DRIVEN | We get behind the wheel of BMW's first all-electric M car, meet the i4 M50

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Included within its recently outlined plans for a full portfolio of all-electric offerings, BMW South Africa has officially introduced the brand's first battery-electric M car to our market. Wheels24 correspondent Ian McLaren has been behind the wheel. 

Famed for producing some of the most compelling driver's cars of all time, BMW's M Division certainly isn't shy to take on a challenge. 

An inevitable consequence of this brand's broad mandate to place driving dynamics and all-round poise at the forefront of its ever-expanding product portfolio, the motoring world continues to be amazed at just how much of this DNA can be successfully engineered into BMW-branded offerings that are nevertheless designed to meet fashion-forward trends, including 2-tonne SUVs.

BMW i4
BMW i4

The brief for the M Division's first all-electric product would have been made that much easier because this model is based on the BMW brand's current CLAR platform. The same architecture underpins the modern 3 Series, X3 SUV and 4 Series Gran Coupe. For packaging reasons, it's the latter four-door derivative on which the all-new battery-electric i4 is based.

READ | Driving the new iX3: Should your next BMW be an electric vehicle?

Designed to manage the inevitable weight penalty associated with current generation BEV packages, the i4 M50 features bespoke anti-roll bars, front and rear, and additional spring strut tower braces up front compared with its donor car. A result of this repackaging to accommodate a battery pack below the passenger compartment is that the i4 features a 53mm lower centre of gravity than its combustion engine 3 Series siblings.

Fitted as standard with an adaptive M Sport suspension, M Sport brakes and variable sport steering, the i4 M50 boasts a claimed 0-100 km/h sprint time of just 3.9-seconds, identical to the figure listed alongside the specification for the current M3 Competition.   

A genuine M product by straight-line performance and exterior appearance, the i4 also features an interior that mimics its 4 Series siblings, including BMW's impressive new iDrive 8 system with its 12.3-inch infotainment screen and larger still digital instrumentation. 

READ | BMW iX vs Jaguar I-Pace: Price tags aside, EV technology is becoming more attainable

The i4 M50 features an 81.5kWh battery and one electric motor per axle. This pseudo all-wheel drive system caters to 400kW and 795 Nm of instantly available torque, accessed via a single-speed transmission. Able to accommodate a DC charge of up to 200kW, the newest member of the 4 Series family offers a claimed operating range of up to 510km on a single charge. 

It's the relentlessness of the torque delivery that first alerts your senses from behind the wheel of the i4 M50. Sure, M cars are usually quick, but nothing quite prepares you for both just how fast the all-electric i4 is off the mark and that there is simply no pause for a gearshift or even momentary loss of traction within the proceedings.

The car certainly doesn't feel like it weighs more than 2-tonnes, all-in. 

Not usually a fan of synthesized (fake) exhaust notes, the subtle tones offered in BMW's current range of EVs, including the hints of an associated rumble matched with this first all-electric M car, add to the experience. 

BMW i4
2022 BMW i4 M50

What I like about this particular M car is that it offers an arguably more convincing split personality than some of its more unforgiving brethren. Where a vehicle like the modern M340i offers relatively compelling all-rounder appeal compared to its race-ready M3 sibling, the advantage gained by a well-balanced battery-electric setup is that it's just as easy to drive in traffic as it is to raise eyebrows on the open road.

Pricing for the i4 M50 starts from R1 600 000.

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