BMW i4 M50 review

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

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Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

BMW's i4 claims an electrifying proposition in top M50 AWD form. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.

Ten Second Review

The i4 M50 was BMW's very first full-electric-powered M model, a fiery five-door fastback that claims to offer the punch of an M3 with the luxury of a 5 Series. A BMW EV engineered in the proper traditions of BMW. Or is it? Let's see.

Background

What might a full M-engineered BMW EV sports saloon be like? Arguably, that's what we have here in the form of the i4 M50. Launched in 2022, it was the Munich maker's first M-badged EV. Though M-badged like an M340i, rather than M-badged like an M3: as every loyalist of the Bavarian maker will tell you, the difference is important. Nevertheless, the i4 M50 remains a model of great significance, sharing its drivetrain and battery with an only slightly larger stablemate model, the i5 M50.

Comparisons with the brand's M3 Competition street racer saloon are invited here in terms of performance, size and price, though in reality, a closer match probably lies with the M440i xDrive version of the 4 Series Gran Coupe, alongside which this top i4 model is produced in Munich. And target market? Well if you want something a bit more than a Tesla Model 3 Performance or a Polestar 2 Dual Motor Performance Pack, but you can't stretch to faster versions of the Mercedes EQE or the Porsche Taycan, and i4 M50 needs to be on your list.

Driving Experience

The i4 M50 uses the same battery as the mid-range rear-driven i4 eDrive40 model. But mates it with a big slug of extra performance. The M50 engineering gets you a dual motor AWD system developing an enormous 544hp and 795Nm of torque and, if you engage the extra provided 'Boost' drive mode (which temporarily adds 68hp for 'push-to-pass' overtaking), it storms past 62mph in just 3.9s (about half a second slower than an M3), en route to 140mph. There's 318 miles of range. M50-spec also gets you adaptive damping, which is air-sprung at the rear.

Unlike some of its rivals, this BMW gets pretty feelsome Servotronic electromechanical steering, along with an integrated braking system that does a good job in combining friction and regen braking in a way that feels reasonably natural to the pedal. There are no steering wheel paddles to alter energy recuperation, but 'light', 'medium' and 'high' screen-selectable functions allow you to do so - or you can just activate the provided 'B' drive ratio. There are three main drive modes - 'ECO Pro', 'Comfort' and 'Sport', with the extra 'Sport Boost' setting we referenced earlier also available. Once you blast away from rest and the electric motors are spinning within their 8,000 to 17,000 rpm peak range, the acceleration is storming.

Design and Build

As you'd expect, this 'M Performance' M50 model gets its own bespoke trim package, including 19-inch 'M Double-spoke Bicolour' wheels with M Sport brake callipers, plus 'Individual Lights Shadowline' exterior trim and standard metallic paint.

Inside with the M50, as well as the usual 'M Sport' features, there's real Vernasca leather upholstery and M Sport seat belts. Otherwise, it's much as in an ordinary 'M Sport'-trimmed i4. Once you get comfortable at the wheel, you'll find yourself sitting lower than you might expect to in an EV, which helps in delivering this car's sportier demeanour. Like the current 3 Series and most of BMW's other most recent models, the dash is dominated by a 'Curved Display' twin screen set-up, which combines a 12.3-inch instrument display with a 14.9-inch centre screen.

And in the back? Well even if you didn't know that the i4 isn't constructed upon a platform primarily designed for an electric car, you might guess the fact once seated in the rear. Not only because of the restricted leg room but also because of the provision of the sort of big central transmission tunnel you'd think an EV wouldn't have to have. Out back, the standard powered tailgate rises to reveal a decently-sized boot. At 470-litres with the seats in place (the same as a 4 Series Gran Coupe), this i4 betters Tesla's rival Model 3 Performance by almost 50-litres, and the Polestar 2 Twin Motor by 70-litres.

Market and Model

At the time of compiling this Review in Summer 2023, i4 M50 pricing was starting from around £71,000, about £12,000 more than a rear-driven 'M Sport'-trimmed version of the next i4 model down, the mid-level eDrive40 variant. In our other sections, we've covered some of the bespoke features that set this M50 version apart. These include the visual embellishments that we covered in our 'Design' segment: and drive stuff like Variable Sport steering and M Adaptive suspension, plus an extra 'Sport Boost' mode, which temporarily adds 68hp for 'push-to-pass' overtaking. There's also a Harman Kardon surround sound system, complete with 16 speakers and a digital seven-channel amplifier delivering 464 watts of audio power.

On to safety, which is pretty well accounted for, but not enough to get this car the coveted Euro NCAP 5-star rating - all i4s were only given 4 stars. Like other i4 variants, this one gets what the brand calls an 'Active Guard Plus' system, based around 'Front collision warning' technology, which can detect the presence of cyclists, as well as vehicles and pedestrians. At over 30mph, the vehicle scans the road ahead for potential accident hazards and if one is detected, you'll be warned and the brakes pre-conditioned for maximum effectiveness. Should you be travelling at under 30mph and be not responding to a detected hazard, the brakes will automatically be applied, reducing the severity of any resulting accident and hopefully alleviating it altogether. 'Active Guard Plus' also includes 'Lane Departure Warning with lane return' that stops dozy drivers from veering over lane delineating lines on the highway and will intervene with light steering assistance to ease the car back to where it ought to be. Plus there's 'Traffic Sign Recognition'; and an 'Alertness Assistant' that monitors you for signs of drowsiness.

Cost of Ownership

We'll re-state the range figure we gave you in our 'Driving Experience' section. The i4 M50 delivers a claimed WLTP-rated range of up to 316 miles per charge from its 80.7kWh-plus battery pack (down from the 367 mile figure the same battery delivers in the lighter rear-drive i4 eDrive40 model). As with the eDrive40, the M50 has a maximum recharging rate of 205kW, which means the battery can be recharged from 10-80% in as little as 31 minutes.. This top i4, like many of its rivals, can charge at up to 11kW AC at home, in public, or at the workplace, which puts charging times at 13 hours on a 7.4kW home wallbox, dropping to eight and a half hours on an 11kW+ unit.

What else? Well this i4 needs servicing every two years or 20,000 miles, and will cost less to maintain than a BMW with an internal combustion engine. The brand offers 'i' service plans, which at the time of filming started from £460, and cover all maintenance and servicing work that might be needed for the length of the plan. A three-year/unlimited mileage warranty is included on the car as with all BMW models, and the drive battery gets an eight year/100,000 mile warranty, which is pretty standard for the electric car market. Residual values are strong, around the 60% level after three years and 12,000 miles a year.

Summary

We're not completely convinced that an i4 M50 offers quite enough over its lesser i4 eDrive40 stablemate to justify its huge price premium. But if you can come to terms with that and an AWD format is essential, this is pretty much a state-of-the-art definition of current mid-sized EV sports saloon and fastback design.

If you struggle with the price, just take a look at how much more it would cost to get basically the same thing packaged up as BMW's i5 M50. Or check out how much the Three-Pointed Star wants to charge for a Mercedes-AMG EQE 53 4MATIC+ that goes hardly any faster. So it's all relative - and will be all about relatives as EV M cars start to join BMW's model line-up in greater numbers. But this was the first. And it deserved to be.

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