2021 Auto News USA automobiles

BMW Gets Serious With 3 New Electric Vehicles

Credits: www.barrons.com

In photos, the 2022 BMW iX xDrive50 is dominated by that huge kidney grille, which gives it the look of an eager beaver. In person, however, that feature looks much more integrated into the front-end styling. And the iX, an all-electric compact SUV based on the Vision iNext concept that BMW debuted three years ago, is actually rather conservatively styled. The company’s first electric vehicle, the i3, was more of a shocker when it first appeared.

BMW previewed the iX at the Classic Car Club Manhattan last month. Journalists’ impressions were embargoed until the car’s North American debut on Monday. With 516 horsepower and electric fully variable all-wheel drive, the iX will start at US$83,200. The U.S. market launch is in the first quarter of next year.

BMW has also announced two other EV s in an accelerating push to electrification: The i4 eDrive40 with 335 horsepower on tap and rear-wheel drive, and its performance sibling, the i4 M50—with 536 horsepower and all-wheel drive.

First, the aluminum-bodied iX, which will be sold in only one model, though an iX M60 with more than 600 horsepower is coming up. It’s comparable to the existing X5 in size and utility, with a 118-inch wheelbase.

The iX xDrive50 tour was provided by Don Smith, the brand’s compact class and BMW i product manager. “It carries a lot of hallmarks in a clean, modern design with 300 miles of range,” he says.

Smith explains the zero to 60 dash would be less than five seconds, and it’s actually better than that—4.6 to 62 miles per hour. And 124 mph is the top end. The battery pack is a humongous 115 kilowatt-hours, which explains the very good range. The i3 had an optional “range extender”—a small gas generator that got it to 200 miles. The iX 50 doesn’t need one.

The iX looks like an upright SUV, but appearances are deceptive—it’s actually very slippery, with 0.25 drag coefficient.

The car is fairly conservative inside, too, without the Danish modern touches of the i3. It has a pair of gently curved screens (12.3 inches for the instrument panel and 14.9 for the infotainment) in an attractive housing. A lot of controls are via touch. The test car had Bowers & Wilcox audio; that’s optional, as is 5G connectivity. BMW’s most recent iDrive 8 is the operating system onboard.

A very cool feature is the panoramic glass roof, which comes with electrochromic shading. Push a button and the clear glass goes opaque. I’ve only seen this in Rolls-Royces for the Chinese market.

The iX enables DC fast charging at up to 200 kilowatts. If that much power is available, the iX 50 can go from a 10% to 90%charge in 10 minutes. Using 240-volt Level Two charging (the type you’re likely to have in the garage), 11 hours is needed to fully charge that big battery. But most of the time your battery won’t be fully depleted. Public charging is via a partnership with EVgo, which has more than 800 fast-charging locations, and 38,000 Level Two chargers.

Adaptive suspension with electronically controlled shock absorbers and self-leveling is optional, and it should keep the car at the optimal ride height. Select “Sport” and the car lowers by 0.4 inches. It also does this in the default setting when 87 miles per hour is reached. For off-roading, the car can be raised 0.8 inches.

The standard light alloy wheels are 20 inches, but 21- and 22-inch variants are also available. The list of safety features is long, and the car has a parking assistant. The overhead interior camera can be used to take photos—via voice command, gesture, or touch control—during trips. It can then send the snaps to your cellphone.

Officially, the eDrive40 will sell for US$55,400 and the M50 for US$65,900. The eDrive40 has a range of 300 miles, and the M50 245. Performance or range, that’s your choice. And you can shop by price, too. But BMW is not currently fielding a really affordable EV.  

Power for these i4s comes from BMW’s fifth-generation eDrive technology, which locates the motor, power electronics, and transmission in one housing. The M50 has an electric motor on each axle, giving more power and all-wheel drive.

The amount of torque that flows to each wheel is fully adjustable, and simple rear-wheel drive can be used to increase range. Adaptive M suspension and variable sport steering are standard in the M50, available in the eDrive40. Both have rear air suspension.