BMW i5 M60 First Drive Review: The Speed of Progress
Lisbon, Portugal - Building a fast car is simple. Put a powerful engine or electric motors onto a chassis and you have one. Making a powerful car that’s really adept at more than just going straight however, is quite another thing.
And BMW’s M Division knows exactly how to engineer this ‘thing’. Which takes us straight into the BMW i5 M60 xDrive, which is designed to be great on roads that are not straight.
The higher performance version of the new BMW i5 electric sedan, the i5 M60 xDrive is not a new, electric version of the BMW M5 sedan.
Rather, it’s part of the brand’s M Performance range of cars, which means that while it’s much faster and more dynamic to drive than the already-fun regular BMWs, it’s not as aggro as a purebred M car.
And since this is an electric car, an angrier engine note really isn’t part of the equation either unless you take into account the synthetic noise made by the Hans Zimmer-engineered BMW Iconic Sounds generator.
There are pieces of motorsport-inspired switchgear in the cabin, but it’s still largely a space designed for comfortable long distance driving rather than for tearing up racetracks on trackdays.
The ‘xDrive’ in the name identifies it as having all-wheel drive, and in this case it’s via one motor each at the front and rear of the car. The i5 M60 has a 0 to 100km/h sprint time of just 3.8secs.
There are many other cars that can be had for less and are faster in a straight line drag race, but at the hands of a decently skilled driver, they’ll fall behind and lose touch when the corners appear.
The BMW i5 M60 features an M-tuned, stiffened, sportier chassis that optimises the suspension’s ability to keep all wheels in contact with the tarmac and transmit road feel to the driver through all the contact points.
It’s not about being stiffly damped and choppy, which the i5 M60 exhibits none of even when the Sport Drive mode is engaged. It tracks along on country roads with great accuracy without an uncomfortably harsh ride.
The suspension isn’t racetrack-harsh, but it feels optimised for carving up scenic, deserted B-roads with ease. And there’s plenty of that out in the Portuguese countryside where we found ourselves with the car. The specifications show that the i5 M60 clocks in at 2,303kg kerb weight, but it certainly feels much lighter.
The steering is razor-sharp but could do with less power assistance, yet the handling from the adaptive all-wheel drive system is predictable and inspires confidence.
It’s an electric car so there’s just one forward drive gear ratio, punching the car forwards relentlessly towards its electrically capped top speed of 230km/h. That number itself is special as most other EVs on sale now are limited to around 200km/h.
It’s as though BMW raised the limit simply to show us that this is a performance car, and yes, it can go faster.
Most of the time the i5 M60 has a power output of 517 horsepower and a torque output of 795Nm. That’s fine for 90 percent of its daily driving duties, but with the customisable My Sport mode and launch control activated, the car’s true total power output is exposed.
That’s 601 horsepower with an accompanying torque output of 820Nm, available in short bursts.
In their regular state, EVs are quiet cars. So the BMW Iconic Sounds module pipes a synthetic spaceship-type whooshing noise through the car’s speakers when it is activated, to add some excitement to the proceedings.
It’s not just any sound, and BMW has made great efforts to advertise that the drive audio is designed by award-winning film music composer Hans Zimmer since the system arrived on BMW’s new-generation electric cars.
It is loud, and after a while can frankly get repetitively annoying when in Sport mode but thankfully it can be switched to a softer setting or deactivated altogether.
The exterior design of the i5 M60 isn’t as over-the-top as an M car, but the M bodykit with the blacked-out front end and lower sections gives the car a purposeful sporty stance.
It also has BMW’s new Iconic Glow front end, which outlines the brand’s kidney grille design with an illuminated outline on each of the false front end intakes.
Inside, the car is largely identical to that of the entry-level, rear-wheel driven i5 eDrive40, but that’s simply an indication of how much standard equipment the cars are fitted with from the factory these days.
The BMW Operating System has also been updated to OS 8.5, and in use its not vastly different from the OS 8.0 now widely in use on BMWs.
The BMW i5 M60 is an all-electric luxury sedan that’s quick but not overly aggressive. In the grand scheme of things, it’s really the next-generation, electric version of the M Performance 540i xDrive that came before.
The 3.0-tire turbo in-line 6 with 355 horsepower is gone, replaced with a twin-motor electric drive system that tops out at 601 horsepower... is this the speed of progress you were expecting?
STORY Lionel Kong
BMW i5 M60
Battery 82.1kWh, Lithium-ion Battery
Electric Motor 601hp / 820Nm
Electric Range up to 516km (WLTP)
0-100km/h 3.8secs (not listed)
Top Speed 230km/h (electronically limited)
Efficiency 20.6kWh/100km (Combined)
Charging 205kW DC, 11kW AC