2022 BMW i4 M50 review (video)

Brett Davis

This is the M Performance version of the all-electric i4 four-door coupe, blending BMW M’s traditionally engaging driving characteristics with cutting edge electric powertrain technology. And it’s all wrapped up in a neat 4 Series body.

While many EVs on the market are mainly focused on being green and eco-friendly and all of that, the i4 M50 is designed to be a sports car. It rides on the same CLAR platform as the 3 and 4 Series, and showcases plenty of aggressive attitude in its design, stance and capability. Big brakes, lowered sports suspension, subtle aero parts and a splash of darkened highlights are all very M Performance, and similar to the M440i xDrive petrol model.

This is one of two variants of the i4 currently on sale in Australia, with the i4 eDrive40 sitting below as the rear-wheel drive entry model. Prices start from $129,900 for the AWD M50, which is exactly $8000 more than the M440i xDrive Gran Coupe.

That premium over the M440i is not actually too bad considering some electric versions of current petrol models are in the order of 30-50 per cent more expensive than their petrol equivalents; Hyundai Kona Highlander Electric ($64,000) versus Kona Highlander petrol ($38,300), Kia Niro Hybrid GT-Line ($50,030) versus Niro Electric GT-Line ($72,100), and Lexus UX 200 Sports Luxury ($55,250) versus UX 300e Sports Luxury ($80,691).

2022 BMW i4 M50 – THE SPECS

[column width=”47%” padding=”6%”]Battery: 80.7kWh (net) lithium-ion, 398.5V
Motor output: 400kW / 795Nm
Transmission: 1-speed auto
Drive type: All-wheel drive
Wheels: F: 19×8.5, 245/40  R: 19×9.0, 255/40
ANCAP: Not tested
Tare weight: 2215kg
Power-to-weight: 5.53:1 (kg:kW)
Official range: 510km
Maximum charging: AC 11kW, DC 200kW
Recharge time: 10-80% at 200kW DC in 31 minutes, 0-80% at 50kW in 1hr 30min[/column] [column width=”47%” padding=”0″]
0-60km/h: 2.05 seconds*
0-100km/h: 3.94 seconds*
0-100km/h: 14.22 seconds*
2.51 seconds*
1/4 mile: 12.23 seconds at 188.0km/h*
Max acceleration: 1.199g
100-0km/h braking: 2.87 seconds at 35.27 metres*
Max deceleration: -1.226g
Decibel at idle (standby): 28*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 80*
Priced from: $129,900[/column][end_columns]

* Figures as tested by PerformanceDrive on the day. Factory claims may be different

2022 BMW i4 M50 – THE PACKAGE

It looks like a proper top-shelf M car thanks to a range of subtle styling enhancements over the regular i4. We like how the design is not too loud or flamboyant either, aside from those big front grilles. At the back is a telltale M lip spoiler on the boot in carbon fibre, with dark grey or black trimmings around the skirting, window surrounds, side mirrors, and front grilles, with a set of 19-inch two-tone alloy wheels with staggered-width tyres (245/40 and 255/40) completing the look. This test car is also finished in Frozen Portimao Blue, which is obviously not a regular, run-of-the-mill colour. In Australia, it’s a $4700 option.

Underneath it all is BMW’s CLAR platform, however, it is modified to accommodate the 84kWh (80.7kWh net) battery, mounted under the floor. It’s all suspended by adaptive M suspension, with something called near-actuator wheel slip limitation technology ensuring optimum drive performance. This is basically a clever power distribution and stability control system that operates about three times faster than a regular stability control setup due to much shorter signal paths.

Inside, you’ll find BMW’s latest 8.0 operating system running a huge 14.9-inch multimedia touch-screen and a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster. These are housed on one seamless curved panel. We love the new graphics and colour theme, and although the touch-screen has a huge amount of depth to what functions it offers and the different settings you can play with, it doesn’t come across as overwhelming, somehow. And we also appreciate some common functions being brought forward within the menu sequence. For example, there is a stand-alone tick-box for the lane-keeping aid and in-car sound enhancer system.

Aside from that, it’s all very BMW in here, with a good mix of practicality, in terms of storage and ergonomics with big cup and bottles holders and whatnot, as well premium quality fixtures and materials. We like the iDrive hand controller system on the console as it’s easy to use and helps you focus on the road. The main screen is a touch-screen as well so you can quickly tap on icons if you prefer.

Front passengers are treated to lovely sports seats, offering adjustable side bolsters and a great driving position, while rear passengers get separate climate control, USB-C ports, and cup and big bottle holders. Headroom in the back is pretty good, and legroom is about the same as the 3 Series sedan.

Being a four-door coupe – or Gran Coupe in BMW language – the boot uses a full hatch lid. This really opens up the boot access mouth. However, the volume is 470 litres, which is about the same as the latest 3 Series sedan, rated at 480L. There is some under-floor storage, mainly occupied by the Harman Kardon sound system components in this case, with additional storage pockets on the sides for small items.

Unlike most electric vehicles, the i4 M50 does not offer extra storage under the bonnet. Instead, there’s a big cover that kind of looks like an engine cover. However, underneath it you’ll find some electrical hardware and some serious chassis bracing. There’s also an electric motor for the front axle with another motor at the back for the rear axle. Creating all-wheel drive.

2022 BMW i4 M50 – THE DRIVE

BMW seems to have shifted a fair bit of attention to ride comfort in recent years, as this is surprisingly absorbent and compliant, especially for a performance model. It soaks up bumps without feeding disturbance into the cabin. There seems to be a decent suspension compression range as well, so you can take a leisurely drive into the country without fear of bottoming-out on poor surfaces or unexpected hazards.

The handling is also very engaging, with outstanding body control and cornering grip. With instant throttle response, and we mean response that is as instant as you push the accelerator pedal, you can make fine adjustments to your driving. You can also apply power very early in the corner and BMW’s clever all-wheel drive distribution programming will automatically and immediately pull you out.

This is a fun and unusual experience. For example, if you’re driving up a mountain road and encounter a wide hairpin turn, you can feed in the power just before the apex and the system heaves you out like gravity doesn’t exist. Petrol vehicles cannot do this as they first need to rev before peak power and torque is accessible. It’s amazing.

About the only element that is a bit… well, strange for a BMW, is the noticeable torque-steer under full power. You can feel it really tugging at the front, particularly from a standstill or really low speeds like going up a steep hairpin. It’s fun though, as it adds a bit of character and enthusiasm, which is not that common in electric vehicles. However, on the other hand, it almost feels like the front motor is too powerful, making us think perhaps BMW should have moved some of the excess grunt to the rear.

It is seriously rapid in a straight line and the instantaneous acceleration leaves any combustion engine for dead. We conducted our usual performance tests on a private road, with 0-100km/h coming up in 3.94 seconds, 0-200km/h dusted in 14.22 seconds, and the quarter-mile in 12.23 seconds at 188.0km/h. BMW claims 0-100km/h in 3.9 seconds. These are very impressive numbers, and although not as extreme as some electric vehicles, we think they are perfectly fitting for a sports car of this category.

There are quicker electric vehicles on the market, in a straight line. But some are not as well balanced in other areas. For novice drivers that are perhaps not used to achieving very high speeds in a matter of seconds, there is an element of concern or even danger involved. Especially as some EVs are not necessarily marketed as ‘performance’ models; so your dad jumps in and has a go, not actually realising he’s doing 120km/h after just a few seconds. In this though, the overarching sporty nature of the whole car naturally makes you pay more attention and focus on what you’re doing. In our opinion anyway.

As for the boring part, the charging. The i4 can take in a maximum charging power of 200kW, in which case you can expect the battery level to go from 10-80 per cent in 31 minutes. However, using a 350kW ultra-rapid charger the maximum intake we saw was 158kW.

There are a number of factors that limit charging power, including current battery temp, charger temp, and surrounding electrical loads currently at play in the area. The stats also say to expect a 0-80 per cent charge with a 50kW charger in about 1.5 hours.

Our experience with the local public charging infrastructure was, as usual, very frustrating. We used a 50kW Evie charger that was, for some reason, maxing out at 25kW. The cost was $0.40/kWh, or $4.27 for our 26-minute top up. We also spent around 30 minutes waiting in line at a 50kW station while a Jaguar E-Pace sat there, plugged in, at 100 per cent. With no driver in sight. It’s unfortunate that EVs do not automatically unlock the charge plug when they reach 100 per cent so other users can access a charge. On this occasion we were down to just 4 per cent battery, so we had no choice but to wait for the owner to return.

According to the on-board trip calculator, the range varies a lot, depending on the current driving demands, climate control settings and drive modes. With a full battery it showed us a possible range of 410km on one occasion. And then a few days later we charged right up to full again and it displayed a range of 464km. The official range is 510km.

We must say though the on-board calculator is quite good at adapting and recalculating, depending on all aforementioned factors. For example, if you cruise along the highway for a while you’ll notice the range extend, but if you squirt around the city the figure quickly drops.

There are a number of different settings you can play around with from the touch-screen, including limiting the amperage, setting schedules or charging targets, and pre-conditioning the climate control. Some of this stuff is surprisingly fun to interact with as it brings a new dimension to simply ‘going for a drive’. But charging and battery levels are obviously not as flexible as petrol/diesel vehicles. You can’t just head out for a drive whenever or to wherever you like. There is an extensive level of planning in order.

As we’ve said before, electric vehicles showcase some brilliantly thoughtful technologies and they really inspire forward-thinking. But they aren’t for everyone. For those of us living in the suburbs and regularly making moderate trips from cities to big towns, EVs can be very frustrating. Especially if you need to rely on the terribly lacking public charging infrastructure in this country. Different charging plugs are also silly and make things needlessly complicated – imagine going to a petrol station and finding a triangular bowser that doesn’t fit in your circular filler opening. The i4 has both Type 2 and CCS2 sockets.

There also needs to be some official rules and common courtesy guidelines in place for public stations, such as maximum charging times (some have this), and ensuring you remain with your car when the battery is approaching full. We’ve actually had an argument with an EV owner who refused to believe us when we pointed out the ‘maximum charging 1hr’ sign standing right behind them. They were sitting in their EV with blankets watching a movie, with the charging station showing a charge time of over 90 minutes. (The Jaguar pictured above was charging for 108 minutes, with about 20 minutes of that at 100 per cent status, with no driver.)

If you do live in the city and/or travel only short distances, and you have the ability to instal a wallbox at your home to charge every day or so, then yes, electric vehicles make a lot of sense. You’ll save heaps of fuel, obviously, particularly if you have solar panels and charge up during the day.

2022 BMW i4 M50 – THE VIDEO

2022 BMW i4 M50 – THE VERDICT

Right now, at this stage of the evolution of the EV infrastructure in Australia and cost of batteries and so on, we’d buy the M440i over this i4 M50 and listen to its sweet inline-six turbo. While it’s still available. Sure, it is slower, but the excitement of the engine noise and the mechanical engagement feels more raw and connected in our opinion. It’s also about $8k cheaper. However, if you’re an advocate for advanced technologies and have a strong interest in electronics and gadgets, but you also appreciate the qualities and attention to detail of a proper driver’s car, the i4 M50 is the perfect car for you.

It demonstrates BMW’s adaptability as it transition to more eco-friendly power systems, while, crucially, retaining plenty of that feel-good driving character the company has been renowned for for so many decades. It’s a natural and needed move. The question is, do you want to make that move now or wait until the industry and support around it catches up?

[column width=”47%” padding=”6%”]PROS:
– Incredible response and cornering grip
– Trademark BMW driving feel is evident
– Not a big price jump over equivalent petrol M440i Gran Coupe
– OS 8.0 presents insane depth without being overwhelming
– Excellent ride comfort
[/column] [column width=”47%” padding=”0″]CONS:
– Very heavy (2200kg) for this style of car
– Toque-steer is a bit unusual for a higher-end sports car like this, although fun
– Australian charging infructure and user etiquette is terrible[/column][end_columns]

As always, if you’re thinking about buying a new car don’t forget to click here to speak with our car buying specialists.

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