2024 BMW i5 M60 Looks to Be Another Promising EV
There it is again, that mix of affirmation and excitement. It’s what you feel when the steering, brakes, and accelerator of a brand-new car sync driver inputs and create a sensory revelation. This time, the source is the new i5 M60, the high-performance variant of the new eighth-generation 5-series, which lived up to its dynamic promise throughout our first half-day outing. If this early pre-production model is anything to go by, BMW has another winner on its hands. And this time, the achievement is not tainted by a disfigured front end with a beaver-tooth grille.
Logistics dictated that we bypass the 335-hp i5 eDrive40 and go straight to the 590-hp i5 M60 xDrive. From our base near Marseille, France, we headed out onto a section of BMW’s official Research and Development evaluation loop, which stretches deep into the barren hinterland to the northwest, where the Bouches-du-Rhône and Vaucluse departments meet. Piloting a still fully camouflaged i5 prototype, we followed BMW driving dynamics expert Jürgen Metz, who led the way in an M340d wagon. The challenging route is the legacy of BMW’s recently retired chassis guru Jos van As.
Driving the 2024 BMW i5 M60
As soon as the last small village started to fade away in the rearview mirror, Jürgen’s voice came snarling over the radio: “It hasn’t rained here for weeks, so there will be plenty of sand and gravel on the road.” Squeak, pause, crackle. “Also, give cyclists a wide berth and keep an eye out for locals in a hurry, who are real experts at cutting corners.” Moments later, a quick thumbs-up signals attack mode, and our two-car convoy begins its speedy climb up the steely gray spiral staircase to the first summit of the Parc naturel régional des Alpilles. The i5 is a brand-new car from top to bottom, and yet it feels encouragingly familiar and confidence-inspiring from the word go. The motor’s massive 590 horsepower and 586 pound-feet of torque are distributed with sublime mastery.
In preparation for the total-immersion experience that was about to follow, the black disguise covers had to come off BMW’s curved display that spans two-thirds of the dash. Next, the annoying lane-departure warning chimes, lights, and vibrations were put to sleep. Locking all systems in Sport but leaving stability control on for the time being completed the initial preflight check. Although there is no gear lever or clutch pedal to worry about, the mind still takes a moment to adjust to the new driver environment. There is only one steering-wheel paddle, which is marked Boost. Why not install a second paddle to control the three energy-regeneration stages? “Because sticking the gear selector in B automatically triggers the one-pedal feel coveted by many EV users,” explains Herr Metz. Lift-off regen intensifies or decreases in sync with the selected drive mode.
But today we’re not interested in coasting or in exploring the max range (estimated at up to 307 miles for the eDrive40 and 272 miles for the M60). Today is all about having fun with fully charged batteries, two motors giving their all, and wringing out a state-of-the-art chassis.
The i5 didn’t simply swap its combustion engine for an electric drivetrain—instead, this is a genetically reprogrammed 5-series on high-tech steroids. Its key elements include a variable-ratio and variable-assist steering rack complemented by rear-axle steering with a 2.5-degree maximum angle, active anti-roll bars, rear air springs, and a multilink suspension configuration at the front and at the rear. And these are only the basic stats.
The French grow award-winning wines and cook unforgettable meals, but most of the country’s rural roads are in a sorry state, which is why the European motor industry’s chassis experts, driving-dynamics wizards, and tire engineers come here to test and tune their wares. The bleached, porous, and broken tarmac certainly felt like home turf to the i5. It oozes compliance, cuts corners with uncanny precision, and the 245/40 front and 275/35 rear tires on 20-inch wheels feel Velcro-strapped to the surface as a cog railway is to its rack. Instrumental to this homogenous blend of agility and composure are numerous stiffening measures to the body and suspension and a spiderweb of links firming up the rear axle assembly.
BMW i5 M60 Performance Stats
The flush underbody, a number of selectively blocked air intakes, aerodynamically conscious wheels, and lateral air curtains are key to the remarkable drag coefficient of 0.23. The top speed for efficiency reasons is restricted to 144 mph. The battery, motors, and inverters are largely shared with the i4 M50, so it’s to no surprise the claimed zero-to-62-mph time of 3.9 seconds matches that of the M50. At a charging rate of up to 200 kilowatts, a 10 to 80 percent recharge should take no more than 30 minutes, and over-the-air updates are likely to speed up the charge time. The only new driving program is dubbed MaxRange. It even eclipses Eco Pro by radically reducing the top speed to a tiptoeing 56 mph while limiting the power output to 136 horsepower and shutting off electric loads like the air conditioning for a 25 percent boost in range.
Compared to the lesser eDrive40, the M60 gets a firmer suspension setup and a lowered ride height, the widest available tires, and Executive Drive Pro, which is BMW-speak for active anti-roll bars plus the rear-axle steering system. As one would expect, the M-specific all-wheel-drive system prefers to split the torque in favor of the rear wheels. Are we having fun yet? You bet. Especially in Sport Boost, which frees an extra 18 pound-feet for up to 10 seconds. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but in combination with the wild in-dash countdown graphic and the shrill audio accompaniment (by German film composer Hans Zimmer), the paddle- or accelerator-induced kick-down certainly appeals to the child inside. Alternatively, one can scroll through the My Mode menu and check out different mood settings labeled Personal, Relax, and Expressive.
These playful gimmicks are admittedly little more than the digital icing on a cake—which still relays all the essential brand values every self-proclaimed ultimate driving machine must have. Although the i5 M60 is a product of the Bavarian Motor Works, the motors are no longer the main discerning feature. Instead it’s the eerily intuitive and wonderfully involving driver interaction that makes the new sedan stand out. Take, for instance, the steering that allows not a trace of vagueness or uncertainty to seep through to the palms of the driver. The brake-by-wire system also performs with aplomb, as the brakes are easy to modulate and respond with reassuring clarity. Common vices such as delayed action, synthetic feel, excessive pedal travel, and the usual conflict between deceleration and regeneration are conspicuous in their absence.
The day concluded with an about-face from letting it all hang out in the middle of nowhere to a no less impressive demonstration of semi-autonomous driving on a busy nearby highway. The new 5-series comes with the useful Highway Assistant we know from the 7-series that can perform automated hands-free lane changes, combines Active Cruise Control with traffic-light recognition, includes Active Lane Guiding and Urban Cruise features, and adds a trailer mode to its lane-change assist properties. Our sample car repeatedly performed fluent automated lane changes and passing maneuvers. No, it does not yet quite comply with all Level 3 requirements, although we’re told that getting there will only be a matter of months.
But unlike so many EVs, the new i5 is more about engaging the driver than replacing the driver. Like the i4, it’s another hopeful indicator that the era of electrification doesn’t necessarily bring down the curtain on BMWs that are fun to drive.
Although I was born the only son of an ornithologist and a postal clerk, it was clear from the beginning that birdwatching and stamp collecting were not my thing. Had I known that God wanted me to grow to 6’8″, I also would have ruled out anything to do with cars, which are to blame for a couple of slipped discs, a torn ligament, and that stupid stooped posture behind the wheel. While working as a keeper in the Aberdeen Zoo, smuggling cheap cigarettes from Yugoslavia to Germany, and an embarrassing interlude with an amateur drama group also failed to yield fulfillment, driving and writing about cars became a much better option. And it still is now, many years later, as I approach my 70th birthday. I love every aspect of my job except long-haul travel on lousy airlines, and I hope it shows.