BMW i4 M50 and i4 eDrive40 Offer Performance with Electricity

·5 min read
Photo credit: Fabian Kirchbauer
Photo credit: Fabian Kirchbauer
  • BMW will bring two sporty electric sedans to the US early next year.

  • The i4 M50 is the first EV from BMW M GmbH, and is worthy of the M moniker.

  • The i4 eDrive40 is a little more affordable and a little less powerful but still fun to drive.

As the world eases into its transition from internal combustion to electricity, it’s pretty clear that the entry-level EV affordables are all in place. Small, efficient econovolts are everywhere, from the Kia Niro, Hyundai Kona Electric, and Chevy Bolt, to the Nissan Leaf that started it all, to name just a few. There is no shortage of choices for low-buck, practical, if sometimes uninspiring battery electric entry cars. And at the other extreme, there are many all-electric hypercars either already here or coming very soon, ranging from the Rimac Nevera, Pininfarina Battista, and Lotus Evija to hoped-for hypers like the Tesla Roadster, and possible players from Bugatti, Koenigsegg and Lamborghini, to name a few more.

But the soft white underbelly of the market that doesn’t have too many entries yet is right in the middle. You could say that the far more practical sedans and sportbacks like the relatively sedate Polestar 2, Audi e-tron, and number-one-selling Tesla Model 3 fill the role of the mid-sized, mid-priced, sensible family car admirably. Granted, they may not make your socks roll up and down quite as much as you might like, but they do the job and they do it emissions-free.

Photo credit: Fabian Kirchbauer
Photo credit: Fabian Kirchbauer

What’s missing in our broad electric future is a sporty entry right there in the middle, and starting early next year we will have one when the BMW i4 M50 rolls silently into showrooms. That and the less-expensive but only slightly less sporty i4 eDrive40 will inject some seriously lacking sports sedan sensations into the class.

“The i4 M50 is the first fully-electric performance model to come from BMW M GmbH,” the company said. “The i4 blends the functionality and space of the gran coupe design with the instantaneous power delivery of BMW’s latest 5th generation eDrive.”

You might expect power—and torque—delivery in an electric BMW from M GmbH, but the e-carmaker promises that the M handling will be there too, in spades.

“Class-leading driving dynamics and long-distance comfort, elegant design, uncompromising workmanship, cutting-edge user-vehicle interface and advanced infotainment and driving assistance technologies all combine to deliver a zero-emissions BMW worthy of the Ultimate Driving Machine moniker.”

Does it deliver? Are the M50 and the eDrive40 both worthy of the marque’s reputation? And more importantly, will our electric future be fun to drive even in the midsize sedan segment?

Ja to all of the above.

Photo credit: BMW
Photo credit: BMW

The i4 M50 offers peak power bursts in 10-second increments of 536 hp and 586 lb-ft of torque, with a normal output of 469 hp and 538 lb-ft the rest of the time. That’s good for a fairly blistering 0-60 mph time of 3.7 seconds. The M50 gets two electric motors, one on each axle, that combine to imbue the car with all-wheel-drive traction both off the line and all the way up to the car’s 140-mph top speed. The M50 stickers start at $66,895 including delivery.

A step down in price and performance, but with the same exterior and interior is the rear-wheel drive-only i4 eDrive40. It has just one electric motor that powers just the rear wheels with 335 hp and takes 5.5 seconds to get to 60. Pricing for the i4 eDrive40 starts at $56,395, so you’re 10 grand less and almost two seconds slower. Top speed is also 22 mph less, at 118 mph.

Are they worthy contenders in the midsize sports sedan e-market? Yes. I drove an i4 M50 through Bavaria all the way up into the Alps one day and had a great time doing it. The car is comfortable, quiet (duh), and completely competent in corners.

How does it stack up against its midsize sports sedan siblings? The Tesla Model 3 is by far the biggest-selling electric car in America as of the end of the last complete calendar year. And while that does, indeed, have a quick acceleration time of 3.1 seconds 0-60 available, its starting sticker is actually less than the BMW at just $43,190, if I am doing the math right based on Tesla’s weirdly worded and opaque website.

The Audi e-tron is slower than either, taking 5.5 seconds to 60 and starting at around $66,995. The pedantic Polestar 2 offers a 4.5-second 0-60 time in its quicker 408-hp dual-motor configuration and starts at just $45,900 in its single-motor setup, or $49,900 for the twin-motor mil. But its looks are less-inspiring—nothing like the original Polestar coupe, for sure.

The larger point here is that the sports sedan segment, like the hypercar segment of coming EVs, can be fun, downright thrilling even, and BMW will be a major player in it. Now, if we could just make a fun-to-drive subcompact electric car or coupe, then we would really be set. Maybe the Nissan IDx Freeflow and IDx NISMO concepts of 2014, the Honda Urban EV or Sports EV concepts, coming to the US as the e in 2024, the Kia Electric Coupe Concept, or even the Peugeot e-LEGEND concept shown in Paris in 2018? Any—or why not all—of those would work just fine, and guarantee that all segments could have electric cars that will keep the fun in future driving.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned
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