It’s impossible to ignore the elephant in the room when it comes to discussing BMW’s epic new electric SUV.
Some say it’s big and bold, others describe it as futuristic or brutalist. One thing is for sure, its styling polarises opinion.
Credit where it’s due, BMW has always dared to be different. I should know because I currently own a Z4 and 1 Series from the controversial Chris Bangle era.
And I’ll admit, I had my doubts when I saw the first pictures of the iX, but let me reassure you – it looks much cooler in the metal.
The iX is hugely important to BMW because it heralds the transition of the ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’ brand to zero emissions vehicles.
Priced from £69,905 (iX xDrive40 M Sport) to £102,755 (BMW iX xDrive50 M Sport) 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 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.
If you want more performance (and you really don’t need it!), the fastest version (BMW iX M60) can sprint from 0-62mph in a blistering 3.8 seconds, but it comes at a price (from £116,905).
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. Unfortunately, a full charge from a 7.4kW home wallbox will take nearly 17 hours.
About the same size as an X5 and comparable in height to an X6, the iX is a leap into the future – 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 and classy, while the build quality is hard to fault.
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 new infotainment interface.
Then there’s that hexagonal steering wheel, an updated version of the iDrive rotary controller, integrated touch controls in the wooden veneer and slimline air vents. A very effective voice control is also available.
Thankfully, the climate control system can be accessed at all times without having to dig deep into the menu layers.
The advantage of that long wheelbase is that there’s no shortage of space inside the cabin. In fact, it’s limo-like in the back for passengers. Boot capacity is a good, but a not class-leading 500 litres, expanding to 1,750 litres when the rear seats are folded.
I tested the xDrive40 and xDrive50 and 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.
Designed as an EV from the ground up, it’s been engineered for optimal placement of the batteries and motors, resulting in even weight distribution and impressive body control for such a big vehicle.
It is 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. That said, of the two models, the xDrive50 is the more agile, partly down to its rear-wheel steering.
The xDrive40 is smooth, but the xDrive50 gets air suspension, which helps iron out those lumps and bumps even better, resulting in a near-magic carpet experience.
Unlike many EVs, the iX’s brakes have a progressive feel. Naturally there’s a regenerative braking system, which recharges the battery on the move by harvesting energy otherwise lost when you lift off the accelerator or brake.
Overall, the iX is a fantastic cruiser and surprisingly manoeuvrable in town too, thanks to good visibility, plenty of driver assistance tech and light steering.
With a little restraint I’d estimate that in real world driving, ranges of 225 miles (xDrive40) and 350 miles (xDrive50) are quite possible.
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.