Why do we never glorify the future, but always only the past? Although their decisions and decrees, mistakes and successes are irrevocably in the past, they still have an effect until, well, until things can no longer go on like this in the future. But by now you should have known exactly what it’s all about. Correct: around B58B30M0, B58B30TÜ1 and S58.
They are – but who do we tell? – BMW’s codes of the three versions of the three-liter in-line six-cylinder turbo petrol engine, 326 to 510 hp, without whose transfigured brilliance we could not have imagined the Bavarian Motor Works in the past. Well, in the future.
It might start right now, at the Autobahn rest stop in Hegau West. In addition to the large, sparsely occupied HPC rapid charging park, its attractions include the motorway church, which also seems to attract moderate interest from visitors. The Emmaus Chapel would offer enough space inside, as stipulated in the catalog of criteria for the 47 German motorway churches (what you look up, you have to idle around for half an hour), so that “a tour bus group is able to visit together” … Oh, the battery is already full. So no longer accumulating useless knowledge on the phone, but keep going.
With a maximum charging capacity of 205 kW, the i4 M50 blasts 60 kWh in 30 minutes into its 83.9 kWh (net 80.7), large, 11 cm flat lithium-ion battery, which is drilled to the floor assembly with 22 screws. That’s enough for another impressive stage of leisurely travel (Eco range 412 km at 21.8 kWh/100 km) or shorter, but more hasty progress (29.2 kWh/100 km in the test average, only makes a range of 308 km). For both, BMW developed the M50 as the first purely electrically powered M model and enriched the i4 with a motor. Unlike the i4 eDrive40 – with a 250 kW rear engine underpowered – the M50 combines a 230 kW rear engine and a 190 kW front engine in Sport Boost mode for a system engine output of 400 kW and a maximum of 795 Nm. In comfort mode, the controller leaves it at 350 kW and 730 Nm, which, however, can hardly detract from the urgency of the temperament.
Bavarian rotor works
When developing the synchronous machine with 93 percent efficiency (which the iX also uses), BMW did not use permanent magnets and therefore rare earths. Instead, energization triggers the excitation of the rotor. This brings greater sustainability and a more spontaneous, constant performance development. The integration of the electric motor, input transmission and power electronics in one housing also contributes to this. Since everything happens suddenly – the torque is ready from the start and lasts over a further speed range – the i4 cannot afford a long line. The traction control close to the actuator uses shorter signal paths with ten times the speed.
In general, if the M50 is not lacking in one thing, then it is in speed – even if it only calls up the urgency of the rear engine with what it understands as a mild load. Only in the event of traction quarrels or a more intense need for acceleration does he switch on the front machine. With all-wheel drive, it sprints from 0 to 100 in 3.9 s (an M4 needs four-three), in 8.5 to 160 and with a force that only the limiter can stop at 225 km/h. In the meantime, we have almost gotten used to the immense acceleration provided by high-performance e-cars such as Tesla’s Model S P100D (3.1 s, 250 km/h). But like the Porsche Taycan, the i4 shines with perfect power control. Even on bumpy country roads, it catapults forward without scraping tires or steering tugs – even with strong intermediate sprints. In doing so, he lulls you into unspectacularity (is there such a word? If not, we need it now). Everything so quiet in the acoustically glazed coupé. You only hear the rushing of the current in which you move, but you don’t feel the speed at which the current pulls you forward.
Melodies for ions
Even with the Whooooshhhh sound activated – composed by Oscar winner Hans Zimmer and mixed by Creative Director Sound BMW Group Renzo Vitale (really!) – the coupling between noise and speed is not quite right. But it also depends on the chassis.
How pleased we are that Chapter 1 of the i4 press kit starts with the essence of the car: the driving dynamics. That’s right, they also write something about “overall vehicle harmony” and such, but it’s actually about the double-joint spring strut front axle, whose wheel carriers are connected to the battery housing. This increases rigidity such as the dome front-end struts, a strut package in the rear and on the five-link rear axle, whose upper wishbones are made of aluminum to reduce the unsprung masses and help lower the center of gravity a little. The lie 5.3 cm lower than the three, informs BMW, which contributes to the fervor of the handling as well as a 2.6 (front) and 1.3 cm wider track and the steering with variable rack ratio.
So basically everything is there, the big show staircase for the handling ballet, but – so you can’t count on elfish grace – also a lot of mass. The i4 M50 weighs 2,273 tons – 598 kg more than a not exactly ranked M4 with 1,675 kg. That’s as much as if the M4 always had a Citroën 2CV in its luggage.
The mass is always noticeable, no matter how well it is balanced at 48:52 and no matter how deep it may be. Therefore, the statement that it is not the masses that control the i4, but the i4 that controls the masses, is not to be understood as a perfect solution. Because despite all the engineering art, that is exactly what characterizes the handling of the i4: Despite all the dynamics, it feels a bit over-controlled. Let’s start with the one hand: the center of gravity, which presses the i4 firmly onto the road. The steering, just not too stiff to feel so precise and real in the feedback. And with excellent traction. With all of this, curves can be boarded at enormous speeds, driven through neutrally and saluted at the apex with full power. In Sport mode, the ESP allows slight oversteer. Which brings us to the other side.
Because: It’s just a slight twitch and feels heroic once or twice, the next time it’s a bit staged – not as obvious as your parents’ enthusiasm was when you first appeared at the tennis club, for example (0 : 6, 0 : 6 , 0 : 6). But you just notice. So you drive the i4 in normal ESP mode. Here, too, he centrifuges through curves at immense speed, always appearing full and confident. But never nimble and frivolous – just as we would expect from an M model from 50 years of BMW M, given the M1, M2, M3 E30 and E46 CSL, for example.
Although they are our greatest heroes from half a century of M, they are also exceptional talents compared to generations of M5, M6, even X6 M. They were characterized less by their artistry in cornering than by their talent, it was the total travel time to record with ICE 4/Airbus A320 Neo.
Long range? Just wait!
Because of the loading stops and the high consumption when driving in a hurry, this is not yet possible with the M50. But how pleasant it is to travel with it: Even in the tight sport mode of the adaptive damper on the front axle and the air suspension on the rear axle, comfort remains acceptable. In comfort mode, the suspension quality achieves a high degree of sovereignty, which even harsh transverse joints can hardly shake. In addition, the i4, like the four-seater Gran Coupé, offers space for four – without ever spoiling it with plenty of space – and clever variability. After all, they furnish it in Munich in a valuable way, assemble it solidly and insulate it intensively to the delight of the passengers.
So you flow comfortably through the country, sometimes in a hurry, sometimes at the recommended speed and even with assisted speed and lane guidance. That is recommended because the new operating structure is very distracting. For her, the rotary handle has lost its significance and creative power. With the large number of menus, the i4 across the combined instrument infotainment display is reminiscent of a smartphone where you unexpectedly come across a new function. Or a long-missing one – here, for example, the seat heating, which first needs to be found and activated in the climate menu on the touch monitor.
One of the newer ones is the setting of the recuperation intensity, which can be divided from minimum to adaptive to maximum (195 kW, even with the selector lever in position “B”). In adaptive mode, the recuperation delay is regulated using navigation and assistance information, the distance to the vehicle ahead is regulated by radar sensors and the front camera also recognizes traffic light changes.
Recuperation should suffice for 90 percent of all decelerations. This communicates with the friction brake via the integrated braking system. An actuator always triggers the required braking pressure, which should always be in the same ratio to the deceleration performance. Well, it should, because sometimes the adaptive control applies a recuperation delay to the braking that the driver has already triggered. It rarely happens, but then it’s all the more irritating.
What else irritates? That the route calculation for fast loading stops is no detour too big. So it leads over 20 km back and forth to Hegau West. Otherwise we would hardly have stopped and paused there. The i4 brings you to small discoveries in between and BMW a big step forward. Because, friends of motor transport, if this is the future, then the past is past its most glorious times.
Quickly lame again
A maximum of 205 kW charging power with direct current fast charging should make the i4 suitable for travel. Does this work? When will theory learn that in the end it has to prove itself in practice? In practice, the BMW i4 cannot keep to its theoretically promised charging time of 31 minutes with 200 kW direct current for 0 to 80 percent.
Although the charging capacity increases quickly, it drops continuously from a charge level of 15 percent. At around 40 percent, the BMW still charges with 150 kW, at 55 percent only with just under 100 kW – to protect the battery. With 36 minutes for 0 to 80 percent, the i4 is not only behind in theory, but also behind the Audi e-tron GT. It takes 22 minutes to do this with a battery of a similar size.
Advantages and disadvantages
- Appropriate space for a four-door coupe, plus practical variability
- High-quality furnishings and solid workmanship
- Pleasantly deep, integrated seating position at the front
- Operation now with touchscreen priority is less intuitive and more distracting
- Impractical door handles
- Long-distance competent suspension comfort
- Low noise level
- Sport seats with a lot of support …
- … but a little hard padding
- Furiously accelerating, efficient electric motor duo
- Top: power/force control
- Very good driving performance
- Tight radius of action when in a hurry
- Adaptive recuperation sometimes slows down unexpectedly
- High efficiency potential and low CO2 emissions
- Current-excited e-motors do not need permanent magnets and rare earths
- Effort for battery production
- Eligible basic price (7,178 euros e-car premium)
- Favorable maintenance costs, long intervals (2 years)
Everything that defines a BMW, in the past, but also in the future: Brilliant, efficient drive, thrilling handling, good comfort. Service? used to be better Range? Just about enough.
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