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BMW iX Hero

Review: BMW iX

  • BMW iX Sport from £69,905.
  • Tested: BMW iX x-Drive50 M Sport, from £93,905.
  • Available since December, 2021.

Introduction

The BMW iX is a new, purpose-built, fully-electric luxury SUV intended as a flagship for BMW’s latest, fifth-generation EV technology. It combines chiselled (some say controversial) exterior looks with a plush, ‘lounge-style’ interior and an impressive driving experience – as well as offering a large number of modern safety and driving aids.

Launching into the UK in two versions – iX xDrive40 and iX xDrive50 (as driven), with sales of the M-performance model badged xDrive M60 commenced January, 2022.

If you’re in the market for a premium electric car and like to make a striking impression, BMW has certainly got you covered.

Exterior

BMW has always been a brand for building handsome cars, but there are some truly unusual angles and chiselled surfaces here. I will confess to being an early adopter of the ‘Oh no, BMW! What have you done?’ train of thought when the first images were revealed in November, 2020. However, having now seen it in the metal, it looks a whole lot better than it did in those early images.

Sharp body lines on the profile give it a tapered appearance and the floating roof effect with an embossed iX logo is another subtle, but likeable touch. The 21-inch ‘Air Performance’ alloy wheels give it a genuinely sporty appearance too and the back end is sophisticated with its ultra-slim LED taillights – the thinnest on any production BMW – and two pronounced diffusers at each corner where exhaust tips would normally reside.

Interior

The BMW iX has one of the best interiors the brand has ever produced. It's crammed with high-end (recycled/recyclable) materials and features a minimalist design that extends from the dash to the second row.

The focal point is the massive, curved display in front of the driver which houses a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a 14.9-inch central touchscreen behind a single continuous piece of glass. You won't find tactile buttons anywhere atop that glass either as BMW has shed 50 per cent of all knobs and dials over its previous interior design in pursuit of a sleeker aesthetic.

Most of the essential functions like volume control and drive modes reside on the centre console, which juts out from the central storage compartment creating its own floating peninsula. There is no centre transmission tunnel that connects the console to the dash, which makes the cabin feel airier. Modern wood and gloss black details abound, with a crystalised start/stop button and beautifully knurled pieces for the shifter and iDrive controller.

Everything within reach feels exceptional. The striking, high-quality pieces for the shifter and volume knob make elementary functions feel like special experiences. In addition, the hexagonal steering isn’t as bizarre to use as you might initially think and the rim fits perfectly in hand, with simple embedded functions that are easy to use while driving.

The furniture is available in three finishes – a quilted microfiber and fabric combo, Sensatec faux leather, or quilted real leather. Whichever finish you choose, the seats were hugely comfortable during my two-hour drive, with plenty of support and easy adjustability via the Merc-like door-mounted seat controls.

Practicality and boot space

The iX has been designed from the ground up to be spacious and practical, despite needing to carry around a hefty 600kg battery pack. The result is excellent interior space, albeit with a boot that's perhaps not quite as big as expected. To make up for it, the iX has a surprisingly generous towing capacity.

The new Beemer is a large SUV with a fairly tall roofline and boxy shape, so there's plenty of headroom, even for adults over six feet tall. It's comfortable too, thanks to soft seats that are also slightly reclined in the back for extra relaxation on longer trips. Some electric cars suffer from a lack of foot space because their batteries diminish the space available inside the car but this isn’t an issue in the iX.

The rear electric motor does have a more noticeable impact in the boot because it has a fairly high loading lip and floor compared with the BMW X5. It can still carry a decent 500 litres behind the back seats but this is around 150 litres down on the X5 combustion-engined model. It's also a bit smaller than the 605-litre boot found in the Audi e-tron, and there's no storage area under the bonnet like you'll find in the Tesla Model X.

Towing

According to BMW's figures, the iX is one of the best electric tow-cars currently available, thanks to a maximum braked trailer capacity of 2,500kg. That's more than the 2,280kg of the Tesla Model X, while the Audi e-tron is limited to 1,800kg. Range will, of course, be affected by pulling a heavy or boxy trailer.

Trim grades & options

Both the xDrive40 and xDrive50 versions are available in Sport and M Sport trim levels.
Standard equipment highlights for the iX Sport include an 18-speaker Harmon Kardon audio system, 21-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats, four-zone climate control and a substantial number of driver assistance systems.

Upgrade to the iX M Sport and you’ll find a styling package, bigger brakes, dark headlight glass and anthracite roof lining. An M performance model called the iX xDrive M60 will join the range in 2022 with a promised 600hp.

A car like this never has a short options list and among the add-ons are massaging front seats, heated steering wheel and other cabin surfaces, Bowers and Wilkins hi-fi upgrade, ‘Skylounge’ panoramic roof, Laserlight headlights and the afore-mentioned interior camera that can be used for security and, er…fun.

The built-in connectivity means BMW will offer new features and allow customers to pay for upgrades to their iX via over-the-air updates. Among the things coming this way are an automated parking system that allows the car to learn and self-drive certain short-distance manoeuvres, which you’ll then be able to control from outside the car using your phone.

A heating element in the front grille area ensures all of the cameras and sensors built into the nose will continue to deliver under frosty or snowy conditions.

Powertrain and transmission

There launch versions are dual-motored AWD. The range-entry 71kWh xDrive40 has a battery range of 257 miles, while the xDrive50 as driven offers 105.2kWh and a very respectable 380 miles on the standard 21-inch wheels.

Performance from the 326bhp iX 40 is a healthy 6.1 seconds to 62mph. In the 523bhp iX 50, the sprint to 62mph drops to 4.6 seconds. These are hugely respectable figures for what are rather weighty cars.

Should such pace not be enough for traditional BMW users, that 60M performance version arriving in 2022 will offer beyond 600bhp. Crucially for the premium German auto-maker, its arrival will mark the first time an ‘M’, ‘X’ and ‘I’ offerings will have been unified in one model.

Charging

Charging your iX can be speedy, too. The xDrive40 will take in DC at 150kW – or 60 miles in a ten-minute charge. The iX 50 can take nearly 200kW, which translates to 90 miles in the same ten minutes.

For both battery packs to go from ten to 80 per cent, you’re looking at roughly half an hour. However, on the more common 50kW chargers, expect around two hours for a charge in the iX 50.

Both models have three-phase 11kW on-board AC chargers. Sadly, most of us don’t have three-phase at home and you’ll be limited to single-phase 7kW – and that would mean 14 hours from zero to 100 per cent.

On the road

Heavy battery packs usually means that electric vehicle suspension tends to be very stiff to handle the weight. However, BMW must have employed suspension engineers with degrees from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry because magic is the only explanation for how an electric SUV can ride this well.

Aside from perhaps the more humble but hugely impressive Mazda MX-30, the BMW iX is probably the best-riding EV on the market right now. BMW-owned Rolls-Royce Motor Cars recently announced its Spectre EV, so quelle surprise if the two companies have worked together on air suspension technology that has ended up in the iX – it’s honestly that good. Air suspension is optional on the iX40 and standard on the iX50.

Aside from the magic carpet ride, the BMW iX is a generally pleasant steer. There isn’t too much body roll in corners so it’s actually quite fun to drive with a dollop of enthusiasm down a twisting road, while the steering is light enough to make urban driving a breeze. It’s also surprisingly relaxing in heavy traffic thanks to the high driving position and plenty of glass that improves visibility.

Reliability and safety

The iX benefits from BMW's latest electric motor and battery technology, which has been developed at eye-watering expense to rival the likes of Tesla for efficiency and power. The hardware will also have to prove robust and, in theory, it should require next to no maintenance during the life of the car.

It's no exaggeration to say the iX can practically drive itself, with BMW's ‘Driving Assistant Professional’ likely to be capable of Level 3 autonomous driving with a future update (when, and if, UK laws permit). It can already keep pace with surrounding traffic and help you stay in a lane, while Park Assist can automatically park the car in many everyday circumstances.

BMW is also the first to market (as far as I know) an in-car selfie camera. Mounted just above the rear view mirror, the snapshot function allows you to take a photo of the inside of your iX using the ‘Hey, BMW’ voice assistant and download it onto your phone using a QR code on the central screen. That camera also acts as a remote theft recorder with a USB interface and the ability to monitor the interior of your car remotely from your smartphone.

One of the more novel safety features is Acoustic Protection, which warns pedestrians and cyclists of the car's approach using sounds created in collaboration with famed composer, Hans Zimmer.

Summary

The superb BMW iX is a pragmatic and skilfully executed answer to what EV-curious luxury SUV buyers want, which is road presence, a sense of status, expansive kit and safety lists, suitably opulent surroundings and effortless performance that even a juicy V8 couldn’t deliver.

Useful real-world ranges (particularly the 380 miles in the iX 50) should be more than enough to convince EV sceptics now may be the time to make the switch, given it reduces dependence on the public charging infrastructure to the point you’ll very rarely have need of it. On longer journeys a 10-minute comfort/coffee break will be enough for a 90-mile top-up – assuming, of course, you can find a suitable 200kW charger.
As a package and important step on the road to electrification, this is a very significant product for BMW...and a convincing one, too, to be frank.
Because you’re here and you have been, thanks for reading.

KEY FACTS: BMW iX x-Drive50

  • Powertrain: Dual electric motors.
  • System power/torque: 525 bhp / 760 Nm
  • Battery: 105 kW/h.
  • Power consumption: 21.1 kWh/100km
  • Range: Up to 370 miles.
  • Drive: All-wheel drive.
  • Transmission: One-speed automatic.
  • Acceleration: 0-62 mph: 4.6 seconds.
  • Top speed: 124 mph.
  • Eligible for OLEV grant: No
  • Kerb weight(unladen): 2,585 kg
  • Luggage capacity: 500 / 1,750 litres.

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By Wayne Gorrett

Wayne has been covering developments in the UK's automotive sector for over 10 years, providing news, reviews, first-drive impressions and opinion pieces for a number of print and web outlets in the UK and South Africa. A former marketing director, Wayne is based in a rural village near Winchester, Hampshire. You can follow him on Twitter: @WaynesWorldAuto Facebook: WaynesWorldAuto Instagram: WaynesWorldAuto