It has been a long time coming. BMW introduced the iNEXT concept back in 2018 and customers are now finally getting ready to take ownership of their first BMW iX electric SUVs. Ordering books have been opened and production started, but deliveries will go on full swing next year. And there is very little doubt that the BMW iX is an important car for the Bavarian brand. It’s the one that signals the definitive start of the transition towards a fully electrified car fleet.
The new BMW iX therefore breaks loose from the confinements set by the old models and tries to enter a new age with a completely different and bold take. It’s different and it knows that, owns up to it and tries to offer more in a simplified package. The iX then shouldn’t be judged by the old books because this design didn’t happen by accident. It was a conscious decision, like just about any other thing about this car. Nothing was left to chance.
A Unique And Bold Exterior Design
The exterior design is, without a doubt, the most controversial bit. The front-end is dominated by a huge set of grilles that are not only there to shock, but also with a practical reason. Behind them you’ll find a lot of technology meant to keep you safe and improve the driving assistance systems. The grille houses a large radar, along with other sensors and a self-cleaning camera. Furthermore, BMW is aware of the kidney’s sheer size and decided to cover it in a self-healing polymer cover. If the grille gets chips from the road in it, all you have to do is heat it up and it’s going to look brand new.
There is also a new headlight design without the trademark corona lights. Sure, they still have Daytime Running Light, but they have a completely new shape and they do a little dance when the car ‘wakes up’. But apart from those two elements, the front-end is as simple as it gets. The lines are clear cut and everything is as non-complicated as possible with a simple goal in mind: to make this car as aerodynamic as possible. The same approach can be seen on the sides.
As soon as you take a step back, you notice that the car’s shape is monolithic, as if it was made of a single block. The door handles are now flush with the doors, the side mirrors have been sculpted in the wind tunnel and there are few to none character lines on the doors. The same goes for the rear-end, where everything was simplified and the taillights are now just two slim, horizontal bars.
For old-school fans of BMW, the shock gets even bigger the moment you step inside. That’s because there’s nothing familiar welcoming you inside the iX. Everything is new and, staying true to its trailblazer name, lots of the iX’s design features will be adopted by future BMW models: From the simplified layout of the dashboard, to the screens, hexagonal steering wheel and sustainable materials.
It may take you a while to get used to the new layout but one thing’s for certain: the interior of the iX feels like it’s coming from a completely different era. Minimalism has been adopted on a wide scale, like the trend in the industry seems to dictate, and a lot of buttons have disappeared in the process.
All that’s left in that regard is to be found in the area around the rotary iDrive controller, now made entirely of crystal. The buttons themselves are touch-sensitive and use a sensor hidden beneath the wood veneer. Crystal is also used for other buttons on the center console, like the volume knob, start button and drive selector. The same goes for the buttons that allow you to adjust your seat which have been moved on the door panel and look incredibly luxurious.
In a nutshell, the entire cabin of the BMW iX has a luxurious feel, with high-quality finishes and materials. Even though the upholstery in this car wasn’t leather (that’s still an option) I couldn’t say the textile material didn’t feel premium enough. One wonder I do have though is how this material, that feels a lot like Alcantara, will hold up over the years. That remains to be seen.
The screens appear to float when viewed from the driver’s perspective. The passenger gets to see the feet holding them up, but from behind the wheel you could be fooled. It’s a similar solution to the one introduced on the i3. The two separate screens are melted together in a single, curved display, that’s one of the biggest you can find in a production car today. And yet, they don’t feel overwhelming.
Both the instrument cluster and the iDrive screen feature high resolution, smooth animations and completely new designs. The BMW iX comes with three driving modes, two being fixed in terms of design while the third, Personal, allows you to configure just about anything about the screens and interior lighting. The instrument cluster has three different layouts to display various information. The one I found most useful displayed the range based on your current driving style. That window also showed you the maximum and minimum range you could expect, adjusted according to your state of charge.
Right in front of the instrument cluster, you’ll find the new hexagonal steering wheel, a bold and yet very interesting choice from BMW. I found it to be the perfect size but I wasn’t too happy with the fact that there’s no on-board computer button on the left-hand stalk. Its role has been replaced by a button positioned on the right-hand spoke of the steering wheel. Once again, a perfectly good button was eliminated in the quest to adhere to the minimalist trend we’re all witnessing today.
And there are other areas where the ergonomics are suffering because of it. Remember those fancy crystal seat-adjusting buttons? Well, whereas in the past you could adjust just about any direction on your seat using those buttons alone, now you have to press a shortcut on the door panel in order to access a ‘seat menu’ in the iDrive screen and from there you can make the necessary adjustments. You need to take several extra steps in order to adjust a simple thing like lumbar support, for example. And don’t get me even started on the climate control menu. What used to be a very simple and intuitive panel is now an overly complicated menu shown on the center display. Luckily, the car has a very efficient “Auto Mode” that does everything for you so you’ll only have to adjust the temperature.
Furthermore, you could use the new Intelligent Personal Assistant that’s better than ever. Since most buttons simply vanished and since the AI system understands more free speech, I ended up using it a lot more.
Lots Of Cabin Space
There’s also ample room inside the iX, thanks to the unique platform it rides on. At its core, the BMW iX uses a bespoke architecture. There’s no transmission tunnel which frees up a lot of room in the back where you could easily sit three adults. If the exterior dimensions of the car would make it comparable to the X5, there’s a lot more room inside. The boot is a bit problematic though, as it only has 500 liters of space, 160 less than on the main rival this car has, the Audi E-tron.
One final complaint would be the front seats. For a flagship, they are nowhere near as configurable and adjustable as they should be. There’s no extendable thigh support for those with longer legs, no adjustable headrest and you have a plastic opening in them that houses a speaker. Sure, it helps with the quality of the sound provided by Bowers & WiIlkins but, you might want to make sure you have a tall enough passenger. That’s because, under hard acceleration, they might be taken by surprise and hit their head rather hard on that piece of plastic, something that was oddly overlooked.
Those hard accelerations are not hard to come by. As a matter of fact, the throttle response of this car can be quite brutal in Sport mode. Just the slightest tap of the go faster pedal simply shoots the BMW iX xDrive50 forward with an agility worthy of the electric drivetrain hiding under the sheet metal.
Speaking of which, the BMW iX in xDrive50 guise is currently the most powerful iX you can buy, until the iX M60 comes out. It uses two electric motors, one for each axle, that can deliver a total of 523 PS and 765 Nm of torque. Those numbers are very close to what the old 4.4-liter V8 twin-turbo mill used to offer on M50i models. That makes understanding the naming convention a lot easier, right?
According to BMW, the all-wheel drive character of the car and the power it has should allow it to do 0-62 mph in 4.6 seconds, but the seam of my pants was telling me that was a conservative estimate. It’s a good enough result for a car that tips the scale at exactly 2.5 tons. Some 600 kilos of that weight went into the 105 kWh battery hidden in the floor. According to BMW, that battery should allow you to cover up to 600 kilometers with a single charge. That wasn’t exactly what I got.
Around town, the average energy consumption recorded by the car was 29 kWh/100 km, adding up to a real-life range of about 350 kilometers with a full charge. Outside the city limits, on a series of B-roads, with spirited driving, that figure dropped to 24 kWh/100 km while on the highway it went back up to 28 kWh/100 km, for a range of 450 km and 375 km respectively. Mind you , the exterior temperatures were rather low, close to 10 degrees Celsius most of the time, while the car was running on winter tires. Consider these as worst case scenario results.
But if there’s one thing the iX does great, that’s definitely the refinement and comfort offered by the suspension. Air suspension, that is, as our tester was fitted with this optional feature. And it’s worth all the pennies as it managed to simply iron out every single crease in the road, while not making a peep. The ride quality in the iX is simply stunning, the most comfortable I’ve ever experienced in an electric vehicle.
There’s also virtually no road noise either. You see, that streamlined body of the iX is not only good for making it more aerodynamic but also for making sure the road noise is kept in check. It works brilliantly, even at highway speeds, the atmosphere inside the BMW iX remaining serene. Couple that with the brilliant 4D sound system from B&W and you get a true lounge feeling while riding in this car.
However, at the end of the day, the BMW iX is still a Bavarian product. Therefore, it has to offer a good driving experience too, not just a comfy one. Unfortunately, the weight of the car can be felt throughout its movements whenever you’re driving it in a sportier manner. After all, we’re talking about the heaviest car BMW is making today and even though the weight is admirably kept in check, there’s still some roll and lean into the corners. That’s inevitable at the end of the day.
Nevertheless, I wouldn’t say the iX is a disappointment in this regard. Far from it, but you do have to really push it in order to squeeze the most out of this chassis. The electric SUV oversteers and can behave like a BMW with a rear-biased all-wheel-drive system, but in order to get there, you really have to get over the initial lean in a tight corner. Most people will be scared midway through the transition, but, if you push it just a little bit harder, you can really squeeze all the iX has to offer. Overall, the iX remains composed and predictable in all situations, including when it is grabbed by the scruff of its neck and thrown around.
That means this is one of the most capable electric SUVs I’ve tested over the last few years. Sure, it does have some issues but they are just minor niggles in the grand scheme of things. The BMW iX compensates with the most refined ride I have experienced in an electric model, a luxurious cabin, incredibly quiet atmosphere, lots of technology and, when needed, a rush of adrenaline thanks to your right foot.