The BMW i4 M50’s centre of gravity sits some 34mm lower than that of the 3 Series, and it’s impossible not to notice this and the feeling of added security it brings.

It’s also impossible not to notice the many hundreds of kilograms of extra weight the car carries over its platform-sharing ICE cousins, and this applies when driving both at car-park speeds and when you find yourself on that perfect stretch of B-road. As with any electric car, there are both positive and negative implications from having a battery pack nestled beneath the floor of the car, but with the i4 M50 these seem especially apparent.

Perhaps that’s because the fundamental feel of the car is so recognisable from an M440i Gran Coupé. In this respect, BMW has done a fine job, because the four-door 4 Series is the benchmark for handling in its own class and the i4 M50 steers with much of the same alacrity and possesses the same brand of poise and balance, only with a good portion of natural agility traded for stability.

On its adaptive suspension – via steel springs at the front but with air springs at the rear – body control is also first class. Anybody swapping their M Sport 3 or 4 Series for an i4 M50 might actually rue the slight loss of the pitch and roll movements, which are useful in communicating grip levels and more importantly can help establish a confidence-inspiring sense of flow. The quality of the steering is similarly affected by knock-on effects from the weight of the battery; it has a more leaden feel than that of any CLAR-based combustion BMW but still delivers more uncorrupted precision and feel than any rival EV not named Taycan.

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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 is the rear-drive i4 eDrive40. With a reduced steering ratio and less bracing in the nose, it lacks the M50’s sense of precision and focus but covers ground more sweetly and, at legal speeds, more fluidly. In many ways it feels the more cohesive model, and given the limited emotional pull of either car’s powertrain, the case for having the M50 over the eDrive40 is weaker than that for, say, having an M3 Competition instead of an M340i.

Track notes

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.

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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, but low-speed 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, noise isolation 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-size 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.