Cruisin the Alps

I think I can predict the future, and it looks something like the past. I’m talking about road trips, of course, no doubt because I have come to the conclusion that my entire life has been one long succession of road trips: looking forward to road trips, planning for road trips, and finally the existential joy of hitting the road.

Consider last week, which I spent driving BMW’s smokin’ electric, the iX M60. I’ll have a lot more to say about this car in the July issue of Roundel, because we really got to wring these puppies out, driving them from Berlin to Munich, and from there to Lake Como. So two days of driving through Germany and the Alps into Italy provided some insight into the ways of the Electric World.

Like why the car has such a bitchin’ sound system.

Yodel-ai-eee-hoo! We must be in the Alps.

If our future is electric, it has some things in common with the past, as I mentioned. In the early days of cross-country driving, in America and elsewhere, people were not able to just jump in the flivver and hit the road; any such travel involved planning, with maps and calendars; fuel stops and rest facilities had to be strategically chosen, and the car had to be well stocked with emergency supplies, tools, and spare parts. (Those ancient times are not as long ago as you might think, if you consider the number of times I have crossed the Alaska Highway, sometimes in cars that should be properly labeled as antiques.)

The iX M60 mostly requires an extensive music collection.

According to at least one BMW handler—when you’re at the launch of BMW’s latest whiz-pop vehicles, they make sure that you’re surrounded by people who have been well trained in the intricacies of the various systems, but even they get confused sometimes—the Bowers & Wilkins sound system employs something like 30 speakers, which seems ridiculous until you have the chance to sit in the car and actually listen to music.

Say, for example, while you’re taking on a fresh pot of voltage.

Yes, the drive from Berlin to Munich will require you to stop and recharge—probably twice, depending on how enthusiastically you’ve been hammering down the unrestricted sections of the Autobahn. (We’re journalists: How do you think we were driving?!) This involves those planning stages I mentioned; fortunately, Germany has been aggressively pursuing the requirements of an electric-car infrastructure, so if you stop at McDonald’s, you will find a few chargers there ready to fill your ride with McVolts. But we used the monstro fast-charger network that can power-fill the tanks in a short time.

That time would have been shorter, but at our first voltage stop, another iX arrived before we did, and plugged into one of the two voltage hoses of our charger. This means that our iX had less amperage, or wattage, or voltage flowing to our side, since the first car takes priority—and the maximum amperage draw. So we spent about 40 minutes taking on a charge, as well as lunch. It was at a later voltage stop that I stayed in the car and cranked up the tunes to eleven, and I will tell you right now that the B&W sound system is the best that I have ever heard. Throw on some tunes that you have listened to for decades and you will be astounded at their clarity; indeed, you will heard tones and nuances that you had not encountered in your previous life.

Moving on from Munich through the Alps, I found the iX M60 to share one thing with most of today’s BMWs: It’s too big for the likes of me. Of course, the Splügen Pass between Switzerland and Italy (the Swiss use several languages, of course, so Spluga Pass works, too) is too narrow for any car, as far as I’m concerned, especially with its 50 blind switchbacks; only by cre-e-eping around one after another could we avoid spectacular headlines and our certain demise.

Splügen or Spluga Pass, it makes the iX M60 seem huge.

All of this electrical adventure led to Lake Como and Villa d’Este, where BMW chose to unveil the i7. That premier concours also provided the stage for an array of M cars, BMW having conveniently decided to celebrate the 50th anniversary of BMW Motorsport this year. Consequently, there was an array of M models scattered about the estate, with an M1 coupe in close juxtaposition with an M1 Procar. And there were a few classic BMWs to satisfy the vintage crowd: 507, 327/28, even a 700 sport.

An array of classic M cars pose on the lawns of Villa d’Este.

The M1 has become BMW royalty.

No, it’s not a BMW, but it’s wonderful.

My favorite car of the show was a well-used Bugatti—but then, I am a sucker for patina and authenticity. Still, it doesn’t have a Bowers & Wilkins sound system, now, does it?—Satch Carlson



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