The all-new BMW iX grabs attention for all the wrong reasons with its ‘challenging’ looks, but it promises to be worth the effort due to its next-generation interior design, infotainment and connectivity technology, along with the company’s latest electric powertrain.
Remarkably, it will undercut its main rivals when it lands in Australia later this year.
Ahead of that, we travelled to Bavaria to put the top-spec 2022 BMW iX xDrive50 to the test at the international media launch.
BMW Australia has confirmed the iX will start at $135,900 before on-road costs for the entry-level xDrive40. Upgrading that drivetrain to Sport specification means a price of $141,900.
That starting price undercuts electric SUV rivals such as the Audi e-tron, Jaguar I-Pace and Mercedes-Benz EQC. It also makes the iX cheaper to buy than the plug-in hybrid BMW X5 xDrive45e – though diesel models are a good deal less.
Meanwhile, the iX xDrive50 will only be available in better-equipped Sport guise, at $169,900 before on-roads.
Later in 2022, the iX M60 will be launched, with over 440kW of power. The price for that is still to be announced.
The xDrive40 comes standard with the following equipment:
- 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster
- 14.9-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- DAB+ digital radio
- Wireless phone charging
- Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- Harman/Kardon sound system
- BMW Natural Interaction voice assistant
- Driving Assistant Professional
- 21-inch alloy wheels
- LED headlights
- Ambient lighting
- Olive Leaf-tanned leather upholstery
- Four-zone climate control
- Heated front seats with massaging
- Comfort Access keyless entry and start
- Shadow Line exterior package
- BMW Iconic Sounds
- Charging cables – Mode 2 for domestic sockets, Mode 3 for public chargers
- Semi-autonomous parking assist
- Five-year, unlimited-usage Chargefox subscription
The xDrive40 Sport adds:
- 22-inch alloy wheels
- Metallic paint
- High-gloss black side sills
- Body colour front apron
- Dark-finish headlights and tail lights
- Sport brakes with blue calipers
The xDrive50 Sport adds:
- ‘Sky Lounge’ panoramic glass roof with electrochromatic shade function
- BMW Laserlight headlights
- Active steering
- Adaptive two-axle air suspension
- Soft-close doors
The 2022 BMW iX has yet to be tested by ANCAP or Euro NCAP.
All models come standard with the following safety equipment:
- AEB with pedestrian/cyclist detection and junction assist
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Lane change assist
- Lane-keep assist
- Front and rear cross-traffic assist
- Traffic sign recognition
- Safe exit warning
- Evasive steering assist
- Automatic speed limit assist
- Adaptive cruise control with stop/go
- Front and rear parking sensors
The BMW iX gets a whole new interior design that’s refreshingly different to anything else the company sells right now. All doors get frameless glass, so it’s a bit of an occasion getting in and, due to the battery pack positioning underneath, you have to step up into the car.
There’s an odd-looking steering wheel, with a vaguely hexagonal shape. In spite of the strange appearance, the wheel feels good to hold and allows a great view of the driver information displays ahead.
You’ll find the new curved glass dashboard display housing a 12.3-inch screen for the instruments and to the side is a massive 14.9-inch touchscreen, angled towards the driver. Thanks to anti-reflective glass, it looks good even in bright sunlight, and the graphics are crisp.
BMW has sensibly retained its iDrive rotary controller between the front seats, allowing more precise use of the menu system when on the move.
It looks and feels like a solid piece of glass, while the control surface surrounding it can be upgraded to an open-pore walnut finish with real wood texture. It’s not just for appearance, either, as it allows haptic selection of core menu items – and it’s illuminated at night.
A warm gold colour is used throughout the iX’s cabin as an accent and for functional items such as the door-mounted seat adjustment controls. It’s even found within the integrated headrests of the eye-catching new seats.
We found them to be really comfortable after a long day at the wheel, but the lack of adjustment on the length of the base may put some buyers off. Otherwise, there’s plenty of fine-tuning of the driving position available, though there’s a significant blind spot in terms of the ‘over the shoulder’ view.
The back accommodates three adults comfortably. The rear of the console between the front seats is even shaped to make space for feet, while the floor is completely flat all the way across.
Boot capacity is an unimpressive 500 litres, but at least the back seats fold 40:20:40.
Nothing you can access, actually – it’s sealed shut. The BMW badge on the bonnet pops up to reveal a filler nozzle for the windscreen wash though.
There’s a choice of two powertrains at launch of the iX, both using an electric motor on each axle to allow for all-wheel drive. The xDrive40’s motors can put out up to 240kW and 630Nm of torque for a claimed 0-100km/h run of 6.1 seconds.
Its battery pack is a 71kWh (net) item and it can officially do up to 390 kilometres on a full charge. BMW quotes a maximum recharging rate of 150kW on a DC rapid charger of suitable output.
Tested here is the iX xDrive50. It has the same electric motor in the front as the xDrive40, but the rear item is of higher output, so the maximums are upped to 385kW and 765Nm. Thanks to that, the 0-100km/h time drops to just 4.6 seconds.
This model gets a higher-capacity battery pack too, rated at 105.2kWh (net), and BMW quotes a range of 570 kilometres. It can be recharged at a quicker rate, as well, at up to 195kW.
With a wide track, long wheelbase and ultra-low centre of gravity – due to the battery pack’s location in the floor – the BMW iX feels nothing like the company’s other SUVs on the road. It’s much smoother, more refined and more car-like than any of them.
The iX is, however, a very heavy vehicle – getting on for 2500kg in most guises. Nonetheless, the chassis design and tuning do a good job of hiding that from the driver.
Our test car featured air suspension, adaptive damping, variable ratio steering and even Integral Active Steering – rear-wheel steer if you don’t speak BMW marketing – so it had a good start in life.
On the derestricted Autobahn in Germany, it accelerated fiercely to its limited top speed of 200km/h. And it was quite happy to cruise along at that speed, too, feeling stable, secure and even remarkably quiet.
On twisty country roads it’s equally impressive, soaking up bumps effortlessly while still being surprisingly fun to drive. The steering is particularly well-judged, and the iX is keen to enter a tight curve.
It corners flat, feels perfectly balanced mid-bend and, if you push the accelerator a little early on the exit there’s even a vague sense that it’s rear-drive as it slingshots out onto the straight.
Not that it’s ever untidy. Traction is strong and it generally goes where it’s steered, though with more driver interaction than might be expected from a big electric SUV. It’s notably better to drive than the Audi e-tron, for example.
The only time you really feel the iX’s weight is when heavily braking into a sharp s-bend, but even then, it manages to keep things under control.
Driven normally, the overriding impression is one of quietness. It feels like a luxury car, in essence.
It shouldn’t cost the buyer much to run.
There’s a five-year, unlimited usage subscription of the Chargefox charging network included in the price, along with the usual three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
BMW Australia quotes an electric consumption figure of 23kWh/100km for the iX xDrive50 Sport, but we managed to better that in about 250 kilometres of driving in Germany – much of it at a higher average speed than most will find possible in Australia. That suggests the ‘up to 620km’ range claim should be achievable.
Some will instantly dismiss the BMW iX because of its strange exterior look, and that’s undeniably a challenge. Nonetheless, its interior is sensational in terms of design – if not practicality – and the sense of luxury and quality is high.
On top of all that, the electric powertrain is exceptionally polished, providing real refinement no matter the speed, a useful range between charges and more pace than any SUV needs. It even manages to drive well.
If BMW can apply everything it has done to create the iX to future electric models, it’s going to make the transition to electric power much easier – and more attractive – than previously thought possible.
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