BMW iX: the most radical and technologically advanced electric BMW since the i3
The iX is BMW’s electric halo model based on an all-new, EV-only platform and it certainly raises the bar when it comes to luxury SUVs
Discover EV expert verdict...
- Outstanding comfort
- Luxurious interior
- User-friendly in-car tech
- Expensive to buy
- Poor real-world range
- Polarising looks
Based on the Vision iNext concept that BMW showed back in autumn 2018, the iX represents a new chapter for the Munich brand, being the first model to use a new, modular, scalable platform conceived from the outset for pure electric mobility and sustainable manufacturing techniques. The i3 was, of course, the car maker’s first purpose-built electric model, launched almost a decade ago now, and just as it boasted high-tech construction, an avant-garde interior and unconventional looks, so too, does the iX. When it launched in late 2021, the model range comprised the iX xDrive50 with a combined output of 516bhp and a claimed range of up to 380 miles and the iX xDrive40 which produces 322bhp and is able to cover up to 250 miles on a single charge. We get given the latter of these two models for a week to see if it lives up to its flagship vehicle moniker.
So it’s not short of horsepower, and with 465lb-ft of instantaneous torque it will reach 62mph in just 6.2 seconds before topping out at 124mph which is impressive for a car of this size. There are two modes – sport (assumes 100 per cent driving at average motorway speeds, with more dynamic acceleration) or efficient (assumes defensive driving on country roads with an average speed of around 50 mph), and it’s also all-wheel-drive transmitting exactly the right amount of drive torque to the front and rear wheels to maximise traction and stability, and again considering its stature it’s well balanced yet comfortable and smooth. It doesn’t wallow in the corners and holds its own pretty well but the steering is uncharacteristically light for a BMW and doesn’t have much feedback, but it’s accurate enough. You can change settings to make driving easier in the snow or mud, too, which is an added bonus.
It wafts along on fast straights yet has surprising agility on the A and B roads, and that’s partly thanks to the car’s aluminium spaceframe construction and use of carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) in the roof and at the sides and rear to increase rigidity (similar to the BMW i3 and i8 before it), coupled with where the battery is housed in the car’s underbody to lower the centre of gravity. The chassis setup comprises a double-wishbone front axle, five-link rear axle, lift-related dampers and an electric steering system with Servotronic function and a variable ratio.
In M Sport trim, as per our test car, it has beefier brakes as standard to better haul in all that power, and the transition from hydraulic to regen is very smooth – talking of which… The amount of the brake energy recuperation during overrun and active braking is detected by data from the sat nav and sensors from the driver assistance systems. When approaching a junction, for example, the degree of recuperation can be ramped up, working to feed energy back into the battery while harnessing the deceleration effect at the same time. On the open road, however, the coasting function can take over, allowing the car to freewheel with no drive power, whenever the driver eases off the fast pedal. The car will actually default to this so if you want to change the recuperation and enable one-pedal driving, you have to dig through the iDrive menu, unlike a lot of cars whereby it’s more easily accessed via a switch on the centre console or steering wheel paddles.
Range and running costs
Things have come a long way since the BMW i3, in that the volumetric energy density at cell level is up by around 40 per cent in the iX! The xDrive 40 is fitted with a 71kWh battery and it can take up to a maximum of 150kW DC power, which will charge it from 10 to 80 per cent in around 31 minutes – equating to just over 59 miles every ten minutes. A BMW charging card is offered to iX owners when they purchase the car which facilitates access to special tariffs offered by the brand’s charging network, plus bp pulse and IONITY Plus packages are offered without a subscription fee for the first year of ownership.
And it’s a good job, as the iX isn’t the most efficient EV we’ve ever tested! It is a big car, but on a full charge we were only getting 180 miles and after five days of pottering about locally I was down to just 15 miles. BMW quote 2.5 mile/kWh, and in our experience the estimated figure is around 20 per cent less than the real-world figure in all conditions, so basically you’re looking at 2 miles/kWh, which is pretty poor given an average EV will do around 3.5, but about right for a heavy car (2440kg unloaded) with massive power. In terms of real-world mileage the Audi e-tron or Jaguar I-PACE aren’t actually that much better to be fair – so if want more range you’ll need to step up to the xDrive50 model with its larger 105kWh battery and 380 mile official range – it can also be charged up to 200kW.
Let’s address the elephant in the room… That huge, almost completely blanked-off, BMW kidney grille (incorporating camera and radar sensors and self-healing film nonetheless!). The iX’s styling is so distinctive you like it or you don’t! I personally fall into the latter camp but after spending a week with it the looks did dilute a little. It went from a ten pinter to a five! In terms of size its 4953mm in length and 1967mm in height so it’s as functional as the X5, but also – BMW claim – as dynamic as the X6 and imposing as the X7. We would agree although the boot could be bigger.
In comparison to the grille, the LED headlights have gone on a diet – and are the slimmest units ever to feature on a series-produced model from BMW. As well as the intelligence panel in the kidney grille, there are five other discreetly positioned cameras and radar sensors and 12 ultrasonic sensors, used by the driver assistance systems. It’s what BMW are calling ‘shy tech’ at work. So, for example, distance measurement radar sensors hidden within the black body edging at the front and rear of the car and the rear-view camera with a cleaning system is integrated into the BMW badge on the tailgate, and then there are the flush-fitting door openers, which pop out when you need them.
As our car is an M Sport it had the aerodynamics pack comprising of a sportier-looking front, side and rear apron and diffuser, and air curtain, as well as tinted rear lights, and anthracite roof lining. 21 inch alloy wheels and Shadow Line exterior trim are also standard.
Like a lot of new EVs, BMW have gone for a lounge-style interior with ‘a luxurious, contemporary feel’, to which end the seats have been completely redesigned with integral head restraints (housing out of sight speakers) and the recessed centre console has been styled to look like a high-end piece of furniture. Perhaps the most noticeable change – being that all BMWs are traditionally rear-wheel drive, is the absence of a centre tunnel creating extra legroom and plenty of space for storage.
And then there’s the huge curved display featuring a 14.9 inch infotainment touchscreen (with BMW's eighth-generation of iDrive) next to a 12.3 inch digital instrument panel behind the (polygonal) steering wheel. The system features active haptic input, and it’s very intuitive and highly responsive with logically laid out menus and sharp graphics. You can control it by touch, but there's also a rotary controller between the front seats, which is far easier to use when driving, as well as voice control function. If we’re picking holes – it would be the lack of physical switchgear for the climate controls.
As standard, iX models feature a Harman Kardon entertainment system, (but an optional Bowers & Wilkins surround sound is available) with the added convenience of wireless Apple CarPlay, and something called IconicSounds Electric function. Basically, BMW hired film score composer Hans Zimmer – who is known for his scores for Pirates of the Caribbean and The Lion King, to develop futuristic drive sounds! With no straight-six or V8 to tempt motorists they’re obviously going for a different tack, but if that doesn’t float your boat you can turn it off and enjoy the serenity as the iX is probably one of the quietest EVs we’ve tested with barely any motor whine, tyre or wind noise!
There is a choice of three different types of upholstery trims, and with the combination of Swarovski-style crystal, Alcantara and wood (with backlit switch icons shining through nonetheless), it really feels high end – it’s one of the nicest cabins on the market today. Kind of what you would expect for a price tag that starts at just over £70k!
Comfort and practicality
While the iX’s trump card is its futuristic, luxurious and supremely comfortable interior, disappointingly, it has no frunk like the Tesla Model X. The 500-litre boot isn’t huge for the size of the car and its shallow, but there is at least a big glovebox, four decent sized door bins, a big centre console housing a wireless phone-charging pad, two USB-C sockets, a 12V socket, two big cupholders, a small cubby for keys and a larger one for other essentials. There is also loads of leg and head room for five big adults, and being an SUV the driver benefits from a high seating position. The iX isn't available as a seven-seater, so if you need to carry more than five passengers and something luxurious – that is, not a converted van from the Stellantis stable – you'll need to look at the Model X.
The iX comes equipped with the most extensive – and innovative – set of standard driver assistance systems ever seen on a BMW. So you can expect Driving Assistant Professional, Parking Assistant, BMW Live Cockpit Professional, climate comfort windscreen, four-zone air conditioning combining ventilation and surface, seat and steering wheel heating as well as a special filter to purify the air, wireless phone charging, as well as an integrated heating and cooling system for the cabin with anticipatory thermal management for the battery and drive system that operates using an exceptionally efficient heat pump.
There’s also a wealth of innovations. The front collision warning system, for instance, now detects oncoming traffic when turning left (in countries where vehicles drive on the right) as well as cyclists and pedestrians when turning right, while the Active Cruise Control with Stop&Go function offers enhanced situational distance adjustment. The exit warning function, which alerts to the presence of cyclists or pedestrians in the surrounding area before the doors are opened, and the interior camera are both new features. The Parking Assistant including reversing assist camera and the reversing assistant also come as standard on the iX, which is good as the chunky rear pillars together with the restrictive view out of the back window makes it very tricky to back into a space.
BMW says the iX offers a new level of connectivity, encompassing 5G and cloud technology, and that future software updates will allow the car to steer, accelerate and brake for itself in certain situations, whether it will be as good as what we’ve experienced with the Tesla Model 3 remains to be seen.
BMW is renowned for its handling and considering its weight and size the iX doesn’t disappoint too much – coupled with great on-board tech, a large, comfortable and well-appointed interior and good range it’s an impressive entry into the luxury SUV segment, but it comes at a price. Its main rivals are the pricier Tesla Model X, which offers more space, range and performance, but isn’t as beautifully built, the Mercedes EQC which in comparison is as every bit luxurious but more saloon like, the Jaguar i-PACE, which is arguably ever so slightly more engaging to drive but feels very outdated now and the Audi e-tron which is not quite as entertaining behind the wheel. Taking all of these factors into consideration it’s our pick of the bunch when it comes to a high-end, luxury electric SUV. So if you’ve got deep-enough pockets and want to shout about your move to zero emissions this is the EV to go for – that’s, of course, if you can live with the controversial styling!
2022 BMW i20 iX xDrive40 M Sport
Price (RRP OTR): From £72,000, £86,020 (model as tested)
Top speed: 124mph
0-62mph: 6.2 seconds
Driving range (combined): 250 miles
Charging time: (7.4kW, 0-100%), (11kW, 0-100%), (100kW, 15-80%)
Insurance group: 47
Vehicle warranty: 3 years / unlimited mileage
Battery warranty: 8 years / 100,000 miles