Mountain Wheels: BMW’s all-electric i4 is a performance fan’s dream come true |

Mountain Wheels: BMW’s all-electric i4 is a performance fan’s dream come true

With a blistering 586 pound-feet of instant torque, the new, 3-series-sized BMW i4’s M50 performance edition is one fast customer.
Andy Stonehouse/Mountain Wheels

Imagine a BMW M3 that never needs gas, accelerates like an M5 on racing fuel, yet behaves almost normally in all of the regular attributes associated with automobiles.

The remarkably non-weird, high-performance future is finally here with the i4. And unlike BMW’s previous mass-market electrics — the very peculiar but charming i3 and the futuristic, supercar-styled i8 — the new i4’s electric platform is a 3-Series-esque body. That means almost totally regular seating, controls and driving setup, though also radically transformed.

I can’t say that the i3’s M50 edition is exactly what lies ahead for other BMW electrified vehicles, but for this performance-oriented model, priced at $77,070, things are literally breathtaking: dual electric motors that produce 536 horsepower and 586 pound-feet of torque, almost instantaneously, and entirely silently.

You can, if you are brave, still get wheelspin at 75 mph in the M50, as so much oomph is almost a challenge to connect with the pavement, despite beautiful 20-inch wheels and high-performance summer tires. The specs say 0-60 in 3.7 seconds but, given a week of independent tomfoolery, I think that is an understatement.

That kind of boost means you can dart out in front of traffic like you are about to jump into hyperspace. More hilariously, you can give it a 50% recharge in about 45 minutes. Suddenly, EVs seem more fun. The slightly more restrained i4 eDrive40, with a more robust 301-mile range, still offers 335 horsepower, with just a little less neck-snapping yank as a result.

BMW’s i4 M50 represents a largely understated example of the less polarizing possibilities of electric motoring. Even with an M-style package and the Gran Coupe’s slightly hatchback style, about the only clues you’d get of electrification are contained in on-screen menus and maybe underneath the smartly designed electric charging flap. The M stuff does bring with it colored performance brake calipers, Spock-ear super-aero side mirrors and lots of body flash, but nothing you wouldn’t see on a gasoline model.

Power is contained in an 81 kWh lithium-ion battery with a thermal management system to help cope with the extremes of extreme driving, with mileage range listed as 270 miles after a totally full charge, but real-world results entirely related to your eco lead-footing. Official ratings for the 2022 model I drove were 80 electric mpg, a far cry from the Nissan Leaf’s 104 electric mpg.

Much like the old i3, you can often drive all day long with one pedal, as the regenerative braking and electrical drive works to slow the car in most circumstances — brake lights automatically activated as this happens.

The eco mode helps produce the mildest use of off-the-line power, but even the normal drive mode can be deep-pedaled for truly unbelievable speed. It’s surprising how quiet the i4 is, minus some simulated engine noises if you want to dial them up. You will hear those very big tires running the pavement, plus some chassis settling noises, as well as your own laughing/screaming/crying. It is quite remarkable.

That lack of internal combustion vroom is a little unsettling, and the steering perhaps a bit inauthentic, but it takes those shot-out-of-a-catapult moments you occasionally get with a Leaf or a Bolt and lets you know how those Tesla people feel, all of the time.

And without the “Hey, I’m an EV” gaudiness of many other makers’ electric cars, about the only goofball feature here is the “I guess they really are keeping that” blocky nose plate/digital kidney grille from the new 2- and 4-series models. There’s a nice brake vent line that builds along the entire floor-level sweep of the cabin, flared out rear wheels and blacked-out window frames and b-pillars.

The i4 is not by any means roomy in the rear, but the hatchback cargo setup probably means you could load a bike or two in the car.

In-cabin setup is also nearly identical to current ICE models, with a double-wide digital display and almost no real controls on the dash — the A/C controls are, rather annoyingly, now digital-only.

Given i4 M50’s velocity, I greatly appreciated that the often aggressive lane-keep controls on other BMWs have been greatly softened here.

Andy Stonehouse, Summit Daily News
Andy Stonehouse

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