From the November 2021 issue of Car and Driver.
A mere look at the i4 M50 doesn’t hint at its significance. There’s little to distinguish it from the like-sized 4-series Gran Coupe four-door it’s based on. But this is BMW’s first EV to wear the storied M badge, even if it’s an M50 moniker and not a full-blown M.
It earns the M badge, too, as its power and range are a massive leap beyond BMW’s previous i-subbrand offerings. The i4 uses the same 255-hp front and 308-hp rear motors as the iX, but with a higher peak output of 536 horsepower and 586 pound-feet of torque, thanks to a battery that is smaller in capacity but stronger in output. That’s more power than the current M3 and M4 Competition models. Smacking the go pedal brings hard and instant thrust, causing the front end to rise up dramatically as the i4 hurtles ahead. Holding down both pedals when stopped activates launch control, during which it pulses the motors, giving the impression that the car is champing at the bit. Acceleration to 60 mph is expected to be in the three-second range, or as quick as an M3/M4.
The i4 M50’s $66,895 starting price makes it a bit of a bargain in the BMW lineup—that’s less than you’ll pay for even the base M3. There’s also a $56,385 335-hp eDrive40 model with the same 80.7-kWh battery capacity.
Adding audio to the experience is a whirring soundtrack whose tone rises and falls with motor speed and gets louder and softer depending on the rate of acceleration or deceleration. Select Sport mode and the sound is overbearing. Switching it off left us marveling at the i4’s silence. There’s no whine from the motors or high-voltage electronics that are usually present in EVs. This is one of the subjectively quietest EVs we’ve ever driven.
The i4 is nearly 1000 pounds heavier than an all-wheel-drive M3, yet the additional mass isn’t obvious when you’re driving. Weight distribution leans rearward, and the center of gravity is 1.5 inches lower than in the 3-series. Like the 3-series, the i4’s steering is light on feedback. Mostly you notice massive grip from the 20-inch Pirelli P Zero PZ4 Elect tires. As in the iX, a curved panel housing two screens dominates the i4’s interior, a setup that will soon proliferate through the BMW lineup.
At the rate it sucked energy on a blast from Munich to the Bavarian Alps, the i4 won’t travel much farther than 200 miles. Then again, a Tesla Model 3 Performance, its most obvious competitor, doesn’t do much better.
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