Why it matters: BMW has always toyed with electrification through plug-in hybrids, the city-friendly i3 compact and the eye-catching i8 sports car, but these two new pure EVs are taking aim at the mainstream market, with vehicles that can be appreciated by anyone, anywhere.
BMW unveiled a pair of electric cars today, known as the BMW i4 and BMW iX, which promise to bring tons of tech, and about 300 miles of range to the very heart of the market. Beyond that, the automaker promises a sustainable approach to its EV production, keeping its carbon footprint as small as possible.
Powerful motors and large batteries but worrisome range
The i4 sport sedan is set to arrive in two forms, the mainstream eDrive40 and a more powerful, sporty M50 model. The eDrive40 uses a single motor powering the rear axle, putting out 335 horsepower and 317 lb-ft of torque.
The M50 pictured below is the first pure EV from BMW's high-performance M division and features all-wheel-drive with a combined 536 horsepower and 586 lb-ft of torque. While the eDrive40 model is meant to be a subdued, luxury sport sedan, it still manages to hit highway speeds from a standstill in just 5.7 seconds, while the more hardcore M50 model will do the deed in 3.9 seconds.
Providing the juice for these vehicles is a battery with over 80 kWh. Using an 11 kW charger, it'll take 7.6 hours to recharge the i4 from 0-100 percent, though using a DC Fast Charger will significantly speed things up.
BMW estimates it will take just 31 minutes to charge from 10 to 80 percent, thanks to a peak charge rate of 200 kW. The automaker is estimating that the eDrive40 model can travel up to 300 miles on a single charge, while the M50 is expected to have a range of 245 miles.
The BMW iX is a more family-oriented vehicle, with a length and width that's slightly larger than the X5 SUV. Dubbed the iX xDrive50, it features all-wheel-drive thanks to an electric motor for each axle. With 516 horsepower and 564 lb-ft of torque, the iX is sure to be quick reaching highway speeds in under 5 seconds.
That's all made possible through a battery pack with over 106 kWh of juice. It takes 11 hours to charge that battery from empty using an 11 kW charger, while a fast charger with a 200 kW charge rate will charge the iX from 10 to 80 percent in about 40 minutes. It's expected to feature a range of 300 miles.
It should be noted that the ranges of the i4 models and the iX seem pretty conservative, and far from impressive. The recently announced Ford F-150 pickup is expected to reach 300 miles (with a loaded bed), while Tesla promotes a few of its vehicles with ranges well over the 300 mile mark.
Tech features (and also some gimmicks)
Being the latest in luxury, these BMWs feature a well-equipped, high-tech cabin, with all kinds of convenience and safety features, not to mention a few gimmicks. For starters, BMW's infotainment system, iDrive, has been upgraded to version 8 and includes Apple Maps and Android Auto support.
A huge curved display, combining a 12.3-inch gauge cluster and the 14.9-inch infotainment display is found, perched on the dash. Those who have that kind of casual relationship with their car can use voice recognition to perform a variety of tasks, through the use of BMW's Intelligent Personal Assistant.
The cars features 5G connectivity and can be updated remotely over the air, though one new feature set to debut on the iX is the Digital Key Plus, which allows users with Apple iPhones to use their mobile device as a key. The digital key can even be shared with others. One feature in the iX that sounds like a gimmick is the interior camera, which can be used to take snapshots during your journey, either through a voice command, a touch button, a self-timer, or even automatically when one of the passengers is smiling. Perhaps more importantly, this feature can be used remotely if the owner wants to know if they forgot something inside the car, or to take a picture of a thief when the vehicle's alarm is triggered.
BMW is also pushing its safety equipment and driver assists, detailing the automotive debuts of its 8 MPix camera and its front-mounted radar system features 300 yards of range, both features found in the iX rather than the i4, which makes sense considering the family-sized vehicle is much more expensive than the sedan.
As with other BMWs, there are different packages of driver assistance features being offered on the i4 and iX, though none seem to have any hands-free driving capabilities like Cadillac's Super Cruise or advanced driver assistance like Tesla's Autopilot. The iX does have a cleaning and warming system for its radar and camera systems mounted at the front of the vehicle, which should allow for better reliability in poor conditions.
Style and luxury
The exterior styling of the two vehicles is pretty conservative, while the interior design is pared down with a somewhat minimalist approach. While both vehicles feature frameless doors, the iX sports flush door handles, which are embedded into the door surfaces.
The controls and layout of the i4 are similar to the current BMW 4-Series, but the iX has made a few interesting choices, like using touch-sensitive surfaces on the open-pore wood, and crystal controls for the infotainment system and gear selector.
Sustainability and availability
BMW's approach to its EVs has a focus on sustainability. The automaker notes that the electric motors in the i4 and iX do not use fixed permanent magnets, reducing the need for rare earth metals. The batteries contain less than 10 percent cobalt content, and the lithium is sourced from hard-rock deposits in Australia, which BMW says ensures a high standard for sustainability, and with respect for human rights. The plants producing the i4 in Munich and the iX in Dingolfing use green hydroelectric power produced locally.
The BMW i4 eDrive 40 is the most affordable of the three vehicles, with an asking price of $55,400 in the US, while the i4 M50 will be $65,900. The more expensive BMW iX starts at $83,200. The plan is to put these vehicles into production this year, with a high-performance iX arriving in 2022.