BMW’s first zero-emission sedan drives as it should! Packed with remarkable dynamics, the i4 sticks to the road like a dragster.
Words: Fabio Sciarra
Like all other histories, the history of cars too is a series of consecutive moments. And like other histories, the history of cars, too, has some moments that are more important than others – moments that decide the future of a brand, for better or worse. One can make the argument that the i4 isn’t as strategic as the iX, which is the harbinger of an all-new platform and technological innovations, which put it on a different plane altogether, especially in comparison to the rest of BMW’s products; however, it would be a grave mistake to take the i4 lightly, for BMW never did while developing it.
Now, despite all that has happened in recent years, including the arrival of front-wheel drive, there are still those that buy BMW cars for good old driving pleasure. And if the car carries the initial of its Motorsport department, like the flagship version of the i4, things become even more interesting. In short, the first electric sedan from the Bavarian brand has just made its entry in two variants – the base eDrive40 (335bhp) and the sporty M50 (the one you see here).
The shape of the body and the internal dimensions (such as the 470-litre trunk) of the i4 are identical to those of the 4 Series Gran Coupé, with the exception of a few aesthetic touches.
Language of Passion
So, what we are trying to say is that such a car is special not only for those who made it but also for those who will choose it and those who write about it. Three pieces of a puzzle glued together by one single need – the fiery passion for driving. But it makes things even more difficult, for you tend to look at such a car thoroughly with a keen eye.
So, let’s proceed systematically. As you put yourself behind the wheel of the i4 M50, you instantly know that you are inside a car that’s essentially a BMW, down to its last chromosome. The driving position is simply perfect and can be adjusted as you please, and the controls are exactly where you would want them to be. It’s no coincidence, then, that this car is the zero-emission twin of the new 4 Series Gran Coupé. And while the platform is the same, the i4 M50 has an all-electric heart and batteries.
But what really marks a decisive break between the two interpretations of the same vehicle is the interface – instead of the two classic separate screens (instrument panel and infotainment), the i4 M50 has a single curved screen that groups them together, something that’s more akin to that of the iX. It’s scenic, but more importantly, it’s equipped with the new BMW iDrive 8.0 operating system, which puts it in a different league in terms of quality and intelligent AI interaction. Even though one might argue that from an aesthetic point of view, it’s not very well integrated into the cabin, which otherwise has a very traditional layout.
The i4’s interior is similar in layout to that of the 4 Series Gran Coupé, with the IC engines. The only major difference is the new curved panoramic screen, which combines the 12.3-inch instrument display and 11.9-inch infotainment display.
- BMW i4 M50
Data declared by the manufacturer
Front: Electric Synchronous
Rear: Electric Synchronous
Max. Power: 536bhp
Max. Torque: 795Nm
Lithium-ion 83.9kWh (80.7 usable)
AC 11kW / DC 200kW
Gearbox with fixed ratio
Max. Speed: 225km/h
0–100 km/h: 3.9 seconds
Consumption: 4.4 – 5.6km/kWh
Range (WLTP): 416 – 521kms
Dimensions & Weight
On the Road
The i4 M50’s suspension setup is as solid as it should be on a car such as this. You never feel that you are on a flying carpet, as the adaptive suspension has been specially developed by the Motorsport department with specific springs and dampers, as well as additional anti-roll bars and reinforcement frames at the front, which have led to the increased torsional rigidity. But that’s not all. Changes have also been made to the track widths – the front has been widened by 26mm, and the rear has gained 12mm – and the front-end camber has a greater angle than that of the 3 Series. These last two aspects, in particular, have been decisive in obtaining precision and directionality in keeping with the department’s reputation.
And if you are one of those looking for that element of the pure fun of motorsport, let me tell you that the first electric M performance will not disappoint you. When driven quietly, the i4 M50 behaves like an all-wheel-drive car – it has a 190kW front electric motor and a 230kW rear one. However, as you spend more time in it, you discover the potential of different driving modes. In Sport Boost, the electric sedan behaves in a way that’s increasingly inclined to favour insertions accompanied by the rear axle, offering an experience that has always been an essential feature of the products to come out of the M department.
Since it’s a BEV that mounts an 83.9kWh battery, we need to look into another aspect that, perhaps, is even more decisive in terms of differentiating it from its twin – yes, I am talking about load transfers and inertia of direction. Also, given its dimensions – it’s 4.78 metres long, with a nice wheelbase of 2.86 metres – the i4 M50 does not have that sudden nervous agility of the M2, which keeps you on the edge of your seat.
The i4 M50’s design features are many and obvious – compared to the standard eDrive40 version, it has exposed carbon fibre inserts, M sports seats, a slim aerodynamic profile, and specially designed bumpers with glossy black inserts.
Now, in comparison to the latest M3, the i4 M50 is different, but the difference is not as monumental as one might expect. After all, we’re talking about a car that weighs an insane amount for a sports car – 2,290kgs with the driver on board – but first, let’s make it clear that the M3 Competition is no longer the dragonfly it once was – its 1,855kgs of weight makes the 1,635kgs of the previous-generation car (automatic) pale in comparison. And then, we must also consider the fact that the i4 M50’s weight distribution between the two axles has a ratio of 48.1:51.9, with a centre of gravity that is 37mm lower than that of a 3 Series. What does all this mean? In simple terms, driving this car remains always effective, with little or no roll, and it never shows any significant tendency to drift away from the set trajectory.
With 536bhp and 795Nm of torque, the M50 can do the 0 – 100km/h sprint in 3.9 seconds (claimed) and displays levels of alacrity, at all speeds, that are difficult to match for an ICE car. Given the first impressions of this brilliant machine, we must say that expectations from the future BMW sportscars are high, even in the era of zero emissions.
- Today M Performance, then a True M
It’s time for a little context. The i4 M50, within BMW’s range, sits on that ideal bridge called M Performance, which acts as a link between standard and high-performance BMW M models. This division saw the light of day in 2012, with the launch of the M550d xDrive – the first diesel car with the Motorsport department’s initial– and has since carved out its own vital space in BMW’s portfolio. But it remains, and will remain, quite distinct from the pure and hard M. So much so that, according to rumours, a real i4 M might arrive after the M50. And while its details are still hypothetical, they are enough to define its superiority in terms of performance – a total power output of over 600 horses, and 0 – 100km/h in close to three seconds.
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