SPEAKER 1: Get in loser, we're driving BMWs.
[RACING ENGINE SOUND]
SPEAKER 1: BMW is attempting to do the unthinkable-- produce an electric version of its iconic M performance cars. Many people consider this the torch carrying M descendant, against which all other sports sedans should be compared. We've also got this-- the fully electric 2022 BMW i4 M50. Not a full M car, more of a diet M. But it's still the first electric BMW to wear that M badge. And if you wear that badge, buddy you better bring it.
Can this i4 sedan do a reasonable facsimile of what that M3 sedan can do? And just how much of the full M experience can you get when you don't have an engine? Let's find out. Before we get started, go ahead and click Like and hit Subscribe so you can be the first on your block to see more Edmunds videos. And if you want to sell your car, go to edmunds.com/sellmycar and you'll get a cash offer like, right now, right now.
BMW's M division has been pumping out souped-up race cars for the street since the original M1 in the late 1970s and the M5 in the 1980s. But it was the vaunted M3 in 1986 that established M to many people as the ultimate in road-going performance at a reasonable price. OK, semi-reasonable. In fact, BMW only sold the M3 to the public in the first place because it was required in order to race the damn thing.
Fast forward to today and we've got that original M3's great, great, great, great-grandson, a 2022 BMW M3 competition, the ultra-athletic sedan with the unfortunate face. Our M3 competition is an xDrive model, meaning it has all-wheel drive. And an optional $4,700 carbon package means it has carbon fiber everywhere-- the splitter, the mirrors, the roof. BMW will wrap your dog in carbon fiber if you let them.
All that carbon does have one advantage-- weight. We weighted this M3 at 3,904 pounds. Consider that along with the power you get. The Twin-turbo 3-liter inline 6 engine makes 503 horsepower and 479 [? pound-feet ?] of torque. Combine that with all-wheel drive and gripping Michelin Pilot Sport 4s tires and well, you'll see what happens. The price, however, is steep. The M3 competition drive starts at $78,000, including destination. But this one is loaded way up to $108,000 and change.
Now, for the i4. Since it's an M50 version, you are reminded constantly. What do those badges get you? A big heavy battery pack mounted under the floor sending power to two electric motors-- one at the front wheels and one at the rear, effectively giving the i4 all-wheel drive. If that sounds heavy, it is. We weighed the i4 M50 at 5,067 pounds. I don't care how low your center of gravity is. We're talking a 5,000 pound sedan here.
Unlike the M3, the i4 also gets a rear hatchback-style trunk. And under the hood, there's no frunk like a lot of EVs. Instead, there's a giant plastic shield covering all the electrical components. Basically, BMW is saying, you don't even want to know what's going on under here. The result, however, is 469 horsepower and 538 pound-feet of torque. And if you put the car in Sport Boost Mode, that jumps to 538 horsepower and 568 pound-feet of torque. Holy schnitzel. That's a lot of boost.
The i4 M50 gets 20-inch wheels all around, wrapped in Pirelli P Zero tires. Skinny up front, but beefier at the rear. Here's the good news. The i4 M50 starts around $67,000 with destination, and our tester here came to $76,000. Let's see what you get for the money on the track.
Turns out, the M3 competition xDrive flies. Our equipment measured 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3.17 seconds and the quarter-mile, 11.5 seconds at 121.5 miles per hour. That is booking. The i4 M50 makes for an interesting comparison, hitting 60 miles per hour in 3.57 seconds, no slouch at all. The quarter-mile came in 11.9 seconds at 118.6 miles per hour. Slower than our M3, but awfully fast.
Get this-- the big steel brakes outperformed the lightweight M3, stopping from 60 in 104 feet. And on the skid pad, the M3 competition xDrive hit a bonkers 1.09 g. The i4 M50 also put up a solid 0.99 g on the pad. Remember, this weighs 1,000 pounds more than the M3.
This car is EPA rated at 227 miles of range on a full charge. However, we witnessed a real-world range of 268 miles. That far outperforms its rating and puts the i4 M50 among EVs with much higher estimated figures.
As you probably know the M3 is famous for its drive experience. So let's see how it handles the curve out here on the Edmunds test track. To do that, I'll drive while Kurt from the Edmunds test team will ride passenger. I guess I'll ride passenger. It's messed up, dude.
SPEAKER 2: Here we go.
SPEAKER 1: Let's use the M3 to establish a baseline. The M3 has no trouble when it comes to power. This is a ferocious machine. It's days of packing a V8 under the hood may be long gone, but the M3 is still a handful on a track. The sound-- oh, the sound.
The M3 is also nimble on its feet, but it's not all gravy. BMW has struggled with steering feel in the M3 for some time now. And this is no exception. While it's sharp and precise, there's no feedback whatsoever, making it difficult to tell exactly where the tires are and what they're doing. This is an essential component of the M legacy, and sadly, it's missing.
Now onto the i4 M50.
SPEAKER 2: Let's see what it's got.
SPEAKER 1: Ooh!
SPEAKER 2: It's the future man. The future is fast.
SPEAKER 1: That was definitely brisk.
SPEAKER 2: Yeah.
SPEAKER 1: OK. You can feel the weight underneath you.
SPEAKER 2: Yes. But at least it's low. It's not up high. That's the benefit of having a giant battery pack on the floor--
SPEAKER 1: Yeah.
SPEAKER 2: --is that all the weight is down right where you want it--
SPEAKER 1: Yeah.
SPEAKER 2: --close to the ground. This car has a lot of power.
SPEAKER 1: There it is again.
SPEAKER 2: And like every good performance-oriented EV, the power is immediate and it's immense. And that's what gets so addictive with having a powerful EV.
SPEAKER 1: And we've got this up to the most aggressive setting, which is Sport Boost, so that's a pretty significant extra boost of both horsepower and torque. What are your impressions of the power on tap in this car?
SPEAKER 2: It's great when the car lets you use it.
SPEAKER 1: It feels like you're using it now.
SPEAKER 2: When you have the steering wheel turned at a certain angle, you put your foot down, it doesn't give you all the power until the steering wheel is straight.
SPEAKER 1: Oh.
SPEAKER 2: So, I like having all the power like now, but it's not really letting you have all of it. But I do like the immediacy of the power. It's great.
SPEAKER 1: So we've seen similar things in other EVs, like for instance, the Mach-E GT only lets you have five consecutive seconds--
SPEAKER 2: Yeah.
SPEAKER 1: --of full power.
SPEAKER 2: That's lame.
SPEAKER 1: And do you think this is just BMW's way of finding a way to not give you all of it?
SPEAKER 2: I think it might take people some time to get used to having a gigantic wallop of power right when you ask for it. Because I don't think people realize how much power these things can deliver.
SPEAKER 1: Yeah, and how quick it comes too.
SPEAKER 2: Yeah, I am a little bummed out that it doesn't give you all the power when you ask for it, but maybe they're just leaving room for the actual M EV. With that car, we'll let you have it.
SPEAKER 1: What about the steering? We're going into a hairpin now and then some [? windies. ?] Standard on the M50 Is variable sport steering. How do you feel that compares to your expectations?
SPEAKER 2: Expectations for BMW steering these days are pretty low. So, unfortunately I'd say this is very similar to what you get in an M3, an M5. This does feel like it has more weight, which I like, but there's still not a lot of feel. I mean, I can tell that I'm turning left. I can tell when I turn right, but that's about it.
SPEAKER 1: Yeah, it's interesting because that may be the thing that's closest to the M3 experience in this car.
SPEAKER 2: Yeah.
SPEAKER 1: But it's not necessarily a great thing.
SPEAKER 2: Not necessarily a good thing that you copied that.
SPEAKER 1: What about in terms of fun? Are you having fun, Kurt?
SPEAKER 2: I mean I have fun because we're going fast. This car has pretty good mechanical grips. There's a lot of rubber on the road, and that's what we're feeling now. Of course I'm having fun. It's great.
SPEAKER 1: It gets through things really quickly and it's not tossing you around because of all the weight on the bottom.
SPEAKER 2: Yeah.
SPEAKER 1: So you're staying, not flat, because the body is swaying a little bit, but you're staying really planted.
SPEAKER 2: You still get the experience of speed--
SPEAKER 1: Yeah.
SPEAKER 2: --which is great. A lot of EVs actually can hide that quite a bit. But this car, you know you're going fast and that's what you like.
SPEAKER 1: You have-- the bursts are a lot of fun.
SPEAKER 2: Yeah.
SPEAKER 1: For sure.
SPEAKER 2: Like that.
SPEAKER 1: Like that. So a couple of laps in, let's say if the full M experience is a 10 out of 10, where do you think the i4 M50 falls on that scale?
SPEAKER 2: I'd say this is pretty similar to the M340, where this could sound a bit cynical, but the M is kind of for marketing at this point. This is a very competent and capable car, but it's just not as visceral as an actual M car is. So however you might feel about putting an M badge on a car that's not an actual M car, you can debate that for a long time.
But I think this is a very quick sports sedan that happens to be electric. So-- but I think there is room left above it for them to make a true M EV. There's room for torque vectoring, like really good torque vectoring. There's room for full power when you want it. There's room for wider tires, better brakes. There's still room. So there is still hope that an M EV would be blisteringly fast.
SPEAKER 1: Yeah. Let's hop into the cabins because with either car, you're going to be spending a lot of time inside. Now remember folks, this M3 is a $100,000 car. Here's what you get for that skrilla. That means money.
You get to pretend you're a freaking race car driver. Look at this wheel, my God. There are bright red buttons to select your favorite drive mode at a moment's notice, and huge paddles just begging to be pulled so you can downshift and blast off. That sets the tone for a cabin that is built to scream performance, yet maintain the airtight tailoring any luxury buyer wants to see.
Up front, there's a digital gauge cluster with sporty color graphics, plus a 12.3-inch screen running the iDrive 7 infotainment system. Whether you press the screen, use the iDrive hockey puck, or poke the hard buttons, all of them feel as premium as entering the launch codes to a ballistic weapon, which you kind of are.
Finally, the seats-- a combination of space shuttle and Skeletor. These carbon buckets are $3,800 option, and that comes with a special sporty crotch hump for some reason. Worse though, are the giant thigh bolsters which make getting out of the M3 a huge pain. But the weird part-- they work. You're sucked in place while the M3 pulls extreme Gs around a track. Sure, you'll get laughed at. But you can't beat that race car feeling.
So now we're in the i4. And let's start with the steering wheel. This feels like the right combination of sport and comfort. It's got a really nice shape to it, but it's not super aggressive. It's really easy to grip and hold in your hands, and there's a really cool interlacing blue and red stitching that goes all along the inside of it. That along with the M badge at the bottom are really the only indications that you get in the entire interior that this is an M car. What you do have a little bit more of is blue accents like around the center roundel here and also on the Start/Stop button and the gear selector. It seems like it was more of a priority to emphasize that the i4 is an electric car than that it's M-related.
Now following that, I want to talk about build quality for a second. I've been in a lot of affordable electric vehicles recently, and kind of got used to interiors that were not the best put-together. Instead, in the i4, you definitely get a sense that you're dealing with a company that has been making very high-quality interiors for a long time, and now they're just bringing it to the EV arena. This is a stark difference between a lot of those other EVs that I've been in before.
All of the panel gaps are really tight. There's really nice stitching all over the place, through the seats and this center console. And then up here, there's a padded rest area for your knee, which is a very nice touch. And all in all, it just feels like you're getting the full BMW experience. They're not asking you to sacrifice just because it's an EV.
Now one thing you cannot ignore in the i4 is this massive one-piece screen that stretches all the way across here. In front of the driver, there's a 12.3-inch digital display with tons of information. Very, very clear picture, which is great.
And then under the same piece of glass, almost as if the two are connected, there's a huge center screen that's just shy of 15 inches. And with that, you get controls for your maps, navigation, audio, your phone connections, even a personal assistant. All kinds of stuff. That runs through the brand new iDrive 8 infotainment system.
You can control iDrive 8 through two ways, using this little dial down here, which scrolls back and forth, or pushing left, right, up, down, and selecting by pressing in the center. Or you can just go straight to the screen, pressing on it, swiping. This is all very responsive. One thing I typically don't like is when automakers hide all the climate controls into the screen and don't leave any physical buttons here. BMW has done that. But there's a constant Climate menu button right here, so you can press that and have very quick, easy access. And all of the controls have been really responsive so far. That's a nice surprise. I'm warming up to the idea.
Now the least M thing in this entire interior is the seats. They're comfortable, big and wide with lots of room to get comfortable and find a good position. But there's really no indications of sportiness, whatsoever. There are very small side bolsters. No bolsters on the thighs. One thing I do like though is a manual pad for your thighs that you can extend out and give them a little-- give your legs a little bit of extra rest.
Overall impressions of the interior are, it's a very nice BMW. Great place to be. It is not an M, whatsoever. The aggression has been dialed down to probably a six, or five, maybe four. Other than this little badge right here, there's really no indication that this is an M car at all. And that's OK, but it's just not an M.
We set out today to learn whether the electric i4 can do a passable impression of the mighty M3. So here's the verdict. You can have a lot of fun driving the i4. Hell, you can even have an M-like experience driving the i4. It's just going to be a different M experience than the one you're used to.
This is the electric experience. It's not as visceral, but quieter and more comfortable. And it's here to stay. This is basically BMW indicating its intention to carry the M bloodline into the electric age. If you're an M fan and you're looking for a reason to jump into the EV arena, here's your reason. It may be more of an M decaf, M junior varsity, M Milli Vanilli, but it's still the closest you're going to get to that experience in an electric vehicle. That's something to be damn proud of, and it makes that $67,000 starting price seem pretty reasonable. Besides, if you're holding out for that full M experience in an EV, just hold on. I have a feeling something's come in to fill that void pretty soon.