The BMW iX is a large SUV so it’s a car that you’re not supposed to like – but it’s all-electric, with a driving range of up to 380 miles, and it’s an incredibly comfortable way to travel long distances.
BMW has so far only had one all-electric car on sale – the i3. It’s been a long wait, but the iX is now here – and its styling is causing as much debate as the i3’s styling did back in 2013. So do you need to look past the appearance and find the iX’s qualities.
The BMW iX is big and boxy, with its front dominated by a huge grille, patterned like no other BMW. Although it’s not a real grille, it’s still something that an electric car doesn’t need. When we saw the iX in pictures when it was first unveiled, we were shocked. However it does look better in the flesh, and you do get used to its appearance as you live with it.
Exterior trim that would typically be in chrome on most other cars is in a bronze colour. And then there’s the interior. The overall style is lounge-like, with a dashboard that is a departure from the appearance of a traditional BMW. There are many details that are in a diamond-like style, such as the seat adjustment buttons on the door, the stop-start button, the gear selector, and the rotary iDrive controller, which sits on a floating centre console. This has a wood-effect material and white text for the controls such as the iDrive shortcut buttons, which is hard to read compared to most BMWs which have clear white writing on a black background for such controls.
The overall feeling is that whilst the lounge-like interior feels modern and spacious (although this is only a five-seater, and you might expect the 500-litre boot to be larger), elements such as the centre console and the diamond-inspired features are a case of style over substance – and give an impression of bling.
The BMW iX xDrive50’s powertrain consists of a very large 105.2 kWh battery, giving a long range of 380 miles, with electric motors at the front and at the rear delivering all-wheel drive and producing 523 hp of power and 765 Nm of torque.
There’s also an iX xDrive40 model with a 71 kWh battery with a 257-mile range.
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We’ve already driven the BMW iX at its UK launch (at Farnborough International), over a relatively short test route. The overall impression was that, with its weight of 2,510 – 2,585 kg for the iX xDrive50, this is a big, heavy car, and one that doesn’t exhibit the agility, adjustability and rewarding driving experience of most BMWs.
However our week-long test involved a much longer drive. This started from Manchester, and, via Millbrook Proving Ground near Bedford, coincidentally also ended up at Farnborough International, the venue for Fully Charged LIVE. This time the vast majority of driving was on motorways rather than on Hampshire B-roads. This gave a very different impression of the iX. Over almost 500 miles of motorway driving, the iX was extremely comfortable and incredibly effortless.
Ride quality on the motorway was excellent, but this was also the case on urban roads with potholes. Refinement is superb, and if you want a quiet driving experience, the iX can deliver this – or if you want a simulated sporty soundtrack, this is also possible.
The iX feels very secure on motorways, and also on twisting country roads in all weathers thanks to its all-wheel drive (the iX can also operate in rear-wheel drive only for increased efficiency if all-wheel drive isn’t needed). At two and a half tonnes, the iX is never going to offer an agile sports car-like driving experience, but for a vehicle of that weight, the handling is actually remarkably good.
The (diamond-like) gear selector switch offers the option of D or B (for increased brake regeneration), but there are no steering wheel-mounted paddles for adjusting the regen. However you can access three levels of brake energy recuperation via the touchscreen.
There are three drive modes: Personal, Sport and Efficient. With 523hp, 765Nm of torque and a 0-62mph acceleration time of 4.6 seconds, performance is amazing in any mode – but is particularly eye-opening in Sport setting with the accompanying futuristic sporty soundtrack.
The iX has the excellent BMW iDrive system although the faint white text for the shortcut buttons on the wood-effect background isn’t very clear. There’s also a very wide central touchscreen, with extremely sharp mapping and graphics, as well as lots of information in the driver’s instrument cluster, and an excellent head-up display. All this results in satnav directions being very clear – and you can also view the map from your phone if you prefer.
One thing about the iX that stumps many passengers is how on earth to open the door to get out of the car. Unlike most other cars, there are no handles on the inside of the doors – instead there’s a small button that you press which results in the door springing open.
BMW has traditionally been good with minimising the annoyance of lane departure warning systems. Not so in the iX; it intervenes in an intrusive way, and there’s lots of button-pressing in the touchscreen to switch the system off.
The BMW iX xDrive50 has a towing rating of an immense 2500 kg.
The BMW iX xDrive50 has an impressive official WLTP electric driving range of 380 miles (or 370 miles in the case of our text car, presumably due to the 22-inch wheels). In real-world driving, mostly at motorway speeds, we achieved a range of 306 miles. The iX xDrive40 has a 257-mile range.
The iX xDrive50 can rapid charge up to 195 kW, although the iX xDrive40 can only charge at up to 150 kW. This allows the battery charge to be increased from 10 to 80 per cent in around 35 minutes in the BMW iX xDrive50, or 31 minutes in the BMW iX xDrive40 (with a smaller battery). This means that a ten-minute rapid charge can provide extra range of 90 miles in the case of the iX xDrive50, and over 59 miles for the BMW iX xDrive40. The iX can also charge at 11kW, ie. three-phase workplace charging.
A heat pump aims to ensure that the battery range doesn’t suffer too much in winter when the heating is on.
BMW iX retail customers get subscription-free access to ‘bp pulse’ and ‘IONITY Plus’ packages for the first 12 months of ownership.
Electric cars do not charge at their maximum charge rate for an entire charging session – their charge rate typically starts off high with a battery with a low state of charge, then the charge rate decreases as the battery charge increases. See the charge curve for the BMW iX xDrive50 from Fastned:
The base price of our BMW iX xDrive50 M Sport test car was £94,000 – but hang on, there’s more – a lot more – to come. The Aventurine Red metallic paint was an extra £1,890 and the Interior Design Suite Amido was an additional £3,250. This took the iX to £99,140. Then there were the options… which included Technology Plus Pack – Interior Camera, Parking Assistant Plus, Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround
Sound Audio System (£5,000); Comfort Plus Pack – Comfort Access, Soft-close Doors, Ventilated Front Seats, Front Electric Sport Seats, Front and Rear Heat Comfort System (£3,900); Sky Lounge Pack – Sky Lounge Panoramic Glass Sunroof and Sun Protection Glass (£3,500); Visibility Pack – Laserlights (£2,000); 22-inch Aero Alloy Wheels (£1,000); Titan Bronze Exterior Trim (£550); Clear&Bold Interior Application (£1,050). All the options totalled £17,000, taking the total price to £116,965. Phew.
The BMW iX is available as iX xDrive40 and iX xDrive50 variants with Sport and M Sport trim choices.
The iX xDrive40 Sport is priced at £69,905; the iX xDrive40 M Sport at £72,905; the iX xDrive50 Sport at £91,905; and the iX xDrive50 M Sport at £94,905.
Standard specification of all models includes 21-inch alloy wheels.
The BMW iX M60 is due at a later date, with over 600hp of power.
The BMW iX is big, boxy and heavy. However if you need to drive long distances with lots of stuff, then there are few cars that can do this as comfortably or as effortlessly as the iX. And if you need to get past something quickly, performance is huge.
And of course with its official 380-mile range, you don’t need to be stopping to charge all the time.
The modern ‘lounge-like’ interior gives a feeling of space, and the controls generally work well.
The price of £100,000, or £117,000 with options, doesn’t really fit in the category of ‘affordable EVs’, and you’re left with the feeling that the iX is primarily aimed at markets other than the UK, such as China and North America.
The BMW iX is awarded a Green Car Guide rating of 9 out of 10.