What is it?
Most car manufacturers have a flagship model. It’s usually some combination of the most expensive, most luxurious and most technologically advanced in the line-up. For BMW’s all-electric ‘i’ range, that model is the iX SUV.
We tested the top-spec xDrive50 version at the car’s launch in Germany a couple of months ago and were hugely impressed by its futuristic cabin and silky smooth ride quality. Now we’ve got behind the wheel of the ‘entry level’ xDrive40 model in a gloomy Hampshire to see how it stacks up.
Being at the forefront of BMW’s electric offensive, the iX sits on a completely new platform that’s designed specifically for electric vehicles. As a result, the motor and battery placement can be optimised for things like weight distribution and cabin space.
It’s a big, heavy car but BMW has worked hard to keep the weight as low as possible, with extensive use of lightweight materials such as carbon-fibre. The firm is also pushing the use of sustainably sourced materials to further its green credentials, as well as introducing new, advanced technology worthy of a luxury flagship model.
What’s under the bonnet?
Both powertrain options in the iX use a twin-motor set-up that provides all-wheel drive. The xDrive40 we’re testing today makes 321bhp and 630Nm of torque, resulting in a 0-60mph time of 5.9 seconds and a top speed of 124mph. The 76kWh battery pack provides a range of up to 264 miles.
Sitting at the top of the range is the xDrive 50, which makes 516bhp and 760Nm of torque. Its 0-60mph sprint is an impressive 4.4 seconds but the top speed is also limited to 124mph. This model has a massive 111.5kWh battery than can return up to 391 miles.
What’s it like to drive?
BMW has worked wonders with the iX. Rather than the stiff suspension often found on electric vehicles – a result of manufacturers trying to deal with the weight of the batteries – the iX glides across the road surface on the same level you’d expect from the best luxury vehicles.
The air suspension technology is hugely impressive, managing to iron out the worst potholes at low speed, while at motorway speeds there can be few competitors as comfortable.
Despite this, it’s surprisingly fun on tighter, twisting country lanes. However, this is a big vehicle, and when you’re threading it along a classic British countryside road it can be a little unnerving. That being said, its light steering and fantastic all-round visibility make it a nimble urban commuter.
How does it look?
If you’re looking at the pictures and turning your nose up, it’s okay, we don’t blame you. However, the iX is really one of those cars you need to see in person. We wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s a handsome thing, but its proportions work really well and its aggressively imposing styling starts to feel more coherent.
It arguably looks its best from the rear, where the designers have held back somewhat, introducing a wide boot and muscular wheel arches, which are brought together through slim LED lights. Up front that massive kidney grille takes some getting used to, but the narrow headlights are a cool, modern touch.
What’s it like inside?
If the exterior is enough to put you off, the interior should be enough to win you over. Jump behind the driver’s seat and the first thing that hits you is just how spacious it is, thanks to the flat floor and large windows.
Then you’ll notice the twin-widescreen infotainment displays, which are some of the best in the business. They get BMW’s latest operating system, which is crisply designed and easy to use with one of the best voice command system in the market.
Material quality is excellent throughout, too, with perhaps the only complaint being the ‘squircle’ steering wheel. It feels awkward to use and a more traditional round one would be preferable.
What’s the spec like?
The BMW iX xDrive40 starts at £72,000 in M Sport trim with standard equipment including four-zone automatic air conditioning, a Harman/Kardon surround sound audio system, and various connected services and driver assistance systems.
Our test car had an extensive list of optional extras, with the highlights including laserlights (£2,000), a ‘comfort plus’ that adds various features such as ventilated front seats and electric sport seats (£3,900), and a panoramic sunroof (£3,500).
Unless you want the extra performance and range that comes with the xDrive50 model, the entry version feels like better value. Our car had the extra options listed above and more, which added up to £12,000, bringing the total cost to about £86,000. Prices for the top model start at £96,905.
The iX is a real triumph for BMW. Even in its most affordable form, it feels every bit as luxurious and futuristic as you’d hope from a flagship electric vehicle. It’s incredibly spacious inside making it ideal for families, has more than enough power and range for daily duties, and all the latest technological trinkets.
Its styling will be too challenging for some, and its sheer size might put others off, but see past this and there’s a truly next-gen EV experience waiting for you.