Time to road test the futuristic new flagship of BMW’s family of electric vehicles…
Let’s start by tackling the elephant in the room, because BMW’s big, bold new electric SUV divides opinion.
And I’ll admit, I had my doubts when I saw the first pictures, but let me reassure you – it looks much cooler in the metal.
It’s been quite a wait too (it was previewed as the Vision iNext concept at the 2018 Paris Motor Show), but the good news is that it’s been well worth it.
The iX is hugely important to BMW. It joins the evergreen i3 and more recent iX3 (an electrified X3) in the range and heralds the transition of the ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’ brand to zero emissions vehicles.
Priced from £69,905 (xDrive40) to £91,905 (xDrive50) and billed as an SAV (Sports Activity Vehicle), at launch it’s available with two powertrain options – both using a twin electric motor set-up (one at each axle) providing all-wheel drive.
The xDrive40 makes 321bhp and 464lb ft of torque, resulting in a 0-62mph time of 6.1 seconds and a top speed of 124mph. The 76kWh battery pack provides a range of up to 257 miles.
The range-topping xDrive50 produces 516bhp and 564lb ft of torque, and boasts a 0-62mph sprint time of just 4.6 seconds. Maximum speed is also limited to 124mph, while its epic 111.5kWh battery can return up to 380 miles.
The xDrive40 is capable of charging at speeds of up to 150kW, which is fast enough to gain more than 56 miles of charge in 10 minutes. The xDrive50 has a 200kW charging capability which can add 75 miles in as little as 10 minutes.
Both cars can be charged from 10% to 80% capacity in less than 35 minutes.
About the same size as an X5 and comparable in height to an X6, the iX’s is far more futuristic – inside and out.
Each iX uses about 60kg of recycled plastic and half the car’s aluminium is re-used, while synthetic yarn made from recycled nylon waste material forms its carpeting and floor mats.
The interior is minimalistic, classy and beautifully put together. The dashboard is dominated by a curved twin-screen set-up that houses a 12.3-inch driver’s display and 14.9-inch central touchscreen running BMW’s slick next-generation infotainment interface.
Then there’s the hexagonal steering wheel, an updated version of the iDrive rotary controller, integrated touch controls in the wooden veneer and slimline air vents. Naturally, voice control is available too.
BMW should also be commended for featuring a climate control system that can be accessed at all times without having to dig deep into the menu layers. Take note VW Group.
Thanks to its long wheelbase, there’s no shortage of space inside the cabin (limo-like in the back for passengers). Boot capacity is a good, but not class-leading 500 litres, expanding to 1,750 litres when the rear seats are folded.
I tested both the xDrive40 and xDrive50 and it’s clear from the outset that both manage to deliver a balance of comfort, refinement and performance. In fact, the iX is one of the quietest EVs on the market.
The xDrive40 is quick, while the xDrive50 is blisteringly fast, especially in Sport mode where a video game ‘whoosh’ sound accompanies the rollercoaster-like acceleration.
The iX is new from the ground up, which means it’s been designed for optimal placement of the batteries and motors, resulting in even weight distribution and impressive body control for such a big vehicle.
It’s possible to hustle the iX on more challenging country roads, but there’s no disguising its size and weight (2.5 tonnes) and it would be an exaggeration to call it nimble. Of the two models, the xDrive50 is the more agile, partly down to its rear-wheel steering.
The ride in the xDrive40 is smooth, but the xDrive50 gets air suspension, which helps it deal with lumps and bumps better, resulting in a near-magic carpet experience.
Overall, the iX is a majestic cruiser and surprisingly manoeuvrable in town too, thanks to good visibility, stacks of driver assistance tech and light steering.
Without living with the iX for a few weeks, it’s impossible to pass judgement on the claimed ranges. However, with a little restraint I’d estimate that in real world driving, ranges of 225 miles (xDrive40) and 350 miles (xDrive50) are quite possible.
A quick word for the regenerative braking system which recharges the battery on the move by harvesting energy otherwise lost when you lift off the accelerator or brake. Unlike many EVs, the iX’s brakes have a progressive feel and offer serious stopping power.
Needless to stay, the iX passed its Euro NCAP crash tests with flying colours, garnering a maximum five stars. It was praised for both its outstanding occupant protection and its advanced driver assistance systems, which help to prevent accidents.
The iX’s rivals include the Tesla Model X, Audi e-tron, Jaguar I-Pace and Mercedes-Benz EQC.
Verdict: BMW may be a little late to the big electric SUV party, but the futuristic iX has been well worth the wait. A bold new flagship for the premium brand’s family of EVs, it offers a long driving range, impressive driving dynamics, comfort and performance, coupled with cutting-edge tech, supreme build quality and serious badge appeal.
Review in association with www.automotiveblog.co.uk