Begin to work the M50’s chassis and the favourable impressions continue. Propulsive duties fall solely to the rear motor until limited grip or traction force the front motor into action and the integration between the two is effectively seamless.
The handling balance is one of rear-flavoured neutrality in much the same style as any xDrive-equipped conventional BMW, with the caveat that the i4 M50 can slip into oversteer with far greater speed and ease. Set the DSC system to its more lenient setting and you can use the i4 M50’s instant torque and rear-led balance to entertaining effect, the car gracefully driving out of the corners with just a touch of yaw but still rampant levels of acceleration. You’ll not derive BMW M3 Competition levels of satisfaction from the i4 M50 – its style is a touch too one-dimensional, and it’s more prone to understeer – but there’s fun to be had, and safe fun at that.
The real elephant in the room, though, is the presence of the purer-handling single-motor models. With a reduced steering ratio and less bracing in the nose, they lacks the M50’s sense of precision and focus, but cover ground more sweetly and, at legal speeds, more fluidly. They're lighter and slightly nimbler, simpler in their delivery of power to only one axle, and in many ways they feel the more cohesive cars to drive. Given the limited emotional pull of any EV powertrain, the case for having the M50 over either the eDrive40 or eDrive35 is weaker than that for, say, having an M3 Competition instead of an M340i.
The i4 M50 doesn’t entertain as naturally on track as an M340i can. The physical forces at play are simply too great to take much enjoyment in the car’s limit handling, and there’s a sense of jeopardy that comes from taking slip angles with the thick end of 2.3 tonnes underneath you.
Although the M50 is accurate and stable, adaptations to the power steering and suspension on account of that weight have also toned down the communication levels you get from CLAR-based ICE cars.
Moreover, limit handling seems compromised by the tyres, which relinquish grip quite suddenly when weight transfer is involved. The car’s aptitude in biasing torque can cover its tracks to some extent but, even then, sometimes the system doesn’t know whether to sustain a slide with more power to the rear or kill it by favouring the front axle.
Comfort and isolation
There are times when the i4 M50 summons the kind of serenity you’d expect from the 7 Series. The ride quality is never without sporting undertones and it's never quite as filtered or isolating as in bigger BMWs, but low-speed bump absorption is particularly good in light of our test car’s 20in alloys and the quietness and crisp responsiveness of the electric powertrain mean the car glides through urban environments in effortless fashion.
As speeds increase, ride comfort continues to be one of the i4’s strengths, though during motorway cruising, the effect is more class-leading junior saloon than luxury-focused mid- or full-sized executive. Even so, for a car of huge performance potential, the i4 M50 remains superbly well mannered when covering big distances. Recording 65dBA at 70mph, it is conspicuously quieter than even a BMW M8 Competition.
The BMW bolsters its credentials with fine, supportive seats, an excellent driving position, the intuitive layout of its various controls and good visibility all round, even if we would prefer the tailgate to afford the driver a broader view of the road behind. It cossets front-seat occupants in almost GT-car style but offers the sense of light and space those cars typically lack. The i4’s adaptive braking programme, whereby regenerative braking force is automatically adjusted in response to junctions and traffic ahead, is also calibrated well enough that you learn to rely on it instinctively.
Where the i4 slightly blots its copybook concerns its turning circle. At 12.5m, the car needs much more space to change direction than an M440i Gran Coupé (11.3m). You’ll be reminded of that every time an unusually tight turn is required.