Combining electric power and performance is a challenge that is facing a lot of car makers. Losing that background exhaust noise does take away some of the theatre, of course, but the added weight that batteries and motors bring can work to dent how involving a car is to drive.
But BMW isn’t shying away from the challenge. It takes us to the car we’re looking at today – the i4 M50. It’s the most performance-orientated version of the firm’s new electric car, but is it any good on UK roads? We’ve been finding out.
The i4 has arrived as a box-fresh model, with a platform designed from the outset to facilitate electric powertrains. In terms of size, it’s ever-so-slightly larger than the 3 Series, but also features five doors in order to make accessibility that little bit easier.
Because it has been designed to be an electric vehicle from the start, too, it means that the entire package is as efficiently spaced as possible, with a decent amount of boot space ensuring that the i4 can easily deal with plenty of luggage.
The performance that the i4 M50 has on offer is pretty serious. It’s got a dual-motor setup – with one mounted on each axle – that combines to produce a seriously impressive 536bhp and 795Nm of torque. That out-punches many of BMW’s petrol-powered M cars in terms of output.
Plus, BMW claims that you could get up to 324 miles from a single charge, while the ability to top up at speeds of up to 200kw means that you could complete a 10-80 per cent charge in just 31 minutes.
It’s particularly impressive just how normal the i4 M50 feels during daily driving. It’s comfortable, quiet and easy to drive slowly. It’s actually one of the best-judged EVs we’ve driven in terms of everyday refinement and really showcases how an electric car should feel day-to-day.
But then you ask a little more of the throttle pedal and the rate at which the i4 fires forwards is scarcely believable. Zero to 60mph comes in 3.7 seconds but it feels far quicker than that, with the initial response feeling razor-sharp each and every time. It is, however, a little more muted when it comes to cornering compared with its petrol-powered cousins; the i4’s weight can definitely be felt through the bends, where it’s not quite as eager to turn it. That said, you can quite easily get yourself into a comfortable groove with this car.
The look of the i4 is definitely starting to grow on us. Those ultra-large front grilles which really got people talking when they first hit the scene a little while back now are now starting to look almost understated, particularly if you compare them to the oversized versions on the latest generation of 7 Series.
This M50 has a decent amount of presence to it, too, while small M badges on the nose and rear do denote this as something a little quicker than normal.
The i4’s cabin is superbly put together and it feels like BMW really is becoming one of the top players when it comes to vehicle interiors. There’s just such a sense of inherent solidity here, with good materials and well-thought-out ergonomics. The steering wheel, mind you, is just a touch too thick – but this is the case on most BMW M models. Rear seat headroom is little compromised, too, while a large central ‘hump’ means that middle-seat passengers might not be the most comfortable.
In terms of boot space, the i4 M50 offers a very respectable 470 litres, or 1,290 litres with the rear seats folded.
BMW is really pushing ahead with its in-car technology these days and the i4 is a great example of this. It uses BMW’s latest Operating System 8, relayed via a superb wraparound display which combines the main infotainment with a driver’s display. You get plenty of functionality too, though at times the sheer number of options and menus can get a little confusing.
That said, Apple CarPlay works seamlessly with the screen too and stretches to the full width of the main display, so all of the icons are really easy to reach out and access. You still get BMW’s trademark rotary controller, but we largely found ourselves just using the touchscreen instead.
The i4 M50 feels like a positive step in electric performance. But it’s far more than sheer stats; this is a comfortable EV with a good amount of range and a really impressive charging speed. It also has plenty of boot space and though taller passengers might find the rear of the i4 a little compact, most will find it a spacious place to be.
Many people might be upset at the future loss of the petrol-powered sports car – us included – but it is cars like the i4 M50 that show there’s plenty to look forward to as well.
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