Driving the BMW i5 M60 xDrive and I wonder to myself… “Where can cars go from here? Is this the pinnacle?” The handling is superb, suspension so smooth it glides over just about anything you put in its way. It’s as quiet as can be, and boasts just about every feature and function from a daily driver to a grand tourer and most sports cars. It’s supremely comfortable. Everything is as it should be.
The leather-laden M60 variant is the range topping model with all the options. A 442Kw, (600hp) 820 NM monster that sprints to 100Kph in 3.8 seconds from its two motors. Steering is precise and accurate, no vagueness here. Likewise the brakes are exceptional, powerful, precise. Or flick to brake mode for 1 foot driving.
With a large 81kwh battery, I put range to the test with a road trip. The advertised range is 516 kilometres and I experienced 470 KS with 19% left in the battery. On a 4 day trip I never felt range issues, and just calmly charged up each night with a wall charger. It charged faster than predicted, and always drove a bit further than projected. If you did stretch the range, It has an eco-mode if you get worried, that shuts down non-essential functions. I never used it, I maxed out on luxury. And if you want to charge in a hurry, it’s only 30 minutes from 10-80% on a DC fast charger. In even more of a hurry? 10 mins charge gets you 174 extra kilometres range.
Boots are the Continental 245/40 front and 275/35 rear tires on 20-inch wheels that seem bonded to the road with magic. Tire noise is negligible compared to some EVs which run very high pressure. Not a problem on this car and of course you can check on the tire pressure and temperature with the call of a command.
A heads up display with integrated entertainment is par-the-course these days. BMW nails the integration with media, navigation, speed and all critical things available just as you need them. The drivers display is typically sumptuous and highly configurable, while the centre console is merged into it creating one. A light light curve ensures a consistent reach for the driver. Voice control is available for most functions. BMW have not forgotten that real controls and switch gear are what a driver wants and dedicated availability of controls is there for a large number of functions, putting to shame those who think that controls should disappear. BMW trusts their drivers.
Technology wise BMW leads the way with its sophisticated operating system now in a highly refined version that easily pops into wireless Apple/Android modes as required. Now, if you can’t be bothered reaching for that huge screen or moving the jewelled volume button just wave your fingers in the general direction of the screen to control volume or skip tracks, the internal camera will interpret it for you and respond. Speaking of music, we are used to BMWs having quality sounds and this is no exception, with the 655 watt 18 speaker Bowers & Wilkins sound system delivering crystal clarity everywhere in the car.
I almost wish the seamlessly integrated navigation wasn’t as good so I could get lost and have fun driving my way to my destination through unknown roads and routes. Of course I can just turn it off. The steering wheel will be familiar to anyone who has had a BMW in the last few years with consistent and easy layout of the functions including the handy one to change your screen layouts for drivers screen and the heads up display.
A racing driver flat bottom wheel sports the M logo and the red index stripe atop the wheel is handy and completes the picture. Two stalks give you everything you need for lighting and rain and the one paddle (yes you get one paddle) gives you 10 seconds of extra boost just in case the standard power wasn’t enough. Of course it was enough… but you clicked the boost anyway to give yourself that silent surge of adrenaline that the fastest EVs can provide. And yes this is one of the fastest EVs.
I took the car on a good road trip of almost a thousand kilometres. Covering urban, suburban, motorway, highway, byway and back roads. The car was faultless and superb in every condition, showing itself to be remarkably agile even on the windy roads. Okay, it isn’t like its smaller relative the M2, which you can throw into a hairpin with abandon, but remember this is a large luxury saloon with a 2,380 curb weight. With plenty of highway driving on the loop trip through Rotorua, Rotoiti, and Mount Maunganui, there was plenty of time to test all the assisted driver modes. I was really interested in the full driver assistance mode that manages speed, distance and lane holding. Without fanfare, just the click of a button, the BMW gently glides itself to be in the correct place in the lane, gently doing what it needed to do. If I edged too far to one side or the other it would gently vibrate and resist. I could take over and drive fully manually though. Having driven a number of cars with driver aids, I’d say BMW gets the balance right. They are trying to assist the driver, not replace them. I always felt in control and never anything too intrusive.
The outside styling is robust. It is strong and will not be mistaken for anything else. On the street or in the stable. This car is substantial. The model is 5060 mm long, 1505 mm high and 1900 mm wide. That means there is a lot of internal space and comfort. Again this is a virtual limousine, and in that vane I like the automatic blind at the back. Of course the rear passengers have their own blinds available, should they wish to use them. I left them up most of the time for maximum privacy from adoring fans,
One of my favourite parts of getting to drive cars is the opportunity to photograph them and it was on this process I realised just how complex a body shape this car has, achieving both looks and aerodynamics. Aero by the way that gives this a very low drag coefficient of 0.23. Simultaneously not to mention being possibly the shiniest car I’ve ever shot.
How do you maintain tradition while you challenge it at every step? Ask BMW I guess because that’s what they’ve done through countless models and never being happy, they produce a supreme car. BMW started manufacturing cars in 1928, since then they have really aimed to maintain the focus on the driver and you feel it coming through in spades. You can’t create a driver’s car on a laptop. You create it with time in the seat, with hundreds of thousands of hours of feedback with being prepared to improve. It’s an interesting philosophical approach to create something the best you can, yet never quite be happy enough. And to return again with next year’s model and build it even better. Sometimes it’s incremental and sometimes it’s revolutionary. But if you take away from that driver experience, then you’ve lost what you were trying to do in the first place. This car calmly speaks to legacy. A legacy of drivers who want to feel what they’re doing.
It’s a good thing. It’s actually a great thing. It’s something that gets a lot of attention from people who know what they’re looking at is special. Somehow BMW have packed comfort and performance into a single vehicle, which is what the five series has represented for some time, but turned it up a notch! Again I wonder “Can it get any better than this?” Maybe some cars are a tiny bit quicker to 100Kph, or some other car has a slightly bigger screen… Honestly I don’t know if I care. If driving is the aim, then this is it. This full time 4wd battery electric i5 M60 from BMW is as comfortable as a limousine and faster than a sports car. It’s just about everything you can imagine wanting. OK, I need to shut up now.