If someone has already invented time travel we wouldn’t necessarily know it for some time or, possibly, ever know. The world as we see it could be the world that’s already been irrevocably tweaked. This is the paradox of time time travel and of reviewing the BMW i4 M50, which is BMW’s idea for a performance-oriented electric car. Is it the car that started a revolution or is it just another car? A time machine would be extremely helpful here.
It’s at this point in a BMW review I need to prove to you I’ve driven a lot famously wonderful, Biermann-blessed cars. Yes, I have experienced the joy of a track-prepped E30 M3 (not great in Brooklyn). I have eaten up hundreds of miles in a perfectly sorted E46 M3 coupe (I still think about it). I’ve even driven Alex Roy’s legendary E39 M5 (it broke, which was probably Alex’s fault).
Does this car fit into the pantheon of those great BMWs? Absolutely not. But that pantheon ain’t getting bigger anytime soon. BMW’s gonna need a new one and the i4 M50 isn’t a bad place to start.
What Is The BMW i4 M50?
The BMW i40 M50 is the more performance-oriented version of BMW’s i4, which is the electrified twin of the BMW 4-Series Gran Coupe. In its basic eDrive40 variation the i4 has an electric motor powering the rear wheels. In i4 M50 trim the BMW adds a motor to the front, making it AWD.
That motor in the nose of the i4 M50 can produce up to 255 horsepower while the one over the rear axle maxes out at 308 horsepower. Does that mean this has 563 horsepower? Sort of. In SPORT the car enables ‘Sport Boost” and you’re given full access to all that horsepower, and 586 lb-ft of torque, for “over ten seconds.” Don’t let that freak you out because no gas motor is giving you 100% of power 100% of the time, either.
The necessary energy for these motors is stored in an 81.5 kWh (net) battery pack that can charge at up to 200 kW on a DC fast charger, which is slower than the Lucid Air or Panamera (both closer to 300 kW) but still enough to charge the car to 80% in about half an hour from 15% in my own experience.
Range varies a lot across trim levels. The regular i4 eDrive 40 has an EPA estimated range of 301 miles, an i4 M50 with 18-inch wheels gets 282 miles, the M50 with 19-inch wheels gets 270 miles, and the sportiest version with the 20-inch wheels gets penalized enough to hit only 227 miles.
This is technically not an “M” car in the same way an M3 is, but BMW clearly threw everything at it to make it handle and perform like one when compared to the stock i4. For one, BMW has gone and added more bracing under the hood and behind the rear axle to increase rigidity (with the integrated battery as a structural element it’s already unlikely to give into flex). They’ve also added more negative camber to the front axle, which means the two front tires should keep more of their contact patches is on the road under hard cornering. Both the i4 and the i4 M50 have rear air springs, but the i4 M50 adds BMW’s adaptive M suspension with adaptive dampers. Given the low center of gravity (37 mm lower than a 3-series) and fairly ideal 48/52 weight distribution it’s built to go around corners.
Why Does The i4 M50 Exist?
My friend Sam Smith is a genius car writer, vintage car racer, and BMW fan. He’s worked on more vintage BMWs than you’ll ever see. We made a TV show together and nothing made me happier than giving him a brand new BMW M-badged crossover so I could watch him face the harsh reality that those cars are outrageously fast and, lacking any context of what BMWs used to feel like, extremely good. He hated it. He hated it so much. And it delighted me.
I have driven classic BMWs and I think I understand their values but I’m not burdened by them like he is. He’s not wrong, of course. The BMW of yore, emotionally and ideologically, probably hit its zenith with Clive Owen manhandling Madonna in the back of an E39 M5.
Since then the idea of the “Ultimate Driving Machine” has mostly devolved into a slogan as the company, instead, builds a bunch of cars that are largely pretty great but are not entirely designed to make an increasingly smaller group of people happy. That’s a cynical view, but it’s probably the truth. Lacking a time machine you’re just gonna have to take my word for it.
Instead, BMW is making cars for people who buy a lot of cars. Some of those people want electric cars. Some of those people want and like fast electric cars that seem like what they imagine an E36 M3 handles like even if they’ve never driven or never will drive an E36 M3.
This is why the i4 M50 exists.
Which One Did I Drive And How Much Does It Cost?
I drove a 2022 BMW i4M50 w/ 20-inch wheels that starts at $65,900 before a $995 destination charge. The options were the Drivers Assistance Pro Package ($1,700), Parking Assistance Package ($700), Premium Package ($950), High Performance Package ($2,500), Carbon Fiber Trim ($300), Icon Adaptive LED w/Laserlight ($1,000), Wireless Charging ($200), Personal eSIM 5G ($300), BMW Curved Display w/ HUD ($1,000), Harmon Kardon Surround Sound ($875), M Carbon Exterior Package ($2,800), and Frozen Portimaou Blue paint ($3,600). The total MSRP is $82,820.
How does it look?
This is one of the better looking modern BMWs, which is grading on a curve a little. The giant nostrils blend nicely into the rest of the car here and the paint, while being unnecessarily expensive, does look fantastic. People kept stopping me to compliment the car’s skin, as if I’d gotten out a spray gun and did the work myself. I think the carbon package doesn’t add much to the car and I’d skip it, but the overall package works.
Calling this a Gran Coupe is one of those things BMW does that infuriates people even though you’ve got to differentiate it from the 3-series somehow in order to justify why this exists and, besides, the elongated coupe [Editor’s Note: It’s not a coupe –JT] look really works here. I even like the little Gurney Flap on the rear.
Inside, the perforated non-leather SensaTec seats are firm and easy to clean (I put two six-year olds back there, so cleaning happened). The interior color on this car is called “cognac” and the last time I had cognac was on an Air France flight back home this summer from Le Mans and I don’t remember it being so orange, but it’s attractive and nicely contrasts with the exterior.
I’m a big fan of BMWs interiors. BMW makes some of the best interiors in the world and it extends to this car as well. All the controls are nicely at hand and the placement of the curved display is ideal for a driver.
As with all iDrive variations there has to be one thing that’s extremely annoying and for this generation it’s the climate controls, which are integrated into the screen and should just be a real knob. I only wanted to punch the screen twice, so that’s an improvement.
How Is It To Drive When You Drive Like A Normal Person?
In day-to-day driving, in COMFORT or ECO-PRO mode, it’s easy to forget you’re driving an electric car. Brake regeneration feels extremely light. Like most modern BMWs the car is well-dampened and goes over bumps predictably. Steering errs towards heavy and not in a way that seems to provide any benefit, but it’s surefooted around the kind of turns you might find in a normal city.
If you nudge the shifter to the big B you get the one-pedal driving mode, which is where the regeneration can be maximized and you can theoretically drive it without using the brake. Unlike most electric cars, the single pedal driving in the BMW is way too soft and I found myself braking a lot more than I’m used to. The handoff between regenerative braking and I-don’t-want-to-hit-that-Prius braking was smoother than most, so personal preference will tell you if it’s better or worse this way.
How Is It To Drive Like An Andretti?
It’s easy to make fun of the idea of an electric car that makes engine-like noises for the driver. It sounds ridiculous. Trust me, it is not ridiculous. One of the most dangerous aspects of driving an electric car fast is that it’s hard to tell how fast you’re actually going in the moment. I suspect this is one reason why Richard Hammond crashed the Rimac Concept.ONE and I’ve certainly surprised myself driving an EV fast.
So the BMW i4 M50, in SPORT MODE, pumps this silly futuristic noise into the cabin while driving. Hans Zimmer did the sound and it’s sort of like if Max Headroom was making sweaty, pixelated love to the BMW M54 inline-six. It helps. It’s also one of the greatest clues that you’re driving a BMW.
Otherwise, there’s nothing particularly special about the i4 M50 at speed other than its instantaneous ass-punch of torque. When driving it up and down a moderately twisty mountain road I had to keep reminding myself that I’d be better off pointing the tires forward before applying any power. I have no idea where the edge of this car is because finding it would risk putting it into a tree.
Allegedly, the wider/bigger tires that zap range provide more grip and this feels like a thing that exists solely for automotive journalists to discover on track tests and not something a real human would want or need. In the fastest trim the M50 hits 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, which is not earth-shattering, but is faster than a base M3/M4.
To be honest, I have not fully adjusted to what driving an EV fast is like, even after experience with a bunch of quick EVs, including on a race track. It’s different. It’s impressive. I don’t think it’s great yet, but it could be great. We’re at a point in time where the car’s comfort zone is way beyond my comfort zone and all that extra rigidity and extra tire exists to tempt me beyond my own personal limits.
This is why, given a time machine, I’d love to know if this car has a legacy. When more M-badged things are electric, is this the car that future enthusiasts are pointing to as a vehicle that BMW got right?
In most quantifiable ways the i4 M50 is probably faster than a similarly equipped M3 (at least for a couple of laps). That doesn’t make it a better M3 unless you think the fastest M3 is the best M3, which is not an unfair thing to believe.
How Was It To Live With For A Week?
I could live with this car for longer than a week. It charges quickly enough, I got close to 2.9 miles-per-kWh on one long drive (enough to be a little better than than the estimated 221 miles of range) and not much worse around town, and there’s ample room in the trunk for everything I’d need. A Tesla Model 3 is a better electric car, but a BMW i4 M50 is a better car.
Would You Buy This Car New?
In this trim? Absolutely not. Save yourself the $20k and get the basest base model M50 anyone will build you, which puts it pretty close to the Model 3 Performance in terms of price. A less-optioned one of these is intriguing and I’d probably have it over the Model 3 and, honestly, it’s so much cheaper than a Taycan I’d maybe buy this over that, too.
Would You Buy This Car Used In 10 Years?
How much life is left on the battery, hypothetically?
What Are Some Things That Annoyed You About This Car?
Gonna be honest, in addition to some lingering iDrive-itis I’m not a huge fan of how recessed the rear seat buckle is. I nearly destroyed my back trying to get the belt around my daughter’s booster seat. It’s a small thing for most but it’s a huge thing if you have to keep doing it. The wireless charger is fairly sensitive and is good for people who wish their phone was about 90% hotter and about 10% more charged.
What Are Some Things You Loved About This Car?
I find Heads Up Displays to be mostly distracting and useless, but here it’s nicely designed and works well enough that I think it’s almost worth the money. The paint, this silly expensive paint job, is annoyingly spectacular. My daughter kept saying “Kids are going to love this car.”
The interior also has customizable lights and, for many cars, this is a joke. It barely works. BMW not only gives you a nice selection of colors but they’re also visible inside the car. The i4 M50 has a lot of little details like this that are gently pleasing.
If This Car Were A Food, What Would The Food Be?
German schnitzel which is wienerschnitzel made with pork instead of veal. Yeah, it’s pork and not veal. It’s different! Maybe it’s better, though? It’s pounded meat. What else do you want?
What’s A Cheaper Car That Does Most Of The Same Stuff?
A Polestar 2 with the performance pack ($57,400) is somewhat similar, as is a Tesla Model 3 ($56,390).
What’s A More Expensive Option?
A Porsche Taycan GTS is $134,100 and a super choice.
Who Should Buy This?
A person who needs a good commuter electric car that can handle backroads but wants something that isn’t a boring old Tesla or a sexy fridge like the Kia EV6.
If this is the BMW performance car that represents the future of BMW electric cars and not, say, the BMW XM, then I think that’s a future I can live with.