While debate rages about Government incentives, emissions targets and headlines go to some of the newest car companies in the world there’s a quiet revolution occurring at some of the biggest car companies in the world, BMW included.
We’ve written about electrified BMW’s, the all-electric Mini, and know that BMW’s electric journey goes way back to the compact i3 and the sporty i8. Safe to say, we know what we’re talking about when it comes to Electric Cars.
But what you won’t see from BMW is a commitment to stop making internal combustion engine cars by a certain date, instead, the BMW group is looking at the entire lifecycle of the car. Last December, the million electrified BMW was delivered – those million cars include light hybrids, plug in hybrids and full-electric cars.
Going forward, they will have 25 electrified models in their range by the end of next year, twelve of them will be fully electric.
Discussing the company’s electric plans, I joined my mate Stephen Fenech for a special edition of our Two Blokes Talking Tech podcast sitting down with Nick Raman from the BMW Group Australia to unpack it all.
Ahead of that, I had the opportunity to drive two cars that are similar in one important way, but radically different in another.
The BMW i4, and the BMW iX.
BMW i4 M50
BMW’s i4 is a four-door coupe that to me plays directly to the long standing BMW customer and fan, lovers of the design, style and sporty handling of a BMW. Walking around the car you’d struggle to know it’s fully electric.
Conversely, when you see the BMW iX, you might assume it’s fully electric. Like many other EVs on the roads today, it has a bold new design because it’s been built from the ground up as an EV, rather than an EV platform being engineered around an existing car design.
For me, the BMW i4 is one of the better EVs on the road. Forgetting for a moment the silent ride and the blistering acceleration, the steering and overall ride and handling is exactly what I’d expect from a BMW sedan.
Put it in sport mode and throw the pedal to the metal and a Hans Zimmer created soundtrack gives you an acoustic sensation vastly different to the roar of an internal combustion engine, but still enough to hear the sensation of your driving.
Critically, the vehicle I drove was the i4 M50 – that’s right the M badge has made its way onto an electric car, a huge deal for the company and the 50 year old M series brand.
Prices for the i4 start off just under $114,000 for the i4 eDrive40 while the i4 M50 Gran Coupé rings closer to $140,000.
Conversely, the BMW iX is something very special. A stark new interior, nothing at all like any other BMW you may have driven.
And thanks to the fact this is an entirely bespoke platform, designed and built just for Electric Cars, it has the same capabilities as many other EVs in that there’s no transmission tunnel leaving far more interior space.
It’s space inside that’s equivalent to the BMW X5, yet all the angles, design, even the materials are unique, unlike nothing you’ve seen before. Everything is done with an eye on sustainability which I think meets the needs of the prospective market for the iX.
Honestly, the photos don’t do it justice. It’s a jarring look, which is far more eye-pleasing in person – trust me. But what electric car isn’t unique? It’s like a requirement for car companies who want to show people quite overtly that they are making an electric car.
On the road, it has a higher stance like the larger SUVs you might have driven. However the low centre of gravity still offers a comfortable cornering experience on the open road.
To be fair, it didn’t strike me as a regular “BMW” driving experience, but that’s because it’s new and unique in every single sense. That’s not to say it wasn’t a great drive – possibly the quietest ride i’ve had in a car, electric or otherwise, but at high speeds it just didn’t give me the same “sensation”.
That said, on the inside, this thing screams Rolls Royce luxury. There are crystal-like controls for everything from the infotainment to the seat controls adding a stunningly luxurious touch to the whole thing.
Advanced infotainment in the BMW iX and i4
Something I’ve not seen reported on anywhere is a unique feature of the BMW iDrive 8 infotainment system relates to Apple CarPlay.
So like many cars the iX and i4 feature Wireless Apple CarPlay. Great. But in addition, the BMW infotainment system takes content from CarPlay and brings it into your instrument cluster.
This means if you have your phone connected, listening to music, perhaps you have the music info on the centre screen. If you’re navigating somewhere with Apple Maps, the map will appear on the digital instrument cluster. Writing it down, this seems nothing exciting, but for those of us that use Apple Maps, it really is. It means that centre screen isn’t the only place you can view the maps and your directions, they all appear on the main dashboard too.
Apple announced last month at WWDC that this feature would be expanded to third party mapping apps (like Waze and Google Maps) if and when they choose to enable it.
Going Electric – in your own time.
Both these cars are top quality electric cars. But what I love most about the BMW approach is their emphasis on the owner and prospective buyer.
They’re not forcing Electric down your throat. Their push to sustainability is all about the factories, supply chain, and reducing emissions from internal combustion engines, and increasing the electrification of cars.
Yes – if you want an electric car, they’ve got you covered. If you want a Plug-In hybrid, BMW has you covered. Still want an internal combustion engine, their new ranges are super efficient.
For those who’s lease is up, your next car might be a plug-in hybrid. For others it might be straight to full-electric.
Choice is key.
It’s a consumer driven strategy that should see some sensational models coming to BMW showrooms in the months and years ahead.
Our drives of the BMW i4 and iX and our chat with Nick Raman are supported by the BMW Group Australia