As part of BMW’s assault on the local electric vehicle market is the i4 M50; a silent supercar hunting bat-out-of-hell. This all-wheel-drive sedan will not only be an integral part of the Bavarian automakers charge for electric mobility but a first in their lucrative M division too.
Not too many years from now, we will be greeted with the sound of silence when climbing into the driver’s seat and pushing the start button to begin our daily commute, but what if it wasn’t all that bad? Electric vehicles provide a more environmentally friendly and affordable approach to private mobility but they have also upset the pecking order which has existed for over a century with performance-crazed creations.
With mandates in place that are requiring automakers to slowly start phasing out ICE powered vehicles, this is the reality we have to begin accepting – whether we like it or not. For the most part, electrification is suitable for daily commutes and mass-mobility but the intrinsic thrill of commanding a vehicle propelled forward by controlled explosions adds an allure to petrolheads that is nearly impossible to emulate with alternative powertrains. This begs the question: How can an enthusiast brand reinvent electric mobility to appeal to this market?
As enthusiast oriented as any other full-fat M car preceding it
We can’t imagine it was an easy task for the BMWs performance division to create the i4 M50; the first M badged vehicle powered solely by batteries and electricity. Sharing the same overall front and rear aesthetics of the controversially styled G82 M4 but packaged into the stretched Gran Coupe bodywork results in a comfortable grand tourer that can fit a family-of-five and their luggage in.
Model: i4 M50
Price: R 1 600 000
Powertrain: Two high-performance electric motors (one per axle)
Power: 400 kW
Torque: 795 N.m
Range: up to 510 km
0 to 100 km/h: 3,9 seconds
On the specification side, a single motor sits on each axle and produces 200 kW and 400 N.m which means the i4 M50 puts out a total of 400 kW and 795 N.m. The all-electric xDrive system is the same found on the iX and means the M sedan is no slouch when accelerating from standstill. Claimed figures from BMW for its 0-100 km/h sprint time are <3,9 seconds but it feels much quicker from the driver’s seat and this wouldn’t be the first time the Bavarian brand has been conservative with their figures.
Moving away from the instantaneous torque of the electric motors that can instil a juvenile grin and momentary terror for the occupants within, the silent-supercar hunter has been engineered to perform and handle like any other M car preceding it despite its hefty weight. Equipped with permanent all-wheel-drive and torque vectoring on all corners, the 2,2 tonne i4 M50 is capable around the bends compliments of the low sprung centre of gravity – 53 mm lower than the 3 Series. When compared to a petrol powered M440i Gran Coupe, it is 300 kg heavier. By normal standards, that is a significant amount but since the electric powered model has most of the weight between the two axles, it remains predictable and nimble in the corners which mitigates the substantial difference in mass.
Body roll is minimal and onboard systems keep everything in check should there be any overly-optimistic driving. Coupled with intuitive soundtracks crafted by German musician and composer Hans Zimmer, the i4 M50 also embraces its silent powertrain rather than augment what it isn’t.
An interior gravitating towards the future in the i4 M50
While the Zimmer Iconic Sounds that will become commonplace on future models in the i lineup can be argued as a gimmick, it takes a step into the future for the minimal and functional interior of the i4 M50. Think of the non-linear aural sound during driving as a reminder that under the right foot is 795 N.m of torque which can dispatch the sedan into infinity and as the speed increases, so does the pitch of the piped-in tune.
Like the larger iX, the i4 M50 makes use of a curved display with iDrive 8 underpinning its function. The centre console, steering and general configuration don’t veer too far from ordinary and contain familiar physical attributes and buttons to existing BMW models. The driver-focused orientation of the display lends itself with intuitive navigation systems and augmented view projections.
Real world statistics to silence the critics
Efficiency is key to the lineup of BMW BEV models. Aerodynamic wheels found on the i4 improve the drag coefficient by 5%, provide 10 km of additional range and save 15% of weight when compared to the same model with conventional wheels. Range isn’t necessarily the primary focus of a performance sedan but automakers have been finding solutions to solve the range anxiety that many EV naysayers belligerently spew.
The i4 M50 doesn’t make use of the more efficient rims since it wears the M badged performance derivatives with pride but it does boast an overall drag coefficient of 0.24; which by modern standards is an impressive feat. The model can go as far as 510 km per charge and 140 km worth of range can be achieved within 10 minutes of maximum DC charging (> 200 kW).
The i4 M50 provides an authentic M experience from a different perspective and with a price tag of R1,6 million it is competitively priced too. The newcomer has the ability to successfully usher in the new era for the M division, just as the original M3 racing sedan did in the late 1980s.