Automobile

2022 BMW i4 First Ride Review: A Fast EV That’s Too Conventional

BMW’s slogan is “sheer driving pleasure.” It implies that if you’re buying a BMW, the car is meant to be something you want to drive, not just a runaround that does what you need it to. It’s about delivering the kind of driving experience you think about all the time you’re not doing it. (Whether BMW has ever actually delivered that for you depends on what you like.) And with my best, objective reviewer hat on, I can say the 2022 BMW i4 M50 does what it says on the tin: It’s a genuine performance, M-line BMW—only electric. 

If you’re a fan of M-line performance BMWs, then this will hit the brief, no question. It’s just that it might be too cautiously close to replicating the combustion performance experience in a way that leaves it strangely soulless by not leaning into what it actually is. This is a car with a single-minded agenda. It wants to show that BMW’s electric future doesn’t mean giving up on the performance vehicles people love the brand for.

2022 BMW i4 M50: By the Numbers:

  • i4 eDrive40 base price (M50 as tested): $56,395 ($66,895)
  • Powertrain: 81.5-kWh battery | dual-motor | 1-speed transmission | all-wheel drive
  • Horsepower: 536
  • Torque: 586 lb-ft
  • 0-60: 3.7 seconds
  • Top speed: 130 to 140 mph
  • Range: Up to 245 miles
  • Curb weight: 5,018 pounds
  • Cargo volume: 10 cubic feet
  • Seating capacity: 5
  • Quick take: An all-electric performance car that’s very serious about its performance. Maybe a bit too serious.

The i4 is one of BMW’s “gran coupes,” which means it’s a four-door sedan. As a big, executive car, it stays true to the 4 Series, and to make it feel like the authentic experience, it’s got driving dynamics that have been as carefully engineered to replicate sporty ICE-driving as you’d expect. But in fact, maybe it just tries a bit too hard.

As another full disclosure: Similar to the iX, I didn’t actually drive the i4, either, because of my brain injury that decided to give me a seizure the morning of our test drives. Thankfully, BMW was really accommodating about it so I spent plenty of time in the car anyway, which is why this is also called “first ride,” not first drive.

The Basics

Alongside the iX, BMW also launched the i4, and together, the two represent the German automaker’s first, honest crack at delivering mass-appeal EVs. The i3 was a bit of a fringe-car, there for those whose lifestyles worked with its size, but these two are the real deal. Built on the highly versatile CLAR platform, the i4 shares its architecture with the current 4 Series, iX, and Toyota Supra.

Without knowing anything about it, you’d be none the wiser that the i4 lacks an internal combustion engine. It looks like a five-seater, four-door 4 Series, and therein that normalcy lies its appeal. It wears the by-now-familiar grille and has your typical 4 Series sporty touches such as sleekly shaped windows, taillights, and headlights. Two trims of i40 are available: the rear-wheel-drive i4 eDrive40 with a claimed 335 horsepower, and the all-wheel-drive i4 M50, good for a claimed 536 hp. The latter, which is what BMW gave me to test out, represents the automaker’s first all-electric performance car. 

I’m not gonna try and persuade you on the grille; you either like it or you don’t (I think it makes it look angry, which is fine). But I do have to raise an issue with the air intakes on either side. These don’t need to be there. It’s an EV. But they’re just another thing that preserves the look of a car that it isn’t and what’s more, they’re like lil plastic bowtie bits that make the i4 look a bit like Doctor Robotnik. This is a thought that, once you’ve had, you can’t stop having. 

Inside, it’s pretty standard BMW-fare, too, except for the addition of the massive curved display that now acts as the digital driver information cluster and primary infotainment screen.

When I first saw the i4, it kind of reminded me of a ’90s Ford Escort because the Portimao Blue paint made the sculpted body look almost plasticky. But being in the car, I changed my mind on it because it was actually a great color to look out over the hood with. And boy, that’s important because there is so much hood. Even though electric motors take up less room than an engine, the design philosophy on the i4 was clearly to keep it as absolutely true to the “iconic shape of the 4 series” as possible. 

After the test drive, I asked the lead designer what the logic was on giving the thing so much front. She said it was absolutely about wanting to keep it authentic to the 4 Series, to really make it a gran coupe. But I don’t know what’s in there apart from maybe ballast, because the area isn’t being used as a front trunk. It’s just a lot of space that doesn’t really serve a purpose beyond the aesthetic. Well, maybe if you want to lie down on the hood, I guess.

Dynamics

The i4 M50 feels really powerful. That part’s done well. It feels mean and like you can bully other cars off the road—like a true BMW driver. 

Whenever the accelerator went down you knew about it, and in Sport mode—which, like the iX, I honestly don’t know why you’d ever switch off because it’s so obviously superior to the others—the suspension stiffens enough to make easing through the Bavarian countryside feel a little bit like misbehaving. It’s exactly the kind of quality I like in a car that, externally at least, looks like it doesn’t want to do any misbehaving at all. 


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