► RWD eDrive40 and M50 driven
► Up to 369-mile range
► Watch our i4 video review
The BMW i4 is a brilliant EV. The closest car you can currently buy to an electric 3-series, the i4 sits right at the core of the brand’s model range and its long-established identity. It ticks a lot of boxes, and it’s one of the best electric cars you can buy.
Based on the same body-in-white as the 4-series Gran Coupe, you get plenty of passenger space, a hatchback tailgate and a swoopier roofline. It comes in two versions: the rear-wheel-drive i4 eDrive40 and the all-wheel-drive (xDrive) i4 M50; both are covered in this review.
The eDrive40 (pictured in white) delivers 335bhp via its single motor. The mighty M50 (pictured in grey), is a 537bhp twin-motor machine that also takes the dubious honour of being the first ever all-electric M-car.
There’s quite a difference in the UK i4 pricing – the M50 version is some £13k more expensive. Rivals include the Mercedes-Benz EQE (you can also read a twin-test), the Tesla Model 3 (you can read a group-test) and the Kia EV6.
BMW i4 range, specs and tech details
The i4 does without the fancy part-carbon construction of the bigger, flashier BMW iX, but takes full advantage of all the same Gen5 BMW electric drive tech.
This means clever BMW eDrive electromagnet motors and the firm’s latest, high-density batteries, working together with highly integrated control systems that cover everything from the way the electric power is deployed across both axles in the all-wheel drive i4 M50 to the manner the car is brought to a stop, using a seamless combination of recuperation and friction braking.
Both versions of the i4 have the same 83.9kWh battery pack size (80.7kWh net) – smaller than the iX – resulting in a claimed i4 eDrive40 driving range of 365 miles, and a claimed xDrive M50 driving range of 316 miles per charge.
During our testing however, the best range predictions we’ve seen are around 320 miles for the eDrive40 and 280 miles for the M50.
How does the BMW i4 compare with the BMW iX?
While the i4 isn’t made of such exotic materials and comes with a smaller battery pack, it’s also a smaller car than the iX and weighs around 300kg less.
Up to 205kW DC charging is possible in the i4, too, meaning you can in theory go from 10 per cent to 80 per cent charge in 31 minutes. On this basis, 10 minutes plugged in should add around 101 miles of extra driving.
You get the same dual-screen BMW Curved Display setup as the iX inside – with the same BMW Operating System 8 iDrive infotainment, augmented nav and situational awareness.
Unsurprisingly, the i4 is considerably cheaper than the iX. And though that still means handing over at least £53k for an eDrive40 or nearly £68k for the M50, the iX costs over £77k for its entry-level model at the time of writing.
Given so much of the fundamental technology is the same, the i4 justifies itself even before you press the start button.
BMW i4 eDrive40 review
Generally speaking, the i4 is comprehensively impressive, and quite the all-rounder. But push hard, and different personality traits shine through in the two versions.
The i4 eDrive40 is the more ‘fun’ car, despite being less powerful. This is entirely thanks to it being RWD only, ensuring that it exhibits those most classic of BMW traits – playfulness at the limit and a tail-end that can be easily egged-on to pivot just a little beyond your steering angle. It’s quite the hoot, and convincingly distracts you from the lack of internal combustion under the bonnet. Should you be worried about that.
So while it’s hard not to be wowed by the immense performance on offer of the M-badged version, just because the i4 eDrive40 only has one e-motor doesn’t mean it plays a poorly second fiddle to the i4 M50 here. It’s the more traditionally BMW feeling of the two, that’s for sure.
What’s more, the eDrive40 still snaps 0-62mph in 5.7sec, easily keeping a Tesla Model 3 honest.
BMW i4 M50 review
The i4 M50’s performance is nuts. It’s more powerful than an M4 – and substantially more muscular, with a stonking 586lb ft available instantly. But since it’s also around 300kg heavier, though it easily matches the (503bhp, 479lb ft) M4 Competition’s 3.9sec 0-62mph time, visually and dynamically it’s definitely more of an M Performance model.
You don’t get the full 537bhp and 586lb ft all the time – default output is a mere 476hp and 538lb ft, with the full whack only unlocked using the Sport Boost function that features as an add-on to the regular Sport Mode. This engaged, stamping on the accelerator sends the M50’s nose pointing at the sky, in such a pronounced way it’s comical, almost as if BMW did it deliberately. So much torque with so little fanfare is certainly amusing.
With the slightly unusual combination of conventional springs at the front and air springs at the rear (something we’re more used to seeing on estate cars than performance cars), plus M-specific variable damping control (VDC) shock absorbers, it offers exceptional comfort and refinement, should you choose to take advantage of this.
A side-effect of this comfort seems to be a noticeable amount of lateral weight transfer in the corners at first. Give it time, though, and you get the sense that this is really caused by slightly over-driving the car, perhaps in part due to the M50’s variable-ratio steering. There are moments where the front seems to be getting away from the back, pushing on the entry to turns in a manner that seems suspiciously like understeer.
Yet there are other occasions when the M50 hooks up through a sequence of bends so completely it’s like you’re experiencing some kind of automotive epiphany – and these highs soon come to outweigh those initial impressions. Traction is immense, thanks to the speed the two motors can shuffle the balance of power front and back.
But in comparison with the eDrive40, the i4 M50 still feels a blunter machine.
In most respects, the i4 is just as much of a cutting-edge electric car experience as the iX, wrapped up in much less controversial packaging.
If you were expecting a full-fat M car in the M50, forget it – it’s just not outrageous or edgy enough. We’d instead save a chunk of cash and go for the eDrive40. It feels about 80 per cent as quick, gives you a longer driving range, and is ultimately more playful and engaging.
But whichever i4 you choose, there are still so many core BMW traits in here: alert steering, outstanding ride and handling balance, a clean, well-built and user-friendly interior, and more than ample power being just some of them. The post-petrol future is bright.
Specs listed are for a BMW i4 M50