2022 BMW i4 review: Does the first M-badged EV give us the joy of driving?
It's a little M badge, but does it give big thrills?
The BMW i4 pulls off the motoring equivalent of strutting into a packed bar on a Saturday night and loudly proclaiming 'look at me, I'm great'. That's because, dear reader, it's the first BMW electric car to wear an M badge. Sure, it's the small sort of M badge that we've seen on the M235i and M440i among others, but it still carries a weight of sporty expectation.
The team in Munich that designed the i4 says it's fun to drive despite being electric. Are they rightig? Or have they been having a Weissbier too many in their marketing meetings? Join me in the video review below or read on for more thoughts.
Was ist das?
It's a four-door BMW 4 Series, which in our books makes it the first time we've driven a variant of the new BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. Except it's fully electric. It's available with a single motor on the rear axle as the i4 edrive40, which can travel 365 miles on a charge, or as the faster dual-motor i4 M50. Which is the one we drove.
The i4's side profile is classic 4 Series Gran Coupe, although it's been jacked up slightly to accommodate the underfloor batteries
Clearly, the dual-motor version is faster, getting from 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds as opposed to 5.7 for the single-motor version. Range is shorter at 316 miles, and it costs more – you're looking at around £64,000 before options for the i4 M50, and £52,000 for the edrive40. Both can be charged at around 200kW, meaning getting the battery charge up from 10% to 80% takes around 31 minutes.
And yes, both get the same big front grille that we've seen on the M3 and M4, and that we're all totally used to and okay with now. Aren't we?
How does it drive?
Phenomenally comfortably, for the most part. The M50 has adaptive dampers as standard and it even sports air suspension on the rear axle. Driving around town is a pleasure thanks to the serene cabin, usefully huge and animated head-up display sat-nav graphics, as well as the latest iDrive system that can tell if you're about to run a red light and warn you.
M50 just means 'the fast one'. Check out the blistered rear wheelarches too
Things stay serene even near the car's top speed – we had it up to 136mph on the Autobahn and it was still pretty darn quiet – BMW's done a decent job of removing tyre and wind noise from the cabin, although the larger, bluffer iX SUV is somehow quieter still.
On the move the i4 M50 is super comfy and quiet and will wag its tail out of tight corners
Obviously the i4 M50 is blisteringly quick away from a standstill, although you actually only get the full 544hp if you put the car in the 'sport boost' driving mode. Otherwise you're left with a measly 470hp. Piffle. Mid-range acceleration is strong enough to whack your passengers back in their seats, and you all get to enjoy the weirdly loud electric noise composed by Hans Zimmer. You can turn it off quite easily, however – and it's so loud you may do just that.
Sadly our drive of the car was in far wetter conditions than this, and it got a bit understeery
On a dry twisty road you can drive the i4 pretty quickly, although the car's 2.2-tonne mass does make itself felt in tighter corners, where it will understeer before trying to oversteer as you get back on the throttle and send 400 angry newton metres of torque to the wheels. The stability control will have a bit of a fit then sort you out, and you need to be especially careful in the wet. Our test route in southern Bavaria was mostly soggy, and we had more than one moment where the car understeered much earlier than we thought it would. Again, blame the weight.
The M Performance optional parts list includes drilled and vented brake discs
Once you've adjusted your corner speeds a little you can sense that the i4 M50 has been engineered to entertain. Even with all the stability control systems enabled, you can slide the tail out of roundabouts as you get on the accelerator. It shows got real potential, so we'd like to have a proper go in less soggy conditions.
The brakes are perfectly decent, hauling you up from big speeds without any bother or any of the weirdness you sometimes get in EVs when the car decides to switch from recuperative braking to using the physical brakes.
What about the rest of it?
BMW's new iDrive operating system is a thing of brilliance – the central screen is huge too
The driving position is spot on – you can get the seat nice and low and pull the steering wheel out into your lap. As mentioned, the head-up display is fantastically large and customisable using a button on the steering wheel, as is the large 12.3-inch driver's display. The infotainment is BMW's latest iDrive system first seen in the BMW iX, and it's fan-bloody-tastic. It's just so easy to use and the screen is bright, large and feels utterly cutting edge.
The boot's only 30 litres smaller than the one on the huge iX SUV
In terms of practicalities, the i4 gets a decent 470-litre boot, and the rear seats are reasonably roomy, although people over 6-feet tall won't be able to fully lean back in their seats without brushing the roof with their noggins. And the outer-rear headrests are pathetic little sausages which just look a bit odd.
Should I buy one?
There's no doubting that the BMW i4 is a fantastic attempt at giving us a really enjoyable, properly quick 4 Series that doesn't have a straight six under the bonnet. It gives you faster-feeling acceleration than the petrol-powered M4 (up to say, 60mph) and more instant shove without the need for such Victorian boat anchors as gearboxes and pistons. It feels modern, it feels high tech. It feels as if there's real fun-to-drive potential buried in there too – although we weren't really able to dig too deep on rainy roads for fear of understeering into a beer hall.
It's not a cheap car, but it's £10,000 less than a basic BMW M3 Competition at the time of writing. If you can live with the 316-mile range (more likely to be about 280 in the real world), then go for it. And if you want more range and can do without the crazy performance, then get the cheaper rear-drive i4 eDrive40 model.
Don't write it off because it looks just like a 4 Series Gran Coupe – the i4 is its own thing, and it doesn't half make a lot of BMW's combustion-engined rivals feel a bit old fashioned.