We recently spent a day with three wildly different, new BMW models: the first-ever X2 crossover, the 600-horsepower M5 sedan and the all-electric (kinda) i3s with a range extender. Here's what we thought of each.
Backstory: The X2 is all new for BMW. It builds on the brand’s decision to make a sleeker, coupe-like version of nearly every crossover it sells. This means that the X2 is the sportier, more expensive version of the X1 on which it is based. The X2 starts at $37,395 for a front-wheel-drive model with a 228-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive -- which we didn’t test -- is another $2,000. Load it up with options and it can hit $45,000.
We liked: The handling. Some larger BMW models have leaned away from the brand’s sporty heritage. Not this X2. It comes with crisp handling and enough power for daily fun behind the wheel -- something that many of its competitors lack. We were also pleasantly surprised to find that tall adults (6 feet 2 inches) could fit in the back seats with no trouble.
We didn’t like: The rear visibility. The sleek profile of the X2 on the outside means that the X2 feels claustrophobic when you look out the back in the rearview mirror. And while there is plenty of room in the back seats, the limited visibility when you’re sitting back there can feel claustrophobic. The X2 is also expensive for what amounts to a fancy hatchback.
Would we spend our money on it? Probably not. As much fun as it was to drive, we’d opt for the slightly cheaper and more practical X1. It gets you the same powertrain that we loved and more useful space.
Backstory: The M5 is hallowed ground at BMW. Together with the M3, the M5 nameplate has spent decades defining BMW’s ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’ tagline. Every subsequent generation has tried to outdo its predecessor with more power, technology and performance. Usually, BMW has succeeded. This generation is new for 2018 but, like its forefathers, it’s based on the 5 Series sedan. This model uses a 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine with 600 horsepower and an eight-speed automatic transmission. This sixth-generation model now adds all-wheel drive as a standard feature for the first time in the M5’s history.
We liked: 600 horsepower is a nice place to start. There seemed to be no end to the M5’s power -- no situation that you could put the car in where it wouldn’t be able to reach down and find ample torque. BMW also did a nice job of programming the all-wheel-drive system to blend into the background and generally made the M5 feel like a traditional rear-wheel-drive car. The car’s systems even let you turn the AWD off entirely. On top of this, the inside of the M5 is simply a plush, comfortable place to spend time; this is a car you could easily drive across the country in. Quickly. As an under-the-radar, daily driver in all climates, conditions and commute types, this is one of the most well-rounded machines on the road today.
We didn’t like: This car on the track. BMW claims it has owners who use it on private pavement, but that just seems dumb. For $100,000 there are far better choices. It took us multiple laps to disengage all the hyper-sensitive, electronic nannies and crash-mitigation features and adjust the many customizable settings (steering, throttle, stability control, suspension, all-wheel drive) to find a mode that communicated the way we wanted in order to get a sense of the M5’s true track nature. Once we did, we liked what we drove, and we absolutely walked away breathing heavy from the thrill. But we couldn’t help but feel that this generation relies more on brute force and all-wheel drive than earnest feedback from the racetrack. The overall effect was frustrating until we remembered how much fun this car is on public roads.
Would we spend our money on it? We would. The M5 is a special car and one that justifies the price tag.
Backstory: The i3 all-electric hatchback has been scooting around for several years now. For 2018, BMW added the i3s, a sport-tuned version with more power and better handling that costs an extra $3,200 for a total of $48,645. It has 184 horsepower versus the regular i3’s 170 horsepower, though the range drops to 107 miles versus the i3’s 114 miles. The i3s we tested then had the optional, $3,850 range extender. What’s that? It’s a small, gas engine that recharges the batteries, giving you 97 miles of electric range and 180 miles of total range on a tank of gas.
We liked: All. That. Powah. 184 horsepower (and 199 pound-feet of torque) is more than enough to get the i3s moving quickly. And the range extender is a nice touch. Though it’s not cheap, it definitely extends the i3s’ usefulness by cutting out any range anxiety you might have. And, like the X2, tall people actually fit in the i3s’ back seats without any trouble.
We didn’t like: The regenerative brakes on the i3s. The moment the driver takes their foot off the gas pedal, the car immediately begins to apply resistance to charge the batteries while slowing down the car significantly. Many electric cars do this -- and some even allow you to dial in the level of resistance you like or cancel it out altogether. Not the i3s. The result was too much seesawing back and forth when you’re on and off the throttle in traffic or around town. We just wanted the car to coast like normal cars do.
Would we spend our money on it? Probably not this version (the i3s with the range-extender). While the extra power was nice, the regular i3 has more than enough grunt, so we’d keep the $3,200 difference and put that toward the range extender.