One of the tough tasks designers face these days come at the stage where they need to decide whether their new electric vehicle will look like the rest of the brand’s internal-combustion range, or whether it’ll take on an all-new design.
I feel that was the decision BMW had to make early on in the development of the 2022 BMW iX.
Unlike some of BMW’s other models, the iX is a clean-sheet design. It’s a bespoke electric vehicle platform designed just for the iX (at this stage) and it features an aluminium subframe along with carbon-fibre around certain structural elements.
Part of the design is functional too – the big ‘grille’ up front is designed to look like a grille, but it’s entirely sealed and forms the basis for housing the vehicle’s safety equipment.
It features a radar sensor, a speaker, a de-mister and is even coated in a self-healing membrane that can reseal scratches and gashes with just direct heat.
So, with a ‘futuristic’ design and self-healing skin, is the BMW iX worthy of your time?
BMW offers the iX in three grades for the Australian market, with a faster M60 version coming down the track.
The range kicks off with the xDrive40, which is priced from $135,900 before on-road costs. This includes a 77kWh battery and a lower power output in comparison to the next step up.
The top of the range kicks off from $169,900 plus on-roads and is branded the xDrive50 – that’s the model tested here. It includes the larger 112kWh battery and higher power and torque output, which results in quicker acceleration despite the extra mass.
Regardless of the model chosen, the iX comes with five years of complimentary, unlimited charging on the Chargefox network.
2022 BMW iX pricing:
- BMW iX xDrive40: $135,900
- BMW iX xDrive40 Sport: $141,900
- BMW iX xDrive50 Sport: $169,900
Prices exclude on-road costs
BMW iX xDrive40 highlights:
- 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 with non-runflat tyres
- 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
BMW iX 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
BMW iX xDrive50 Sport gains:
- ‘Sky Lounge’ panoramic glass roof with electrochromatic shade function
- BMW Laserlight headlights
- Active steering
- Adaptive two-axle air suspension
- Soft-close doors
As is customary for premium brands, BMW offers a range of option packages to further enhance your iX.
The Comfort Package, available on all models, costs $3500 and adds:
- Heated steering wheel
- Ventilated front seats
- Heat Comfort Package, which includes heated rear seats, a heated centre console armrest, and heating for the front and rear door panels and armrests and the lower section of the instrument panel
The Enhancement Package (xDrive40 and xDrive40 Sport) costs $9500 and adds:
- Soft-close doors
- ‘Sky Lounge’ panoramic glass roof with electrochromatic shade function
- BMW Laserlight headlights
The $8500 Indulgence Package, available on the xDrive40 Sport and xDrive50 Sport, adds:
- Interior camera
- 30-speaker Bowers & Wilkins Diamond surround sound system
The xDrive40 comes standard in Alpine White. Metallic finishes are a $2000 option on the xDrive40 and standard on all other models, and include Black Sapphire, Sophisto Grey, Phytonic Blue and Blue Ridge Mountain.
Mineral White is available only on the xDrive40 Sport and xDrive50 Sport, which also can be specified with one of two $2600 BMW Individual metallic finishes: Storm Bay and Aventurine Red.
The BMW iX wears a five-star ANCAP safety rating, based on tests conducted by Euro NCAP in 2021.
It scored 91 per cent for adult occupant protection, 88 per cent for child occupant protection, 73 per cent for vulnerable road user protection and 78 per cent for safety assist.
All models come standard with the following safety equipment:
- AEB with pedestrian/cyclist/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
I think this is one of the nicest interiors on a new car today.
It nails every design and functional element you expect in a premium vehicle and yes, while it costs a great chunk of money, the interior looks and feels like the car is worth two or three times the asking price.
Everything from the exposed carbon on the door surrounds to the recycled materials and choice of leather, vegan leather or cloth trim make it an offering that will suit most customers.
Tech lovers will ogle over the big twin curved displays that adorn the dashboard. The main infotainment screen measures almost 15-inches in size, while the screen ahead of the driver comes in at 12.3-inches with a commensurately big head-up display.
BMW has adopted Tesla-like variable steering controls. While they currently power the settings menu for the driver display, future adaptations of the infotainment firmware may replace the controls with other functions. Tesla uses a similar setup in the Model 3, so the steering wheel isn’t locked into certain functionality based on the steering wheel graphics.
Central to the new tech inside the car is OS 8.0, BMW’s latest version of the iDrive infotainment system. It’s well and truly the best so far. I thought OS 7.0 was a step back in terms of functionality, but OS 8.0 fixes all of the issues that presented themselves with OS 7.0.
It can be controlled using touch inputs, the iDrive controller or with gesture control. I still think gesture control is a pointless gimmick and it can thankfully be disabled because it’s constantly changing the volume if you wave your hands around the cabin while talking.
Button reduction was a big principle in the iX with features like interior light settings and climate control now all moved to the main screen. These settings can also be accessed using voice controls through ‘Hello BMW’.
Smartphone mirroring is wireless for both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, with both systems taking up the entire screen. They pair with wireless phone charging to maximise versatility of the screen mirroring functions.
iDrive 8 brings with it a high-resolution display, fast processing power and over-the-air updates to add further functionality down the track. It all teams with the MyBMW application that allows you to connect to and interact with your vehicle remotely.
For the most part it works but I found one occasion where it refused to connect with the car at all. I had to physically go to the car to ‘start’ it before it would give me access via the application again.
Through the application you can activate remote climate functions, set navigation destinations, check charge state, remotely lock and unlock the car and also check the 360-degree view outside and inside the car. If the alarm activates it will also record the state of play outside the car and store it in the cloud for future access.
Native to Apple’s iOS is a digital key that can replace the traditional car key. Apple has also offered a reserve battery level just in case your phone goes flat – you can still operate the car while your phone functions are dead.
Outside of the tech stuff, BMW has designed a really high-end cabin that looks and feels a million bucks. The seats hug you broadly and offer a soft seating environment that’s comfortable for soaking up the miles. While I wasn’t a fan of the glass switchgear, seat adjustments have now moved to the door (similar to Mercedes-Benz) along with seat memory and seat massage functions.
The second row is as spacious. Sitting on a 3000mm wheelbase, there is loads of knee, toe and head room even for tall passengers.
The iX also features the biggest panoramic glass roof to ever feature on a BMW. It measures over 1m wide and also comes with a liquid-crystal electrochroamatic function. One push of a button at the front of the cabin applies a voltage to the glass and immediately scatters the liquid crystals to offer immediate change between transparent and opaque.
The third and fourth zones of climate control are accessed via controls on the centre console. Also available are four USB-C charging ports and device holders.
A centre armrest holds two bottles, while the outer edges of the seat are padded to allow passengers to sleep resting up against the door comfortably.
Strangely, the rear windows only go down half way, we’re not sure if that was a setting within the car or if it’s a deliberate plot to keep hands within the car.
I love the idea of the iX as a family SUV, but my main concern was around the perforated seats. I can’t imagine how long they would last with kids dropping food and other bits and pieces within the perforations – it could be worth exploring seating options if you do plan on carrying kids regularly.
Speaking of which, there are two sets of ISOFIX points on the outboard seats and top-tether points to suit.
Cargo capacity comes in at 500 litres with the second row in place. There’s added cargo storage beneath the cargo floor, along with a tyre repair kit and compressor.
Dropping the second row increases cargo space to 1750 litres.
Strangely, the bonnet can’t be opened for storage. Beneath the bonnet is just an electric motor and other electric components.
The all-electric BMW iX has a dual-motor all-wheel drive set-up, with 240kW of power and 630Nm of torque in the xDrive40 and 385kW of power and 765Nm of torque in the xDrive50.
The xDrive40 has a 77kWh battery while the xDrive50 has a 112kWh battery. BMW claims a 6.1-second 0-100km/h time for the xDrive40 and a 4.6-second 0-100km/h time for the xDrive50.
Both variants actually use the same motors, but they are tuned to operate at a higher current and this provide faster acceleration in models with larger batteries, which provide better high-current draw.
The BMW iX has 425km of range in xDrive40 guise under the stricter WLTP test cycle, while the xDrive50 offers a claimed 630km of range.
You can charge at up to 150kW in the xDrive40 and up to 200kW in the xDrive50. You can add more than 95km of range in 10 minutes at a DC fast charger and up to 150km in the xDrive50 with an initial battery charge of 10 per cent.
It’s a bit disappointing the top-specification models taps out at under 200kW when using a DC charger. Even the entry-level Tesla Model 3 is capable of V3 charging at over 250kW of power.
The first thing you’ll notice with the iX is how silent it is. Yes, I know all EVs are silent, but once they’re moving it’s often easier to notice road, tyre and wind noise because of the lack of engine noise.
The iX, on the other hand, is by far the quietest EV we’ve ever tested. Even at highway speeds on coarse chip-roads it’s silent.
Under throttle it doesn’t go over the top with fake noise and theatrics, either, it delivers whisper-quiet, fuss-free acceleration.
It does all the standard EV stuff – if you punch the throttle it pins you back in the seat and the regeneration levels are adequate for slowing down so you barely have to use the brakes.
It’s worth noting that BMW has created an ‘adaptive’ regeneration mode for slowing down. It uses vehicles around it to determine when it should enter a strong regeneration mode to slow the vehicle.
It’s a bit confusing because it works to a certain speed and it then expects the driver to take over, which can make it hard to predict when it’s going to slow down fast enough and when the driver needs to take over.
A much better and easier system is the ‘B’ mode, which is selected by grabbing the Drive gear selection again. This acts as a more traditional regeneration system that slows the vehicle to a standstill.
Despite riding on 22-inch alloy wheels, the ride is excellent. BMW relies on air suspension with adaptive damping to control body movements in and around the city.
Normally this type of big wheel will result in the vehicle crashing over pot holes and cobblestones, but BMW has done a great job of smoothing out the ride and making it work well in and around town.
This is a departure from BMW’s traditional tuning regime where Comfort mode can often be far too firm to begin with.
Unfortunately as speed picks up, the traditional BMW tune that dials in sportiness has vanished. When selecting the Sport mode, the suspension lowers and the ride becomes firmer, but the handling feels more Mercedes-Benz than it does BMW.
We found it had a great degree of body roll and felt very floaty – more than any other BMW we’ve driven before. As speeds pick up it rolls over the edge of the rim and feels uncomfortable and unsure of itself, where something like an X5 would just be egging you on to go even harder.
It’s made even worse with four-wheel steering that turns the rear wheels in slightly to reduce the turning radius and give the impression of a sportier drive. If anything it makes the vehicle feel uneasy at higher speeds.
We had the same feeling in the 8 Series, which features a similar setup. It’s far too eager to turn the rear wheels in when steering lock is applied.
Obviously this isn’t built to tear up corners like a fully-fledged M car, but in our mind it feels far less sporty than any other BMW product we’ve tested before. That’s not necessarily an issue because it’s a very comfortable ride across the spectrum, but it doesn’t fit the company’s Ultimate Driving Machine mantra.
Outside of these things, visibility out the front is excellent thanks to a big windscreen and huge side windows. It’s a little narrow out the rear, but for the most part it’s not an issue with the array of cameras on board.
In addition to a top-down 360-degree view that’s high resolution and consistently clear, there’s a reverse assistant that will recall the last 50m of travel to reverse the vehicle out of tight situations. There’s also a washer jet that pops out of the front and rear to clean the cameras when required.
One of the benefits of the four-wheel steering setup is a reduced turning radius at low speeds. It makes parking a breeze thanks to the turning circle reduction.
In terms of efficiency, BMW claims a combined efficiency of 22kWh/100km. We ended up landing on 20kWh/100km after a week of solid driving with the car. It’s about what we expected for a circa-2500kg vehicle – resulting in a true driving range of around 520km per charge.
BMW is one of the few manufacturers left in Australia to offer a lowly three-year unlimited kilometre warranty. Most of the luxury and premium brands have moved to a four- or five-year warranty offering instead.
BMW offers four- or six-year capped price servicing for the iX at $1520 and $2195 respectively.
That comes out to $380 and $365 if serviced yearly on average.
Even if you take the electric vehicle aspect out of the equation, the BMW iX is an incredible luxury SUV.
Add in the fact that it’s an EV with a reasonable driving range and all the fun straight-line EV stuff – and you’ve got the makings of a benchmark.
The iX’s interior is easily one of the nicest vehicle interiors we’ve seen to date, and while you can take or leave the exterior design you’ll rarely have to look at it if you spend most of your time behind the wheel.
It’s arguably let down by the handling – not an issue for me because I don’t expect a vehicle like this to handling like it’s on rails, but if you’re expecting BMW handling it could be worth waiting for the full-fat M60 model to arrive.
If this is the future of EVs, people will start getting on board quick smart. Developments in technology, materials and design like those in the iX will ultimately filter down to more affordable models and in turn reduce the median price of electric vehicles.
My hat goes off to BMW for creating a ripper electric crossover that breaks the mould of making compliance EVs slapped together from internal-combustion platforms.
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