BMW iX review
BMW's flagship electric SUV is a love-it-or-hate-it car when it comes to styling, but to drive, it’s a thoroughly impressive all-rounder that gives the Tesla Model X a run for its money
- Impressive range
- Masses of space inside
- Great to drive despite weight
- Very expensive
- Divisive styling
- Takes up to 17 hours to recharge
|Model||Range||Wallbox charge time||Rapid charge time|
|xDrive40||257 miles||11hrs 30mins (0-100%, 7.4kW)||31mins (10-80%, 150kW)|
|xDrive50||381 miles||16hrs 45mins (0-100%, 7.4kW)||34mins (10-80%, 200kW)|
BMW launched its first electric car, the i3, in 2013 and in the eight years since then, hasn’t introduced any new standalone electric models. But now, the premium German marque is on a mission to take on the EV heavy-hitters: the BMW iX3 mid-size SUV competes against the Audi Q4 e-tron and Mercedes EQA, while the BMW i4 saloon directly rivals the Tesla Model 3. At the top of the zero-emissions tree is the iX, a luxury electric SUV that has the Tesla Model X, Jaguar I-Pace and Audi e-tron in its crosshairs.
Straight off the bat, let's get styling out of the way. Whether you love its looks or hope to never set eyes on it in person, you can’t deny BMW’s new electric flagship stands out from everything else on the road. And in the metal, it’s actually less jarring than it looks in pictures. The ever-enlarging kidney grilles are still present, and while the iX has the same footprint on the road as a BMW X5, it has a significantly lower roofline and overall is far more futuristically styled.
We’ll let you make your own mind up about the styling, but we can say that stepping inside the iX is a far less divisive experience. Material quality throughout the cabin, including the quilted leather seat upholstery and metal trim, is extremely high, and overall the iX feels very spacious and airy thanks to the lack of a transmission tunnel and the large panoramic glass roof.
Like many brands making electric cars now, BMW has tried to minimise clutter in the iX’s cabin, doing away with most of the physical controls usually found on the dashboard. Instead, the main controls can be found on a floating centre console, which features a crystal-glass volume dial, gear selector and iDrive controller, with buttons integrated into a smooth wood-veneer panel.
The centrepiece is a slim instrument panel, incorporating a 14.9-inch curved display screen and 12.3-inch digital driver’s display. Both feature extremely crisp graphics and are responsive to use, either with the rotary dial or by tapping the central touchscreen. However, on the move, the sheer amount of functions, icons and submenus feels overwhelming at first. The system can be a challenge to navigate, and BMW’s hexagonal gauges aren’t quite as clear as other, more conventional setups.
Measuring very nearly five metres from end to end, and with a three-metre wheelbase between the axles, the iX is certainly not short on space inside. Adults can stretch out no matter where they're sitting, with a generous amount of both leg and headroom in the rear, so even those over six feet tall should have no complaints.
There’s also 500 litres of boot space on offer in the iX, which is on par with the plug-in hybrid X5 and the Mercedes EQC it rivals. But it falls short of the 660-litre boot in the Audi e-tron, let alone the vast, seven-seat interior of the Tesla Model X.
Two versions of the iX are available from launch: the xDrive40 and the range-topping xDrive50, with both featuring a dual-motor setup for all-wheel-drive. The entry-level xDrive40 produces 322bhp and can cover up to 257 miles on a charge thanks to its 71kWh battery, while the xDrive50 (which we drove) has 516bhp on tap and gets a much larger 105.2kWh battery for a 380-mile range – 20 further than the latest Tesla Model X Long Range will cover. However, when we got in our test car with 99% charge, it only showed an indicated 285 miles' range.
The iX offers three levels of energy regeneration and a one-pedal driving mode, which feels natural and well calibrated. For the majority of our 154-mile stint, we used the ‘Moderate’ setting, as we covered a mixture of motorway cruising, town driving and B-road blasting, afterwhich the battery had depleted to 49%, leaving a remaining range of 170 miles.
Thanks to the iX’s rapid-charging capability (up to 150kW in the xDrive40 or 195kW in the xDrive50), topping up from 10-80% should take just over half an hour. Or, you can add 90 miles of range in just 10 minutes. However, recharging from a standard 7.4kW home wallbox can take nearly 17 hours if you go for the range-topping model.
Total power output of 516bhp combined with a mammoth 765Nm of torque means 0-62mph in the xDrive50 takes a swift 4.6 seconds, and it continues to pull hard, even at motorway speeds. As a result, the iX is one of those cars that you have to be very careful not to inadvertently exceed the speed limit while driving. On the move, it manages to keep road roar from filling the cabin, but a fair amount of wind noise does creep in at higher speeds, which you'd expect from a tall slab of an SUV like this.
Refinement in the iX overall is excellent. With the adjustable air suspension (standard on the xDrive50) set to Comfort mode, the car irons out bumps in uneven surfaces, and can even prevent sudden road imperfections like potholes from disturbing the ride. Only the most severe bumps send a distant thud into the cabin.
But with the dampers set to Sport, the iX controls its weight well and successfully limits the amount of roll you experience in corners. The xDrive50’s rear-wheel steering system also helps, as it essentially shortens the car’s wheelbase and improves agility. What’s more surprising for a car like this is the iX’s accurate steering – although it doesn’t provide much in the way of feedback for the driver.
Overall, the iX is a true technical showcase and a worthy flagship for BMW’s electric line-up. And while it starts from £69,905 in xDrive40 guise – or £91,905 for the xDrive50 model we drove – it excels in areas like cabin quality, on-board technology and driving experience rather than just delivering big spec-sheet numbers.
So while that hefty price tag means the iX isn’t accessible for the majority of drivers, it's a good sign of what’s to come from BMW’s future electric cars; hopefully some of this flagship’s features will trickle down into more affordable models before too long.