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First drive: 2022 BMW i4 M50. Image by BMW.

First drive: 2022 BMW i4 M50
We check out BMW's top-of-the-range electric 4 Series.

   



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2022 BMW i4 M50

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The inexorable march towards electric cars is well underway, but cars like the BMW i4 show us that the future need not be bleak and soulless. Essentially a zero-emission version of the 4 Series Gran Coupe, the i4 has the road manners, the range and the familiarity to convince customers they can already make the switch.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: BMW i4 M50
Pricing: i4 from £51,905 (M50 from £63,905)
Electric system: electric motor on each axle plus 83.9kWh lithium-ion battery pack
Transmission: single-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Body style: five-door, five-seat fastback
CO2 emissions: 0g/km
Electric range: 317 miles
Top speed: 140mph
0-62mph: 3.9 seconds
Power: 544hp
Torque: 795Nm
Boot space: 470-1,290 litres

What's this?

The i4 is BMWís newest electric car, but if the shape looks familiar then thereís a good reason for that. The i4 is, as the name suggests, based on the 4 Series Gran Coupe that has been on sale for a little while now. Like that car, the i4 is designed to be both spacious and sporty, with a tickle of luxury and refinement thrown in for good measure. The electric motor is almost a sideshow.

All that said, the i4 does look appreciably different to the 4 Series, thanks to its smooth (but still massive) grille, the trim line along the bottom of the doors and the completely exhaust-free rear end. Lowlier eDrive40 models come with blue exterior trim as standard, too, but the more upmarket M Sport cars and this Ė the top-of-the-range M50 model Ė get a muscular body kit instead.

The interior is more of a departure, with two enormous screens dominating the dashboard. Stolen from the iX SUVís radical (and fabulous) interior, the curved display runs across about two-thirds of the i4ís dashboard, with a 12.3-inch instrument display for the driver and a 14.9-inch central touchscreen. That screen comes with fresh software thatís a little sharper than the Operating System 7 technology found in the standard 4 Series, and it takes over more of the carís functions. Pretty much everything has migrated to the screen, leaving the dashboard bare apart from a few vents and the essential switchgear.

We canít say thatís a change weíre particularly enamoured with Ė physical controls will always be better for functions such as heating Ė but at least the ultra-modern screen is good enough to make turning up the heater reasonably easy. We are, however, more impressed with the instrument display, which is clearer and easier to read than the one in the standard 4 Series.

As with every BMW, the build quality is excellent, with some lovely materials in the cabin and distinctly German engineering. The buttons that remain are beautifully damped, the cabin plastics are squidgy and everything looks and feels properly premium. Itís one of the better cabins on the market right now.

But for all BMWís talk about the i4 being a proper four-seater, itís far from the most spacious cabin around. The legroom is more than adequate, but headroom will be at a premium for taller passengers, and the black roof lining of our test car made everything feel a little bit dark. That said, the i4ís 470-litre boot is to be commended.

How does it drive?

Although the i4 shares much with the 4 Series Gran Coupe, the carís character is largely defined by the electric powertrain. Behind that faired-in grille, customers get a choice of two different powertrains: the eDrive40 and the M50. The former is a 340hp system that drives the rear wheels, while the flagship M50 tested here has a much chunkier 544hp and four-wheel drive.

Unsurprisingly, the M50 is the faster option, getting from 0-62mph in just 3.9 seconds before blasting on to 140mph. As instantaneous and as savage as that performance might be, it doesnít feel much faster than the eDrive40, which takes 5.7 seconds to get from 0-62mph. We hypothesise, though, that much of that difference (certainly in the early stages) is down to the all-wheel-drive traction, and we suspect the lack of drama in the silent propulsion systems doesnít help.

Nevertheless, the M50 is biblically fast whichever way you cut it, and the eDrive40 is no slouch either. And it isnít like theyíre just fast in a straight line, thanks to BMWís legendary chassis engineering, which manages to make the i4 respond to commands with impressive alacrity. The steering is overly light, but itís fluid and accurate, while thereís plenty of grip to keep the car going the way you want it. Admittedly, BMWís attempts to hide the 2.2-tonne kerb weight have been a bit fruitless, and the body leans more than you might expect in corners, but generally the car drives very well.

It rides quite well, too, albeit slightly less comfortable than something like a 330e or a 420i Gran Coupe. BMW has designed the suspension to be sportier than the 3 Series, but itís still supple enough to deal with most of the bumps and the advantage is plenty of feel for whatís happening when youíre driving quickly.

Unsurprisingly, refinement is a key strong point for the i4, with barely a whisper from the motor and only a small amount of wind and road noise. Itís very relaxing, although the Sport modeís fake powertrain noise spoils the serenity, while the suspension settings make the ride slightly worse.

As for range, the eDrive40 is the champion, managing more than 360 miles on a single charge in the official economy test. In the real world, thatís probably more like 250 Ė perhaps a little more if youíre careful. The M50, meanwhile, has a 317 mile thatíll fall to about 200 or so in normal use, and will more than likely fall lower in cold weather or when the temptation to get greedy with your right foot becomes too much.

Verdict

There can be no question of the i4ís brilliance. It has all the charms of the 4 Series Gran Coupe, but the interior is more high-tech and so too is the powertrain. The result is a car thatís great to drive, relatively comfortable and quiet to boot. Itís also mighty fast, but itís cheap to run and tax. Yes, rear space is a little tight for taller passengers and the grille wonít be for everyone, but the i4 is still one of the best electric cars on the market.

As brilliant as the M50 is, weíd plump for the eDrive40 model, simply because itís much cheaper and slightly more comfortable than the M50, but itís barely any slower and, in M Sport trim, it looks much the same. It also has more range, which will seal the deal for many.


4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

3.5 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

3 3 3 3 3 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


James Fossdyke - 29 Jan 2022



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2022 BMW i4 M50. Image by BMW.2022 BMW i4 M50. Image by BMW.2022 BMW i4 M50. Image by BMW.    







 

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