Electric performance cars - will they ever be as exciting to drive as petrol-powered performance cars, that is the question? Will battery-powered silence ever substitute for the sound of fire breathing engines and exhaust notes. This is the 544 horsepower BMW i4 M50, and it may be the electric car that changes our mind. The i4 M50 is the first BMW EV to have been developed in conjunction with the brand’s M motorsport division, which is responsible for cars like the M3 and M5. The i4 M50 goes up against other EVs like the Polestar 2 and Tesla Model 3, with a claimed range of up 513 kilometres and a starting price tag of €78,000. We spent a week with it on Irish roads recently to see if it is the best EV in its class.
The i4 is essentially an electric version of the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe and it is based on the same platform, but the closed-off kidney grille up front shows that it is a fully-fledged EV. BMW offers the i4 in two different versions, the rear-wheel drive eDrive40 which has 335 horsepower, or this i4 M50 which has 544 horsepower. The M50 gets lots of sporty styling upgrades including M Sport exterior styling, a rear spoiler, adaptive sports suspension and lots of M Sport badges to show it is the range topper. This one has some optional extras including 20-inch bicolour alloy wheels with performance tyres and this gorgeous Frozen Portimao Blue paint which is a €3,368 optional extra.
Stepping inside, the i4 feels premium as you would expect at this price point, and it’s quite similar to the latest BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. Like BMW's iX electric SUV, it has two large curved screens that look great and are very sharp, with BMW’s latest iDrive operating system. The graphics are very sharp and the whole system is responsive, but there are a lot of different menus and options which can be difficult to navigate through at first. We prefer to use wireless Apple Car Play which is built in as standard and it offers the best user experience.
BMW has prioritised build quality inside, there are lots of soft touch materials across the dashboard and doors, and our test car even has optional carbon fibre detailing for a sporty finish. The i4 feels like a step up from the Tesla Model 3 and Polestar 2 in this way. Space is good up front with lots of adjustment available through the seats and steering wheel, although I would have expected electric steering wheel adjustment at this price point. Being the M Sport model, it gets other nice touches including M Sport seatbelts, a Harmon Kardon surround sound system and anthracite headlining.
In the rear there is enough space for two adults with good headroom thanks to the tall sloping roofline, and it feels quite spacious. If you are sitting in the middle seat though, legroom is restricted because of this transmission tunnel that has been retained from the BMW 4 Series platform. There is two sets of ISOFIX mounts for family buyers. Thanks to a hatchback style boot opening the i4 offers plenty of access in the boot, with 470 litres of room which is more than you get in the Tesla Model 3. There is also an underfloor storage area which is useful for your charge cables and the seats fold down almost flat for carrying larger items. That said, the i4 doesn’t have any additional storage space underneath the bonnet like you get in rival models.
The i4 range starts with the entry level eDrive40, which is rear wheel drive with a single motor, and it has 335 horsepower with a claimed range of 590 kilometres. Ultimately, the eDrive40 is the one that most buyers are going to choose with a lower €65,000 starting price tag, and it has more range and plenty of performance for daily driving. We drove the range topping i4 M50 and it is rapid in a straight line, with dual electric motors sending 544 horsepower to the road, sprinting from 0-100km/h in just 3.9 seconds. Ok, that isn’t quite as fast the Tesla Model 3 Performance which can cover 0-100km/h in 3.1 seconds, but the i4 makes up for this with more accomplished handling on tight and twisty roads.
To say that this car is fast is an understatement, it throws you back into the seat under heavy acceleration and it grips the road incredibly well thanks to the all-wheel drive system. You can select different driving modes using a selector on the centre console and sport Boost is the one that unleashes all of the power at once. A big part of the driving experience is the driving sounds developed with Hans Zimmer, the legendary film score composer of blockbusters like the Lion King, Gladiator, Pirates of the Carribean and Inception to name a few.
EV buyers will care more about range than acceleration however, and from our experience the i4 M50 offers a realistic 400 kilometre range from its 80.7Kwh battery, driven in Eco Pro mode of course. In terms of charging, the i4 has an 11kW onboard charger and with a standard 7.4kwh home charger it will take around 13 hours to fully charge it overnight. With a rapid 100kW public charger it will take around 41 minutes to charge from 10 to 80 percent, but these chargers aren’t widespread in Ireland at present. There is lots of safety tech to get accustomed to including BMW’s Driving Assistant package that help to prevent collisions out on the road and monitor for hazards.
Prices for the i4 M50 start from €78,315 in Ireland, and it gets 19-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, ambient lighting, electric front heated seats, the Harman Kardon sound system, driving assistant and lots of other features as standard. Our test car leaves little to be desired with a price tag of close to a whopping €90,000! This includes options such as the larger 20-inch wheels, carbon fibre interior trim, BMW’s laserlights, driving assistant professional system and lots more.
So should you buy the BMW i4 M50? Well if you are looking for an EV that offers a thrilling drive, a high quality interior and styling that is more conventional than its rivals, It could be for you. That said, the M50 is over €12,000 more expensive than the entry eDrive 40 model, which ultimately has more range and more than enough power for day-to-day driving. Tesla fans will also point out that the Model 3 Performance trumps the i4 M50 in terms of performance, but the i4 M50 offers a better rounded drive in our opinion.