by Frank A. Aukofer ~
BMW anoints itself as “the ultimate driving machine.” But the Bavarian manufacturer builds many different machines, including a set of ultimate triplets for flamboyant enthusiasts.
The snazziest is the 2022 electric i4 M50 Gran Coupe with 20-inch wheels. Following closely on its bumper are a couple of 2022 gassers: the 430i Gran Coupe, and the M3 Competition xDrive Sedan.
If you are not up to speed on BMW-speak terminology, the M3 Sedan is a conventional four-door with a trunk and all-wheel drive, while the two Gran Coupes are streamlined four-door hatchbacks.
The M3 Competition was previously reviewed in this column, which concluded that it was a noisy, hard-riding borderline hyper car “that would delight hard-core aficionados who enjoy spending their weekends at racetracks and autocross courses.”
It handles beautifully and can nail 60 miles an hour in 3.5 seconds with a top speed of 180. Its base price is $77,895 and, as tested, had a sticker of $95,895. With all-wheel drive and a rear-wheel drive “drift mode,” it can gyrate like an acrobat on wheels.
So this review will focus on the two Gran Coupes. At 15 feet 9 inches long, the triplets are all midsize as defined by the EPA, with small differences in cubic feet of interior space—the sum of passenger and cargo space. The two gassers—the 430i and M3 Competition—weigh within 28 pounds of each other at around 3,800 pounds—while the electric i4 M50, with its huge battery pack under the floor, crushes the scale at 5,018 pounds.
Despite that, the M50’s front and rear electric motors deliver a total of 536 horsepower and 586 pound-feet of torque, or twisting force, that enables a rocket-like zero-to-60 acceleration time of 3.3 seconds, as tested by Car and Driver magazine. That’s a smidgen quicker than the M3 Competition. Yet the tested $78,520 price of the electric i4 was $17,375 less than the M3’s. So much for electrics always being pricier than fossil fuelers.
Even with its porky weight and awesome acceleration, the i4 M50 handles capably, with confident moves on twisting roads and responsive, though somewhat soft, steering that won’t surprise drivers with abrupt feedback. The front seats are well bolstered to hold the torso in place and the outboard back seats deliver good head and knee room despite the low roofline.
Depending on which version you select, the i4 M50 Gran Coupe has a range of 227 to 270 miles. It takes up to 10 hours on a 220-volt charger to fully top up the 81.5 kWh battery pack. If there’s some urgency, 10 minutes on a commercial DC fast charger will net an advertised 97 miles of range.
Extra juice is provided by BMW’s recuperative braking system, which gathers electricity for the battery pack during deceleration. It operates automatically, though it’s possible to select the level to low, medium or high. The last is the most aggressive and enables so-called one pedal driving. It can bring the i4 to a stop without the driver touching the brake pedal.
The i4 is the first electric from BMW to carry the high-performance M designation. It is similar in concept to the models from Mercedes-Benz that bear AMG badges, as well as the performance S models from Audi. Over at South Korea’s Hyundai, high-performance models carry an N designation.
In this trio, the 430i Gran Coupe is something of an also-ran. It embodies BMW characteristics of fine handling, braking and overall performance—just at a somewhat lesser level. Powered by a turbocharged 255-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 295 pound-feet of torque, its zero-to-60 acceleration time is in the five-second range. That’s not a rubber shredder but no slouch either. Of course, it is less expensive with a base price of $46,195 and, with options, a tested price of $56,300.
Model: 2022 BMW i4 M50 Gran Coupe four-door hatchback with 20-inch wheels.
- Motors: Front and rear electrics; total 536 hp, 586 lb-ft torque; 81.5 kWh lithium ion battery pack.
- Transmission: Single-speed direct with all-wheel drive.
- Overall length: 15 feet 9 inches.
- Height: 4 feet 7 inches.
- EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 90/10 cubic feet.
- Weight: 5,018 pounds.
- Range: 227 to 270 miles.
- Charging time on 220-volt level 2 charger: up to 10 hours; on a DC fast charger, a 10-minute charge delivers an advertised 97 miles of range.
- EPA city/highway/combined miles per gallon equivalent: 79/80/80 MPGe.
- Base price, including destination charge: $66,895.
- Price as tested: $78,520.
Model: 2022 BMW 430i Gran Coupe four-door hatchback.
- Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged, 255 hp, 295 lb-ft torque.
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift mode and rear-wheel drive.
- Overall length: 15 feet 9 inches.
- Height: 4 feet 9 inches.
- EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 92/12 cubic feet.
- Weight: 3,792 pounds
- EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 25/34/28 mpg. Premium gasoline recommended.
- Base price, including destination charge: $46,195.
- Price as tested: $56,300.
Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.
Photos © BMW