharges, now we take its variant labeled “M” to the limit.

sports impulse

If the eDrive40 and M50 share the same battery of 83.9 kWh gross (80.7 kWh net), they are distinguished from the mechanical side. Compared to its younger sister, which is content with a single electric motor (250 kW/340 hp) to drive its rear wheels, the i4 M50 inherits two electric motors. Each of them drives an axle to provide four-wheel drive with no mechanical link between the trains. And jointly develop up to 400 kW/544 hp. That’s even more cavalry than the BMW M4 in its advanced competition version (510 hp)! But it is especially on the side of available torque that the difference increases: if the M4’s 3.0 l six-cylinder biturbo develops “only” 650 Nm, the i4 M50 offers up to 795 Nm thanks to its Sport Boost function active for ten seconds. .

So it takes a lot less seconds for the electric racing car to pass the 100 km/h mark! The traditional sprint is dispatched here in 3.7 s. A “basic” M4 cannot follow (4.2 sec). Even the M4 competition claims 3.9s. It is mandatory to switch to the M4 Competition M xDrive (3.5 s), also equipped with all-wheel drive, so to save face from the heat engine…

electric m?

It must be recognized: the i4 M50 is profiled like a true padded catapult! At the start, the traction is impeccable and the instant torque offered by the two electric motors guarantees a “super-tonic” acceleration. The sensation is all the more intense as there is no load break. The i4 M50 accelerates without needing to breathe between gears. So far, the only advantage the M4 retains over its electrified cousin is the much more thrilling sound of its in-line six. The artificial sound imagined by Hans Zimmer to accompany the accelerations of the i4 M50 in Sport mode is less hair-raising than the frantic vocalizations of the internal combustion engine…

Effective but “heavy”

The comparison with the M4 stops in any case at the only straight-line accelerations. The i4 M50 is indeed a super electric car, but it still lacks the soul of a true Bavarian sports car. If we find generally accurate steering and effective damping (adaptive as standard and pneumatic on the rear axle as an option), the i4 M50 cannot hide its excess weight in the sequels. It claims an empty weight of 2,290 kg. And even though its low center of gravity thanks to its battery module (53mm lower than a Series 3) lets you spin, you can feel a certain inertia when you push it to the limit. In its defense, the i4 M50 is not equipped with the “sharp” Michelin Pilot Sport 4S offered to the M3/M4.

But honestly, unless you like to drop everything that rolls when accelerating at red lights, the i4 eDrive 40 seems to be a more “reasonable” choice and already more than enough to take advantage of on the occasion of tonic accelerations (0 to 100 km /h in 5.7 s)…

thin and practical

Regardless of the version of the i4 chosen, in both cases we will have a very practical slim sedan-coupé. The tailgate opens up ample access to a very generous trunk: 470 l. The rear side seats are also quite roomy for a “coupe”, at least for full-sized adults. Ceiling protection may be a little low for larger sizes. It should also be noted that the i4 is not presented exclusively as a 4-seater coupé. If necessary, we maintain the possibility of boarding a third passenger in the back seat.

The fact that it shares its technical innards with a thermal model further undermines the practicalities of the i4 over models cut exclusively for electric mobility. For example, you will have to deal with a very complicated transmission tunnel. Also, don’t expect to find a “frunk” here, a front trunk for storing charging cables. But there is still a small space dedicated for them under the double floor of the rear trunk.

Tablet (iX)XL

Compared to its thermal sibling 4 Series Gran Coupé, which must do without it, the i4 stands out for the presence of the new large curved panel “BMW Curved Display” inherited from the iX flagship. This dual screen, combining a 12.3-inch information display with a large 14.9-inch central tablet, clearly modernizes the Bavarian’s driver’s seat.

It must be recognized that the system is fluid, very complete and globally intuitive. While we may regret removing the “physical” air conditioner, heated seat buttons, etc. Fortunately, the effectiveness of the voice command (I’m cold; you can turn on the heated seats, etc.) makes it possible to do without it in practice. Also note that maniacs will lament the numerous fingerprints that quickly spread across the center screen daily.

22.5 kWh/100 km

Heavier and equipped with two electric motors, the i4 M50 has a slightly lower theoretical autonomy than its younger sister equipped with the same battery. The i4 eDrive40 thus promises up to 590 km WLTP against 510 km of the M50.

In practice, it is better to rely on an actual range of action of about 350 to 400 km. We noticed an average consumption of 22.5 kWh/100 km throughout our test, but without depriving us of strong acceleration on some occasions. We can expect to drop to 20 or 19 kWh/100 km being a little more economical with their electrons.

Peak at 209 kW

On the charging side, the i4 is one of the good students. Its on-board charger can charge up to 11 kW on a three-phase AC terminal. And for quick recharges, the i4 digests direct current up to 200 kW. And even visibly a little more, because we peaked at 209 kW on an Ionity station during our test. After 20 minutes, we’re back from 17% to 66% charge. Then from 17 to 75% in 25 minutes. And from 17 to 80% in 29 minutes.

How much does it cost ?

BMW offers its i4 eDrive40 from €60,800. The M50 raises the slider up to €75,900. For comparison, a Tesla Model 3 Performance (with substantially equivalent benefits but with a much less polished finish) is shown with us for €65,690. But note that at BMW, these are, of course, just “indicative prices”, given the many (and sometimes very expensive) options offered additionally. The richly equipped i4 M50 that was made available to us thus announced a total price of €87,625.

our verdict

The i4 is emerging as an excellent solution for premium customers “forced” to convert to electric mobility. They will be able to maintain a typical BMW road homologation, impeccable finish and state-of-the-art equipment they are used to. If the M50 offers undeniably explosive acceleration, note that the “simple” i4 eDrive40 is already emerging as a convincing version with sufficiently tonic performances.

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