The BMW i4 is essentially the full electric version of the 4 Series. The M50, which I reviewed at Millbrook Proving Ground last year (which is to say I got to drive it hard around the close road circuit), is the top dog. Pretty much the M4 of BMW’s i-series saloons. As such it boasts the equivalent of 540bhp and serves up a relentless wave of 586lb ft of torque. This enables it to sprint from standstill to 62mph in just 3.9 seconds and reach a top speed of 140mph. It has an 80.7kWh battery and comes with a claimed 318-mile range.
Prices are NOT cheap. They start at about £50k for the i4 Sport eDrive 35, and from just under £52k for the M Sport, but those come with 286bhp (0-62mph in 6 seconds) and 340bhp (0-62mph in 5.7 seconds) respectively.
However, it’s the M50 that you want, and it’s something you’ll have to save a little harder for, because prices start from £71,000. And once you start to spec it up, you’ll need a little more.
The car tested had Visibility Park, Technology Plus Pack, Comfort Pack and M Technology Pack. Plus 20-inch black alloy wheels, M Sport brakes, carbon fibre interior trim and exterior styling and big body-hugging M Sports seats. You’re easily spending another £10k plus when you’re ticking off juicy extras on the order form.
You’ll want to justify that by exclaiming that it’s electric, so it will cost less to run etc etc… You know that’s nonsense, you know there’s no justification for all this spec, and that there’s no need for all this power. You know that. I know that. But we also both know that the M50 is the one that we want.
Firstly, the styling and practicality, yes it gets the huge hanging-jaw kidney grille – get over it, it looks fine with the numberplate bisecting it. The rest of the car looks sleek and smart, more Gran Coupe than the saloon variant of the four-family in the BMW range.
There’s a huge hatchback-style tailgate, and below that is a remarkably capacious cargo space, which is a little surprising, especially when there’s a deep underfloor bin available too, because you’d imagine that’s where all the batteries went.
Hit the button to close the power tailgate and head into the rear passenger compartment. Again, it’s reasonably roomy, if a little enclosed because of the huge front seats. It’s beautifully crafted and inviting. There is one indication of this being an EV, and it’s that you feel your feet a little higher than normal. The batteries are sandwiched in the floor.
Let’s move to the front. And for BMW owners, it’s reassuringly familiar and comfortable. The controls are just where you expect them to be. There are no real surprises. There is a huge one-piece screen clamped onto the dashboard and stretching two-thirds of the way across the front.
If you’re worried about adapting to an EV, a car like this helps, because there is very little adaptation it demands of you. Until you get going that is. Then you need to realign your perspective of speed!
Get going. It’s smooth, with a typically BMW firm but well damped and superbly controlled and composed ride. The steering could be a meatier, there is little feel, but it’s responsive, accurate, and chunky enough to be a delightful tiller to tighten your fists around as you go, and go faster, and go quicker than you thought you would, than you should quite frankly.
This thing is rapid, especially when you flip on the Sports modes. And with it comes sound. Oh yes, this is swift, but not entirely silent, at least not on the inside. In fact, it has a bassy but whiny persistent and rousing tone that is composed by no less than Oscar-winning film score composer, Hans Zimmer known for movies such as The Lion King, the Pirates of the Caribbean series, and the Batman Dark Knight trilogy. He’s also on a list of top 100 living geniuses.
No wonder then that I got fully caught up in the sci-fi sound, and there’s no question that it enhanced and added to the experience of speed – sound and sensation are two crucial aspects of human multi-sensory satisfaction.
Marry that to the grip, the poise, the eagerness to warp along straights, to dive into corners and to blast out of them, makes this car not only compellingly quick, but also laugh-out-loud fun.
For all its seriousness, grown-up quality and mighty engineering, this electric BMW, does the best job in interpreting those Bimmer characteristics that fans of the German marque will be so familiar with, and deploying them in a battery-powered vehicle.
Frankly speaking, this was the most enjoyable and memorable experience of recent memory when it comes to the latest EV offerings from car companies. If you can afford it, and want to make the switch to electric, don’t even hesitate. Just get one!