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Autotrader: BMW introduces two new electric cars—and they’re very different


This week, BMW

unveiled a pair of electric vehicles with very different themes. Taken together, they show the future of the brand.

One is the exact car you would expect from BMW – a sharp-handling, luxurious sport sedan chock-full of technology with a high-performance variant. The other is a midsize SUV with quick acceleration and luxurious appointments but sold on the merits of its sustainable construction.

BMW i4: the electric BMW you expect

The BMW i4 sits comfortably alongside the 3 Series and 4 Series and looks almost exactly like them. Ice-blue accent lines around the (false) big toothy grille and along the side sills are the only clue you’re looking at an electric car.

The BMW i4


A true BMW sport sedan

In iDrive 40 guise, the i4 will cost $55,400 and offer 335 horsepower in a rear-wheel-drive configuration. As a sportier M50 model, it will cost $65,900 and get 536 horsepower from its two-motor, all-wheel-drive setup. The M50 can manage an additional 67 horsepower in 10-second boosts. All BMWs carry a $995 destination charge.

See: Curious about EVs? Here are answers to common questions about electric cars

BMW claims a range up 245 miles for the M50 and 300 miles for the iDrive 40, though the EPA hasn’t yet tested that claim. Either car can charge its 81.5-kilowatt-hour battery pack in 8 hours from a Level 2 charger or add 90 miles of driving range in just 10 minutes from a DC fast charger.

Cinematic sounds and curved glass

Inside, the i4 is a high-tech marvel. Because electric cars make very little sound, BMW engaged famed movie soundtrack composer Hans Zimmer to create a suite of electronic sounds that respond to pressure on the gas pedal and change based on the driver’s behavior.

Ambient lighting can be customized endlessly and communicates warnings to the driver. A curved screen replaces the driver’s instrument binnacle. A second curved screen controls entertainment and climate functions. The two screens are mounted together to look like one expanse of curved glass.

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In short, the i4 is the electric BMW you expected. It’s the sharply-dress, environmental activist cousin of BMW’s legendary lineup of sport sedans.

BMW iX: the unexpected electric BMW  

The BMW iX, on the other hand, is something entirely new. A midsize SUV, the iX brings the performance you expect from BMW. But BMW focused as much on how it impacts the globe as how it affects the driver. The company is using it to introduce new, more sustainable methods of building a car.


A BMW when you step on the pedal

The iX is every bit the racy midsize SUV you might expect BMW to build. It carries a sticker price of $83,200, plus a $995 destination fee, and comes in only one trim level.

That one offering is all-wheel drive, with one electric motor on each axle. Total power output is 516 horsepower – enough for a 0-60 mph sprint in just 4.6 seconds. It has a driving range of 300 miles (again, not yet verified by the EPA) and can charge to 80% of its full battery capacity in under 40 minutes with a DC fast charger.

A sumptuous cabin

Inside, it has one of the most sumptuous interiors we’ve seen. Thin-frame seats covered in oxblood quilted leather look like something you’d find only with a six-figure price tag. The same pair of screens float neatly above the leather dash. A hexagonal steering wheel looks as high-tech as Tesla’s new steering yoke but as easy-to-use as a traditional steering wheel.

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A thoughtful new approach to manufacturing

But the story of the iX is in how it’s built.

BMW developed electric motors that use minimal rare earth materials for this car, erasing one of the most important criticisms of electric cars.

The iX still uses lithium-ion batteries, but BMW answered concerns about the sustainability of lithium mining by rethinking its entire supply chain. The company sources its own lithium and provides it to battery suppliers. This allows it to ensure that human rights and responsible mining practices are respected in the supply chain.

Also see: Review: Volvo’s XC40 Recharge impresses for space, safety and value

BMW builds the iX with as many recycled plastic and aluminum parts as possible. The car is also designed with an eye toward being recycled, with components planned for easy reclaiming when they’ve reached the end of their useful lives.

Even the floor mats are made with recycled fishing nets.

The iX is a BMW in every way, but it’s also a new signpost for the automotive industry.

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