Testing cars is a vital process, and never more so than when electric cars are concerned. Not only are there fiendishly difficult electronics to incorporate into ever more complex cars, the EV part must function perfectly in all conditions. And on top of that, companies will want to instil their own feel to the ride, handling and performance. Which, when you’re a company like BMW, is paramount. Especially when the electric car in question is a battery powered 5 Series. Despite an ever broadening product portfolio, saloons like the 3 and the 5 remain the archetypal BMWs - you look to those to see what the brand is doing. So the 5 EV is a hugely significant car.
BMW’s latest update on the i5 is on its ‘ultimate endurance test’, a year of snow and ice testing. A year! In that time it’s gone from Munich to Arjeplog (driving the 1,850 miles), the Alps to Denmark, driving on frozen lakes, solid snow and icy passes. As well as test tracks and motorways in low temperatures - in BMW’s own words, they’ve been ‘arduous’ test drives. ‘The innovative powertrain and chassis control systems on board the new BMW i5 do a great deal to optimise its traction, dynamism and driving stability, and nowhere is this more apparent than on… icy mountain roads’.
So, what should we expect from the BMW i5, given its reveal is still a few months away? It’s going to be powered by a ‘further upgraded’ version of BMW’s fifth-generation eDrive technology, the electric architecture that underpins the iX. Not exactly a PH favourite, but very competitive as an EV when it comes to efficiency and driving dynamics. The iX uses a 105.2kWh battery, with up to 200kW rapid charging and three-miles per kilowatt hour for the xDrive 40. A (hopefully) lighter 5 Series with further upgraded battery tech ought to improve on that efficiency.
But it wouldn’t do for a BMW electric saloon merely to be efficient. As tradition dictates (and the i4 has largely proven), it’s got to be good to drive as well. Apparently the i5 has thrilled with its ‘outstanding handling abilities’ on the slippery stuff; tough job, but somebody has to skid saloons in the snow. To make sure all the assists work, of course. ‘Thanks to their low-grip surfaces, the test areas sited on frozen lakes around Arjeplog were particularly well suited for delicately adjusting the drive torque control system in the BMW i5 under precisely reproducible conditions.’ Apparently the systems only became more impressive the faster and harder the car was driven. The key i5 takeaways, according to BMW, were that it ‘performs at least as proficiently’ as an ICE car in the snow and that it offers up a unique - for its segment - ‘blend of optimum traction when pulling away and supreme driving stability when cornering or braking’. Looks great going sideways, too, but that’s probably of less importance right now.
With winter testing complete, the i5 presumably has an easier run of final development now before it’s revealed to the world. That’s expected in October, ahead of going on sale early in 2024. Already BMW is talking of the competitiveness of its sector; there are, of course, already models like the Mercedes EQE and Porsche Taycan out there, with new cars from Polestar and Audi on the way as well. Just as it is for the 5s with engines, the i5 won’t be short of competition. Then again, you wouldn’t bet against BMW making quite a good battery powered 5 Series, either.
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