European automakers are known for being on the cutting edge when it comes to providing style and power. However, after pushing “clean diesel” with mixed results, hybrid electric/gas technology was one area where they fell behind rival automakers. The strategy of European automakers now appears to skip past full hybrid vehicles for the most part, putting the main focus on rolling out all-electrics.
In 2022, BMW offered six different plug-in hybrids to choose from and two fully electric models– the BMW iX SUV, and the BMW i4 electric car model. It has stated that half of its deliveries by 2030 will be fully electric vehicles. Just as intense of a focus is placed on maintaining BMW’s performance heritage.
We had the opportunity to see if the fully electric four-door BMW i4 M50 sedan lives up to its performance inspired M pedigree. The regular i4 sports two electric motors sending a total of 469 horsepower and 538 lb-ft of torque to all four wheels. The M50’s Sport Boost mode increases those numbers to 536 hp and 586 lb-ft., making the zero to 60 sprint in 3.6 seconds. Since electric power is silent, BMW hired Academy Award winner Hans Zimmer to compose the M IconicSounds Electric to simulate traditional Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) sounds. Ultimately, it performed and sounded up to M standards.
The heavy weight from the batteries and high tire pressure required as a result make of the i4’s ride a little stiff, but critics contend the well-tuned adaptive suspension is superior to the Tesla 3 and Polestar 2 models it is compared against. With its optional 20-inch wheels, the i4 M50 is EPA-rated at 227 miles of total range on a single charge, also pretty comparable to its rivals. Better fit and finish and high scores for technology also help the i4 M50 compete. It’s hard to compare one model to the next, given that options quickly hike pricing up across all the EV contenders trying to make their mark. Our i4 M50 tester started at $65,900, with total suggested retail after options at $82,820.
Mercedes is putting even more focus on its EQ-branded fully-electric vehicles. The only hybrid vehicle in its lineup for 2022 was the Mercedes-Benz GLE 450, implementing mild-hybrid technology. For 2023, the German luxury carmaker is introducing the next generation of its GLC luxury crossover with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine plus a 48-volt mild-hybrid system. The goal is for the mild hybrids is for their electric boost to allow the ICE to shut off when coasting or braking, eliminate the belt drives that an ICE requires to run certain components, and power the more robust electrical architectures that modern vehicle technologies require.
We recently drove the GLE 450 with turbocharged 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder engine and mild hybrid. With standard 4Matic all-wheel drive, the GLE 450 is offered as the next step up from the base GLE 350. It accomplishes the goal in getting the same 22 mpg combined (20 city/26 highway) as the GLE 350 while making an extra 107 hp (total 362) and rated on the test track at 5.3 seconds to get to 60 mph. Bottom line, if you’re shopping for a mid-size luxury SUV, you may upgrade to get the hybrid power boost, but the GLE’s excellent interior, solid construction and the latest and greatest innovations and upgrades are the main purchase motivators. Also compelling is its precise steering, easy-to-control braking performance and its MBUX infotainment system which uses artificial intelligence to help control vehicle functions in several ways, including Voice Control and Touch Control. All GLE models come standard with five-passenger seating but most can be optioned with three rows to seat seven people.
While Mercedes lists the suggested retail price at $63,950 for the GLE 450, its options drove its delivered price tag up to $82,925. On our tester, this included an AMG Line Interior Package, Driver Assistance Package Plus, AMG Multispoke Wheels with black accents, rear side airbags, panoramic roof, soft-close doors, Acoustic Comfort Package, Night Package, Airmatic Suspension Package and Premium Package including Burmester audio system, surround-view camera system and 115-volt household-type power outlet.
While electrification stands to impact the automotive industry, there remains a lot of uncertainty and unanswered questions. But neither industry can afford to risk sitting on the sidelines to wait until we have all the answers!