2022 BMW i4 M50i Review: An Electric 3 Series by Another Name
Bimmer's first stab at electrifying one of its core models is a solid one.
BMW may not call it as much, but strip away the marketing lingo and branding, and the 2022 i4 is just the first all-electric 3 Series. After all, the i4 is basically just an EV version of the 4 Series Gran Coupe, which is just a four-door fastback version of the 4 Series coupe...which in turn is just the two-door version of the 3 Series. (Hell, up until 10 years ago, back in that halcyon age when "BMW M3" managed to cover every version of the sporty sensation, all the 3er variations still went by "3 Series.")
Why, you might wonder, does that matter? Well, because the 3 Series is, effectively, the car that defined BMW as we know it. From its debut in 1975 on, it's been the archetype of a very appealing blend of luxury, sportiness and driving involvement, all at a fairly accessible price point. While crossovers like the X3 and X5 may have become the new standard-bearers and volume models for the carmaker — the fact that BMW M's first standalone model since the M1 is an SUV is all the proof you need of that — the fact still remains that as the 3 Series goes, so does BMW.
So even if it bears what can only be described as the unfortunate mug of the 4 Series rather than the more restrained face of the 3 Series, the i4 is ultimately BMW's first attempt at making an electric version of its icon. How does that play out in the real world? I spent a week with the i4 M50i variant to find out.
With 536 horsepower and 582 lb-ft instantly accessible with every press of the right pedal, it shouldn't be any surprise that the i4 M50i is quick. 0-60 mph takes just 3.2 seconds, as Car and Driver found; the more real-world-typical 5-60-mph dash takes just 3.5 — the same as a Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet — while darting from 50-70 takes just two seconds flat.
While it may be able to keep up with an M3 Competition from naught to 60, odds are good the gas-powered car would dominate it on track. That's because the i4's battery makes it a good bit bulkier; the EV weighs in at just over two and a half tons, versus the comparable M-car's roughly 3,850 pounds. Still, all that weight has the decency to be mounted low and evenly across the middle of the car, so the i4 maintains the planted, neutral handling that's long been a defining character trait of the Bavarian Motor Werks's best cars. And as with all too many modern Bimmers, steering feel is basically nonexistent, but at least the rack has the decency to be direct and linear; it may feel like a gaming rig at time, but at least it's a good gaming rig.
If your driving priorities tend more towards long distance driving than back road carving, you might be better suited with the i4 eDrive40. That rear-wheel-drive model uses a single 335-hp motor, and while its power is down as a result, its range goes up to 282 miles, according to the EPA.
Still, the M50i's range should be decent enough for most people, most of the time. While the feds say it's only good for 227 miles on a charge, as is often the case with Germanic EVs, independent tests have seen better results; Edmunds saw it go 268 miles on their test route, for example. I didn't drive the battery to empty — I prefer not to call tow trucks when testing cars — but based on my experience, even driving like, well, a New Jersey BMW owner should serve up around 240 miles of range.
When it comes time to replenish the battery, you shouldn't have to wait too long, either; the i4 can slurp up the electrons at 205 kW, which can take the battery from 10 percent to 80 — which works out to around 160–170 mules of range — in half an hour. Of course, emphasis on the shouldn't; as is always the case with EVs these days, that's incumbent on finding a fast charger capable of delivering that level of power. While the situation is constantly improving, most fast chargers in America top out at 150 kW or less — and malfunctions remain more common than they should be. (My latest issue: one of New York's EVolveNY charging stations that was supposed to be capable of 150 kW wound up only charging at 32 kWh, because...reasons?)
Unlike the iX, which favors the revolution-not-evolution school of electric vehicle design inside and out, the i4 is laid out basically just like a gas-powered BMW, from the chunky center console where a gearbox would hide to the front end that, in spite of a lack of an engine there, doesn't offer any cargo storage. The only real difference is a slight increase in ride height, since the belly of the i4 than the 4 Series Gran Coupe has to be thicker in order to hold all those battery cells. Still, a bit of design trickery manages to largely hide that; you'd be hard-pressed to realize the extra mass between belt line and ground unless you parked the i4 and a 4 Series G.C. next to each other.
The interior should be awfully familiar to current or past BMW owners. The trim, the layout, the dashboard setup, the controls — all are basically identical to that found in the 4 Series. The most jarring shift might be the new curved dual-pane instrument panel / infotainment display, but that's an adjustment anyone will have to make no matter which Bimmer they choose — it's pretty much standard across the line as of 2023.
So is the i4 worth your hard-earned cash? If you're cross-shopping it against an M3, well, be warned they're very different propositions in terms of character, if not raw performance. If you've always lusted for an M car in all its emotionality and track-ready attitude, the gas-powered Bimmer is the one to get.
That said, if you're committed to going electric (or even just strongly EV curious) and don't want to join the growing legion of EV crossover drivers, it's a strong contender. The Tesla Model 3 and Polestar 2 are closest in size and price, each of which offers their own advantages — the Tesla's Supercharger network and seamless integral tech; the Polestar's clean Scandinavian design and, well, lack of Tesla bullshit. But the Bimmer still wins in terms of fun-to-drive quotient while still packing the features buyers want in this price range — and if you're looking to drop $70K on a sports-luxury sedan that doesn't spit CO2 into the air, that might well be the deciding factor.
Base Price / Price as Tested: $66,895 / $82,820
Powertrain: Front and rear electric motors; 81.5-kWh battery; single-speed gearbox; all-wheel-drive
Torque: 586 lb-ft
EPA Rated Range: 227 miles
Seats: 4, 5 in a pinch
Going full steam ahead into the electric future.