After a sneaky preview back in March, BMW has finally revealed the i4 EV in all its toothy glory. There’s the i4 eDrive40... and then there’s the i4 M50, which BMW bills as “the first purely electric performance car from BMW M”.
Whether or not it’s a proper M car is up for debate, mind you – the M50 appears closer philosophically to an M340i than it is to an M3 – but it is still hugely fast. Hit the ‘Sport Boost’ button to liberate the full 545hp and 795Nm from its two e-motors, and you’ll hit 100km/h in a claimed 3.9 seconds. The single-motor, rear-drive, 340hp eDrive 40 takes a still respectable 5.7 seconds.
The base car can travel further on a charge though. While both cars use the same 83.9kWh battery (gross), the eDrive40 is much more efficient, with a claimed WLTP range of 590km versus 508km WLTP for the M50. The drag coefficient is an impressive 0.24Cd. Both cars can charge at a max rate of 200kW, which means a ten-minute stop could yield 165km of added range for the eDrive 40, or 140km for the M50.
Both i4s ought to be rather good to drive, but BMW says the M50 specifically brings “the classic M formula of agility, dynamism and precision to the world of electric mobility”.
So over and above the eDrive40, the M50 gets special suspension, bespoke anti-roll bars, an extra strut brace up front and beefier brakes. The M50 is rear-drive most of the time for better range and efficiency, with the front-mounted motor only called upon “at higher levels of acceleration or in response to wheel slip”. Even so, the system is configured to always favour the rear-axle.
More generally we’re promised the i4’s centre of gravity is much lower than a 3 Series’, owing to the slab of batteries in the floor. The brakes are claimed to deliver “outstanding stopping power and reliable pedal feel”, with the M50 able to regenerate energy at up to 195kW.
Just as the i4 looks like a four-door 4 Series, it looks a hell of a lot like a 4 Series inside too. One big difference is the same iDrive system as fitted to the iX SUV, with its 12.3 and 14.9-inch curved displays.
The i4 is built at BMW’s factory in Munich alongside other combustion-powered cars and hybrids. The company claims production of the vehicle and its battery is achieved using green energy.
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STORY Tom Harrison