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Could the BMW i4 M50 replace the Tesla Model 3 as the bestselling electric sedan in Switzerland?

Way back in 2010, BMW charged, if you believe it or not, its Mini brand with developing a line-up of electric-powered cars to hand out to customers so that the company could gather data on how such vehicles are – and would be – used. As a result, BMW’s “Project I” plan was born and led to the marvelously innovative and fit for purpose i3 city car and i8 hybrid sports car.

Naturally, being creatively innovative and fit for the needs of the car-buying public, no one bought them. Not in serious enough numbers, at least, so both are consigned to the history books alongside Audi's A2, Honda's NSX or even Lexus’s LFA under the heading “Cars consumers didn’t want to buy until they were collectable items”.

First impressions

Only insiders will recognize the electrically powered BMW i4 by its different details compared to the regular 4-series. But the 2022 BMW i4 M50 is more than just a sedan with an EV powertrain shoved inside. It’s a fine-tuning of suspension, chassis and power to match the car’s sheer endless power. But compared to different carmakers from Asia or America, the Germans hit the nail on the head with their car proportions. The BMW i4 is no exception in this case, but appeals to a lot of people, especially when viewed from the side and rear. You are now slightly used to the front grille. Even if the flat kidney has hardly any openings as the BMW M3s and M4s have.

The car shown is the top-notch BMW i4, powered as the M50 model with a base price of CHF 89’650 and is painted in BMW Individual “Dravitgrau metallic” (CHF 2’540 option). An interesting colour which changes its shade impressively in different lighting. It turns from anthracite during dawn to almost bronze in direct sunlight.

The 19" M LM-wheels Y-spoke 859 bi-color wheels set you back an extra CHF 2’140. Further on the inside, the Alcantara/Sensatec combination black and blue as contrasting and stitching is the base interior option and quite worth to not choose any further variant unless you want some crazy interior colors. At the end, we’re speaking about almost CHF 100’000 for an electric midsize sedan. In comparison: A BMW M3, manual transmission, same color choice, bit of extras to match the i4’s configuration, costs CHF 125’000. Loads of money, too. But way more emotional.

What it’s all about

Unlike the new electric iX family, the i4 isn’t built on its own platform, rather it takes the current 4-series Gran Coupe (G26) underpinnings and adapts them accordingly. The internal combustion engine is thrown out and, in their place, goes a pair of motors, one for each axle. Between these sits a battery pack that’s bolted to the floor to increase stiffness, and which lowers the centre of gravity by 34mm in the process – although the 80.7kWh battery does add 550kg to the car’s kerb weight, bringing the total to 2215kg. Which is quite frankly obscene for a car of this size.

Driving experience

Huge interests when speaking about electric vehicles is their reaching driving distance. BMW claim the i4 M50 to reach 520km on WLTP-standard with an average consumption of 22-25kW/h on 100 kilometres. Which doesn’t regularly represent daily driving and conditions to be honest. More or less than 420-450km of reach with a full 80.7 kW/h battery are about to be realistic.

Dry numbers aside. Most of us don’t need to drive at least 400 kilometres on daily basis.

To the fun numbers: The i4 M50 has a power output of 544PS and 795Nm of torque in the so-called “Sport-Boost-Mode”. Impressive numbers.

But now for driving. The sporty genes of a BMW M are not easy to transfer. In my opinion, this works reasonably well. As a sportier sedan, the i4 M50 can be moved very quickly. The significantly lower center of gravity compared to an SUV clearly shows its advantages here. The car appears stable, relatively light-footed, and balanced. But the high dead weight of over 2.2 tons is clearly noticeable in tighter curves.

The acceleration of around 3.8 seconds from 0-100km/h is overwhelming for sure. But actually nonsensical and only serves your own ego and the competition among other brands.

With the cruise control activated, I noticed that the car starts to slow down early on when an intersection or roundabout is still in sight. It may be comfortable for Sunday drivers, but it is programmed a little too leisurely for everyday use. It is also noticeable that the safety systems work very reliably and gently. There are other German manufacturers who can take a piece of it.

So, if you use an i4 M50 on daily basis, you might recognize its huge turning circle of 12.5m. It is definitely more difficult to squeeze in tight parking spaces. In comparison, a Skoda Enyaq has a turning circle of impressive 10.9m. Fair to say, it has a 10cm shorter wheelbase than the BMW, but still does that job a lot better.

BMW M IconicSounds Electric has created its own highly emotional world of sound for the BMW i4 M50. In this way, you experience an expressive driving sound via the audio system in the interior and can enjoy the driving pleasure with all your senses. The sound characteristics are adjusted via the driving experience switch: powerful, dynamic with clear load feedback in "Sport" mode, balanced acoustics with slight load feedback in "Comfort" mode or completely silent in "Eco Pro" mode. To sum up the acoustics: BMW has created a relatively emotional experience while driving the i4 M50, like Porsche did with their Taycan. This begins while you turn on the ignition, up to accelerating and braking.

"From my point of view, Hans Zimmer has created the best possible composition for the driving experience."

To the interior

BMW’s current curved display immediately sticks out to me. It first appeared in the BMW iX a drove last year. Compared to other manufacturers and brands, BMW tries to set the bar higher in terms of simplicity. Which works great in the home menu, where you can swipe through the different functions as long as you don’t search any specific settings or similar in the apps. Because the app overview reminded me to the messy home screen of any boomer’s computer.

Otherwise, it surprises me that BMW is the first brand to my knowledge that the car shown on the screen for the vehicle settings originates exactly from the vehicle in which I am sitting. In other words, color, rims and light settings are displayed true to the original. A nice and valuable feature that many a buyer could be happy about.

Most of the used materials felt like high quality and are great. Not perfect, but great. Complaints on the highest levels I have to admit. But due to the car's rather high price, my own expectations have risen a lot.

And due to the battery placement in the centre tunnel and the floor pan in the rear of the car, there is less legroom for tall passengers. They usually sit somewhat huddled in their seats. Furthermore, the boot volume shrinks a little bit, but not very noticeably compared to the regular BMW 4-series Gran Coupé.

Now what to buy

Compared to the Tesla Model 3, the BMW i4 M50 consumes more electricity during sporty driving and costs quite a bunch more bucks to buy when new. On the other side, you get a German car which stands for great overall quality and proves it in every way in comparison. Its design language is more appealing and more individually configurable. And if you're stell arguing about the price, I recommend you to check the BMW i4 eDrive40 which has the same battery pack than the i4 M50, but costs more than CHF 15'000 less in its base price.

As a vehicle that was not originally designed as an electric car, the BMW i4 is very convincing. In addition to a few small compromises, the concept for the electrically operated drive is appealingly successful.

To end this review, I wanted to thank the BMW Group Brand Experience Center for the opportunity to have a go in the BMW i4 M50 which they had in their fleet. A car that definitely spices up the booming EV-market.

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