In most electric cars, the silence is something to be enjoyed. But in the BMW i4 M50, some kind of glitch in my subconscious wouldn’t let me blast off the line without saying, “Vroom!”—out loud—every time. So accustomed to the fury of shrieking German turbochargers, I couldn’t let the explosion of power go unheralded.
The whispers of electric fueled vehicles are going to take some getting used to for horsepower-hungry car geeks—especially ones who love to note the difference between the BMW M3’s V-6 and its M5’s V-8 half a mile away. But instant torque is magically addictive, and the good news for those in need of aural satisfaction—you can still make the tires squeal.
Ride the Lightning
A pair of electric motors yields 536 horsepower and 586 pound-feet of torque. BMW conservatively claims the i4 M50 will go from a dead stop to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds. It’s of course slightly faster, and when you do slam the accelerator to the floor you feel like Maverick being catapulted off an aircraft carrier.
But it isn’t just quick off the line. The wunderkinds in Munich have tucked the battery pack and all its girth under the floorboards, shifting the center of gravity lower to keep the car more stable and more agile through the bends. The modern miracle of electronically adaptive suspension minimizes body roll to the lowest common denominator.
In the ‘Sport’ setting, steering becomes both light and sharp as a Hattori Hanzo sword, ready to attack the corners as the instantaneous electric juice flows to the wheels. The i4 M50’s balance and agility are rather staggering given its 5018 lbs curb weight (its ICE powered sibling, the M4 coupe is 3830 lbs). Optional 20-inch Pirelli P Zero PZ4 tires bolster the already silly levels of grip when it’s time to obliterate the road less traveled.
Back in the land of traffic lights and stop signs, the i4 M50 is both supple and practical. ‘Comfort’ mode softens the setup, so you can chill out and enjoy the traffic. Need to ferry a passenger or three? The back seat is spacious enough to keep adults from complaining on short rides, though not quite a road trip. While there is no frunk (front trunk,) The hatchback is ample enough for large luggage, like a couple of golf bags or a big Costco run.
For those who prefer sound to silence… or their own voice, BMW and Hans Zimmer (yes, that Hans Zimmer) concocted a faux engine “soundtrack” using Shepard tones—but it’s almost as absurd as saying “Vroom.”
The Elephant on the Road
So much about the i4 M50 is so right—but the range is shockingly anemic. On the standard 19-inch wheels, the i4 M50 can go around 270 miles. Slap the optional 20-inchers on, as the test model had, and the estimated range plummets to 227. That’s sufficient for most five-day work week commutes but little else.
On a level 2 charger, replenishing the range takes a little over eight hours, and on a 200-kW DC fast charger the battery goes from 10 to 80% in a shade over 30 minutes. BMW does give new i4 buyers two years of complimentary, 30-min charging sessions with Electrify America. But that math means drivers will likely be spending about two hours and change per month sitting at a charger. That’s not an insignificant amount of time or hassle. So, installing a home charger would be an essential upgrade for most folks. But for those going electric, that’s probably already baked into the decision.
Our Favorite Car of 2022? Nearly
The i4 M50 wasn’t quite my favorite car of 2022. If I had to pick a winner, the Lamborghini Huracan Tecnica and its naturally aspirated V-10 stole my heart, both on and off the track. Of course to compare the Tecnica with the i4 M50 is absurd. You could buy three BMWs for the price of a single Lambo.
But for those of us ready to flip the electric switch, the i4 M50 is an enticing proposition. It’s a highly capable performance four door from a company that has spent decades refining rocket ship sedans to near perfection.
Of course, in the ears of car geeks, the absence of engine sound is a deafening harbinger of the automotive electric future (and present). But it’s one we are all going to have to get used to—even if we have to talk ourselves through it.
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