As BMW Product Genius, the most common question I get when showing customers around the electric cars is “What is the range?”
For example, when I'm showing people around the i4 M50 I answer that question with “316 miles”.
And without fail, the answer is followed up by the question, “yeah, but what does it really do”.
It is a question that I have asked myself, having never spent more than a few hours with an electric car, plus the i4 M50 kicks out 537bhp and does 0-62mph in 3.7 seconds. That doesn't exactly scream efficiency.
So, to put the BMW i4 M50 to the test, I got sent on a trip from Sandal BMW Wakefield to Whitby and told to drive the car as I would normally drive (Sport Mode for the majority of the journey).
First things first, I needed to plan our route. The sat-nav was suggesting a direct route from Wakefield to Whitby which was 81 miles, pretty much all on the motorway.
To make things more interesting, I decided to plot in some scenic diversions over the North York Moors National Park. It's a tough job, but someone has to do it. The resulting route ended up being 236 miles all round.
I set off from Sandal Wakefield at 9 o'clock sharp with 100% charge and the range of 288 miles. The reason it wasn't showing 316 miles promised by BMW is that electric cars calculate their range based on previous journeys, much like the MPG in a combustion engine car, so due to the high volume of low distance test drives the car undertakes, it was estimating a bit lower.
I popped the i4 into Eco Pro mode for the first leg of the journey, as the first 50 miles were on the M1 and A64. This was a good call as the combination of the eco pro and the long motorway cruise increased the estimated electric range for the first 20 miles as the car realised that, with the current driving style, it could go further. A very good thing... as the North York Moors were looming into view.
So, what’s it like to drive? Unlike in a car with a combustion engine where you have to build through the revs to access the torque, in electric cars the torque is just dumped in one huge lump as soon as you put your foot on the accelerator. The xDrive all-wheel-drive that comes as standard on the M50 helps the acceleration too as, even though we were dealing with wet, greasy conditions, it finds strong grip on the road.
With some sweeping corners and tight bends that the North York Moors offers, you get to experience the superb handling of the BMW i4 M50. Weighing in over 2 tonnes, the i4 M50 is not light, but this is where the German engineering shines through, and let's not forget that this i4 has been on a little trip through the M Division.
In the i4 the batteries are fitted as low as possible in the car which results in a very low centre of gravity, bringing massive benefits to handling. Especially when paired with the adaptive M Suspension, variable sport steering and torque vectoring, which provides the tyres with the most grip, with more power to help push all 2.2 Tonnes of i4 around corners.
The BMW i4 M50 is a joy to drive, especially on the roads of this spectacular National Park, but knowing that you're producing zero driving emissions and that you're not harming any of the beautiful landscape or wildlife, is a pretty great feeling too.
We arrived in Whitby with 54% charge but, as it was the summer holidays, finding a parking spot proved to be a challenge.
I think we tried every car park in the centre of Whitby and had been creeping around averaging 10 mph, stopping and starting for around 30 minutes - the range had taken a big hit. By the time we had decided it was a lost cause and went to park up by the Abbey we were down to 48% charge and the range had decreased by around 20 miles.
It wouldn’t be a trip to Whitby without Fish and Chips, so we made our way to the Magpie Café and afterwards had a few games in the arcade.
After spending the grand total of 25 minutes in Whitby, we headed back to the i4 so that we would get back to Sandal Wakefield before it closed. On the walk back to the car, a quick check on the My BMW App showed me that we had less than 50% charge to get back to Wakefield. Because of this, I decided to take a slightly more direct route back. A little blast over the moors followed by a longer cruise down the motorway. I then used the app send this new route directly to the car's sat-nav in preparation.
Over the moors (still in sports mode) we took a moment to listen to the 'BMW Iconic Sound' which was created by Hans Zimmer, composer of some of the greatest movie soundtracks of all time, such as 'Inception', '12 Years A Slave' and of course 'The SpongeBob Movie, Sponge on the Run’. The iconic sound in sports mode is very space-age and futuristic and is a pleasant and necessary addition to the cabin as it gives you a sense of speed which can be lost in eco pro mode where the noise is barely noticeable.
On the motorway, I got the opportunity to test out something I'd yet to experience, the adaptive cruise control. It's simple to activate, just press the cruise control button on the left hand-side of the steering wheel and it starts working. Above that button is a rocker-switch that allows you to increase and decrease your speed (when you're not following another vehicle) and to the side of this are two buttons for the distance control which allow you to follow the vehicle in front at varying distances.
It's a little unnerving at first because the car's not just maintaining the speed of the car in front, but it is also adding steering input itself to get you round the corners. You have to keep one hand resting on the steering wheel at all times (otherwise it shouts at you with flashing yellow lights) but this doesn't lessen the feeling of fear that you are putting all your faith in technology at motorway speeds.
After around 5 minutes or so though I'd got used to it and found the experience of not using the pedals and steering wheel, along with the lack of engine noise, to be very relaxing and ended up making great progress back towards BMW without even really noticing.
The motorway leg back had done a world of good for the electric range too, as for the last 20 miles or so the range was sitting at 36 miles as we were back in eco pro and taking it nice and easy. As we rolled onto the forecourt of the BMW showroom back in Wakefield the battery was at 11% with the range showing 34 miles.
Due to the change in route halfway through, the resulting journey ended up being 219 miles in total. So with 34 miles of range remaining, we are looking at a realistic range of just over 250 miles.
Pretty incredible when you consider that this was no economy run, it was properly driven, mostly in the car's least efficient mode. If we were to have carried on on the motorway the range would have most likely remained roughly the same for a little while further before it started to decrease, so could have been up to as much as 270 miles.
I think the most impressive thing though is the i4 M50 itself. It's everything you want and need it to be, when you need it to be. It's smooth and quite for cruising down the motorway and then it's taut and punchy when you want to give it some. Fantastic.
If you would like to test drive the BMW i4 M50 or any other models available at Sandal BMW we would love to see you down at the showroom, and we are always more than happy to answer any questions you may have and help find you your perfect BMW.
Photography and article by Jacob Stanbridge