BMW i4 M50: four-door electric coupe with 400 kW in the test

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How the engineers housed the eleven centimeter thick battery plate

BMW i4 M50: four-door electric coupe with 400 kW in the test-electric

While the VW Group is basically placing its electric cars on dedicated electric platforms (initially the MEB, later PPE) and Mercedes is currently presenting its first electric cars on dedicated platforms (the EQS is based on the EVA platform), BMW undauntedly follows its flexible approach strategy.

The new BMW electric cars are usually based on the same platform as the combustion models and plug-in hybrids. One example is the new i4, which we have now tested in the top M50 version. It is basically based on the 4 Series Gran Coupe that BMW presented in June.

Picture gallery: BMW i4 M50 (2022, test)

BMW i4 M50: four-door electric coupe with 400 kW in the test-electric

BMW i4 M50: four-door electric coupe with 400 kW in the test-test BMW i4 M50: four-door electric coupe with 400 kW in the test-four-door BMW i4 M50: four-door electric coupe with 400 kW in the test-four-door BMW i4 M50: four-door electric coupe with 400 kW in the test-test BMW i4 M50: four-door electric coupe with 400 kW in the test-coupe

BMW describes the i4 as a four-door coupe, and because of the large tailgate it could also be classified as a five-door hatchback – but of course a sports sedan, as the chic look suggests. The motorization also fits in with the sporty positioning, especially in the M50, which BMW calls the ultimate electric driving machine, and as the first M model with an electric drive.

BMW i4 M50: four-door electric coupe with 400 kW in the test-test

While the 250 kW entry-level model i4 eDrive40 is a rear-wheel drive, the M50 has a 400 kW four-wheel drive. As with the iX, separately excited synchronous motors take care of the propulsion, with the M50 they provide 190 kW at the front and 230 kW at the rear. The total is greater than 400 kW, so the system performance is determined here, as with the iX, by the maximum power output of the battery.

Battery and seating position

The battery in both i4 versions is an 81 kWh battery (net), which provides a range of up to 521 km for the M50. The battery plate is very flat with a height of 11 centimeters. Nevertheless, the seat position is not much higher than in the 4 Series Grand Coupe, assure the BMW engineers. How is that possible?

Well, firstly, the technicians have reduced the ground clearance from 145 millimeters to the legal minimum of 125 millimeters; that brings two centimeters. Second, the car is about four inches higher. And thirdly, the i4 has a completely different base plate than the 4 Series Gran Coupe. The battery is used as a stability element.

In the rear, too, you hardly seem to sit higher than you normally would in a limousine. However, the floor is higher so that the knees are clearly up. It's not uncomfortable, but on winding country roads you shouldn't have much support on your legs in the rear.

BMW i4 M50: four-door electric coupe with 400 kW in the test-four-door

landing gear

The curb weight of the i4 M50 is 2,290 kilos; that's an impressive 520 kilos more than the top version of the 4-series Gran Coupe (440i xDrive with six-cylinder and automatic transmission). In terms of driving dynamics, this is of course a disadvantage because it is more difficult to get the car off the straight ahead when cornering.

On the positive side, the enormous weight means that even 400 kW can be brought onto the road without any problems – there is no need to worry about spinning wheels here. Another advantage is that the deep battery lowers the center of gravity by 37 millimeters.

BMW i4 M50: four-door electric coupe with 400 kW in the test-four-door

The wheelbase is just under five centimeters longer and the track is wider than on a normal BMW 3 Series – both of which benefit the space for the battery.

I was positively surprised by the steering. Right from my first test drive with the iX I had found that it is no longer as tough and stiff as it was with the BMW internal combustion models of the past. I was afraid that the i4 M50 would again go in the direction of the tough steering feel. But that is not the case: the steering wheel can be turned just as easily as with the iX. During his test drive with an M50 prototype, colleague Stefan Wagner was also very impressed with the steering.

cockpit

Inside the i4 has a display landscape that is reminiscent of the iX. That means there is the same slightly curved display in landscape format. This is where the i4 differs significantly from the 4 Series Gran Coupe. On the other hand, the i4 not only has a switch as a gear selector like the iX, but also a traditional lever.

The distance cruise control, which with the iX almost always delivered the speed that I would have chosen myself, often too much speed for my feeling with the i4. Even if the car already "knew" that it was heading on a winding route, it often only lowered the set speed from 100 to 90 km / h – which, for me, is about 15 to 20 km / h too much for the given curve radius and the partly narrow streets with oncoming traffic.

Presumably the engineers programmed the M-vehicle differently. There does not seem to be a setting option for this; you can only set, for example, that the speed limit is exceeded by, for example, 5 km / h. You can also specify that overtaking on the right is prevented on the motorway:

Propulsion and consumption

The i4 M50 can easily be brought up to speed on the motorway; The maximum speed of 225 km / h was not even rudimentary given the given traffic conditions. It goes without saying that a 400 kW electric drive can hardly be deployed on public roads. The chassis seemed strangely more comfortable than on the iX – it is by no means too hard.

At the end of the test drive, the on-board computer showed a consumption of 19.0 kWh / 100 km; so I was roughly at the level of the WLTP standard consumption of 18.0-22.5 kWh. According to the display, 8.3 kWh was fed back into the battery through recuperation.

The WLTP range is officially between 416 and 521 km. This means that the range varies by around 100 km depending on the equipment. Part of the huge difference is due to the wheels. The test car had the optional 20-inch model, which is the maximum size. Therefore, a range of more than 400 km was hardly to be expected.

I would probably have reached this mark thanks to a cautious driving style. (I took over the i4 M50 with a battery display of 100 percent, after the 159 kilometer test drive it was still 62 percent. After that I used 38 percentage points. Converted to 100 percent, 418 km would have been possible.) The route led, however to a large extent on the country road, and on the freeway I did not drive faster than 140 km / h.

The i4 M50 costs just under 70,000 euros. The Model 3 Performance is one of the alternatives. With a sprint time of 3.3 seconds, the Tesla is even faster than the M50 (3.9 seconds), the range is also slightly greater (567 instead of 521 km), and the price is also significantly lower at around 59,000 euros. The main disadvantage of the Model 3 compared to the i4 is the small trunk lid.

Conclusion: the electric drive is impressively well integrated

All in all, it is impressive how well BMW has used the combustion platform for an electric car. We're beginning to guess why the Munich-based brand doesn't use a dedicated electrical platform. At least with the i4, that would hardly be of any great benefit. Above all, the seating position is what you want it to be in a sporty car, and not eleven centimeters higher (as you might suspect because of the height of the battery plate).

In the rear, however, the floor is higher, which means that the knees are up. The trunk can be used remarkably well: the flap opens wide, the loading floor becomes nicely level when the rear seats are folded down. This is a clear advantage in everyday life compared to the small trunk lid of the Model 3.

The i4 is operated more conventionally. We like the head-up display a lot, while the cruise control with activated "hyperintelligence" in country road bends mostly selected a speed that was too high for my taste. I would at least like to have an option to adjust the speed reduction on winding roads.

It should be clear that a 400 kW electric car has more than enough power for everyday use. When it comes to driving fun and behavior at the limit, you might be better guided by the driving reports from our two driving dynamics experts Stefan Wagner and Daniel Hohmeier, who are more competent than me:

i4 tests from our driving dynamics experts: BMW i4 M50: four-door electric coupe with 400 kW in the test-electric BMW i4 already driven: Model 3 opponents in the pre-series test

BMW i4 M50: four-door electric coupe with 400 kW in the test-four-door Video: BMW (E28) M 535i and BMW i4 M50 (2021) in the test

BMW i4 M50

engine 2 electric motors (FSM), front 190 kW, rear 230 kW

power 400 kW (system power)

Max. Torque 795 Nm (system torque)

drive all wheel drive

Acceleration 0-100 km / h 3.9 sec.

Top speed 205 km / h

battery 81 kWh net

consumption 18.0 – 22.5 kWh / 100 km

Electric range 416 – 521 km (WLTP)

Charging port CCS2, up to 11 kW AC, up to 205 kW DC

Charging time 8.25h at 11 kW AC, 31 min (10-80%) at 200 kW DC

length 4,783 mm

broad 1,852 mm

height 1,448 mm

Trunk volume 470 – 1,290 liters

Empty weight 2,290 kg

Payload 445 kg

Trailer load 1,600 (braked, 12% gradient)

Base price 69,900 euros

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