Hey, you were warned. If you looked at BMW’s next-generation Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) concept, the iNext, back in 2018 and thought “that’s all very well, but it won’t look like that”… you obviously don’t know BMW.
The iX is here and it’s right in your face. It might be a shock to the system if you thought the rather traditional-looking iX3 or i4 were the face of BMW’s BEV future, but the iX is very definitely the Munich maker’s technological flagship for 2022.
And it does make sense for it to look this way, given it’s the latest member of the i-brand launched nearly a decade ago with the brilliant and brilliantly idiosyncratic i3 and i8.
Like the i3, the iX relies on Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) construction, although unlike the i-original, the new model employs a “multi-material” approach, combining the so-called Carbon Cage with aluminum and steel.
I think the iX’s styling is rather well proportioned; no, really. You don’t realise how large it is until you see it in context with other vehicles. It’s five metres long, on a wheelbase of three metres and (get this bit) 2.2m wide with the mirrors extended. Those wheels on our test car seem to suit it nicely size-wise, but they’re actually 22-inchers.
And don’t get too fixated on the gold exterior details. Our iX xDrive50 Sport’s Titanium Bronze Individual Exterior Line package is a no-cost option. Although that complex red paint does cost $2600 extra.
Inside, it’s also very much a clean-sheet situation. To the point where BMW has decided steering wheels don’t even have to be round; the iX’s is a fat hexagon.
It’s a clear evolution of the i3’s interior design, but with another decade of technological development enclosed within. The instrument and infotainment panels are housed in one expansive screen that runs the width of the cabin, propped up on legs like an expensive curved-screen television.
It’s all tiles and colours, but despite the outward complexity, there’s a linear arrangement of menus that makes it all very easy to navigate. Swipe and click, swipe and click. Back to home.
Sustainable this, that and the other, of course: the standard Interior Design Suite includes olive leaf tanned leather and a lot of recycled material.
It’s a truly lounge-like experience in the iX, because the floor is flat (that’s the beauty of BEV hardware), the car is tall and the ambience extravagant. It can be a bit nightclub as well if you want: the Panorama Glass Sky Roof goes frosty at the touch of a button and the $8500 Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound audio in our car was astonishing; it literally thumps you in the back.
Yes, it’s taken us this long to get to the driving experience, but the iX is a car you could look at and sit in and argue about for hours without turning a wheel.
The iX is un-BMW-like in some respects because it’s not supposed to be the least bit sporty (and yes, I know "Sport" is in the name). That’s a not a bad thing at all, but it is a bit different from a maker that insists even its X5 SUV is for gung-ho drivers. With 385kW/765Nm, the performance is effortless to say the least, but not Tesla-dramatic. There’s a jolt if you want it from a jab of the throttle, but otherwise the iX just seamlessly crosses into scenery-blur mode. Overtaking on the open road is ludicrously easy, not least because oncoming traffic tends to take fright, run and hide when it sees that gold grille storming onwards.
You can tailor the regenerative braking to your liking, or use BMW’s clever adaptive setting that varies it according to the driving situation.
You can also have the driving experience accompanied by a suite of IconicSounds Electric noises designed by Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer, which is actually quite subtle. Or you can turn it off completely.
The xDrive50 has a big 112kWh battery, but it also has a big 570km range and can take a big charge: up to 200kW on a compatible station, meaning 150km worth of replenishment in 10 minutes.
The steering and chassis (with air suspension) are beautifully balanced, but not what you’d call full of communication. This is a luxury express, not a sports SUV. Is it even an SUV? Does that even matter? BMW plays by its own rules with the iX.
It is a magnificent way to travel, but it’s tempting to think the lower-powered iX xDrive40 would be an even more cohesive package. The 50’s chassis can certainly handle its considerable performance, but the 40’s 240kW/630Nm seems outwardly more suitable for a car that isn’t necessarily configured to go everywhere at breakneck speed. You lose nearly 200km range (the 40 has a 77kWh battery), but you also save over $30k.
How the forthcoming iX M60 stacks up when it arrives mid-year remains to be seen. It boasts 455kW, a staggering 1100Nm and even more complexity in the M-specific powertrain and suspension.
For now, the iX proudly represents BMW’s desire to go next-level in BEV technology and design… and to hell with what detractors think of the look. If BMW history since the days of the original “Bangled” 7-Series two decades ago has taught us anything, the rest of the word will probably catch up. Eventually.
BMW iX xDrive50 SPORT
ENGINE: 112kWh lithium-ion battery, dual electric motors
GEARBOX: Single-speed automatic, AWD
0-100KM/H: 4.6 seconds
CONSUMPTION: 26.6kWh/100km, range 570km (WLTP)