Not many people were in the room when BMW agreed the codename for its pioneering iX project. An educated guess might be, ‘Go big or go home’, because everything about this radical flagship is on a grand scale, from the Sport Activity Vehicle’s battery range to the delightfully curved media display.
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A PURPOSE-BUILT ELECTRIC VEHICLE
BMW is pitching the iX as “the pinnacle of its electrification strategy” and given British motorists love affair with the marque, the expectation is that the UK is going to be the third largest market for vehicle sales. To ensure this SAV lives up to its billing, it gets a bespoke EV platform and runs new-generation e-motors. A choice of two, all-wheel-drive models are available in ‘Sport and ‘M Sport’ trim: ‘xDrive 40’ promises 257-miles of silent motoring from its 71kWh battery and ‘xDrive50’ 380-miles because it has a beefier 105.2kWh pack. Invariably, this tech adds weight. Our ‘50’ car is close to a whopping two-and-a-half tonne. In a bid to counteract this, engineers have resorted to exotic grade materials such as aluminium and carbon fibre in the iX’s construction, so while it might not be light it is incredibly strong.
BEAUTY IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER
You are not going to miss the iX if you meet one on the road, that’s for sure. In our pictures it looks big – and it is – but in truth it is no bigger than the BMW X5 SUV – and they are one-a-penny nowadays. Images also create a false impression of the iX; it really is not as ungainly in real life. We would even go as far as to say the deliberately provocative looks – a kidney grille on steroids, wafer thin LED lights and 22-inch rims that trick you into thinking they’re much smaller – will mellow over time and become as widely appreciated as the novel but still relevant i3 hatchback. The iX’s styling is not a complete surprise because BMW previewed the car as far back as 2018 when it pulled the covers off the ‘Vision iNext’ concept. The road-going car has been watered down a degree but this is still a vehicle that will get tongues wagging and fingers pointing, with ‘M Sport’ models turning the wick all the way up to 11.
A TECHNOLOGICAL KNOCK-OUT
Long before you start to tick the options list, the iX is one of the most advanced luxury EVs this side of £100,000. You’ll also discover – and appreciate – many of the less obvious traits. For whatever reason, the bonnet can’t be opened which immediately poses the question, “How do I fill the water bottle?” Simple. Push the BMW logo and it springs up to make this possible. Around the back, the badge has a built-in washer jet that pops out and directs water at the rear-view camera if the lens has a thin film of dirt. The door handles sit flush to the bodywork and are touch sensitive to release the catch, and when you open the door this reveals a frameless window. Best of all, though, is the £3,500 2m-squared ‘Sky Lounge’ panoramic glass sunroof; touching a button in the overhead panel frosts the glass if, say, the sun gets too overpowering. For added security, if the glass hasn’t been “shaded electromagnetically” when you park up to go shopping or grab a coffee with friends, the car detects this and does it for you.
THE CABIN’S A WORK OF ART
Gorgeous is the superlative that properly sums up the iX’s cabin. Designers really have smashed the look and feel of the dash out of the park, with the curved screen powered by BMW’s ultra-slick ‘iDrive 8’ infotainment system the real highlight. Raised from the dash, inputs to the 14.9-inch multimedia screen are easy and can be executed with a tap of your finger or via the crystal-glass iDrive rotary controller set within the forward section of the high-mounted armrest whilst driving. This large screen merges with the 12.3-inch driver binnacle that’s viewed through the top half of the two-spoke polygonal-shaped wheel. Sustainability is a buzzword for BMW at the minute, so the leather is given its colour by using a tanning process that relies on the natural dye from olive leaf extracts. And if soft cow hides is not your thing, you have a choice of artificial leather or a recycled microfibre cloth for the seats. Even the wooden insert for the centre console is FSC certified. All the surfaces are soft to touch right down to those hard-to-reach areas. The level of craftmanship is second to none. There really is very little not to like.
RELAXING TO DRIVE
For sheer unbridled comfort we can’t think of many cars that come close to the levels iX owners are set to enjoy. It wafts you along, helped by the adjustable air suspension that does a wonderfully effective job of ironing out uneven surfaces and offending potholes with none of the noise or shudder you would expect to feel through the pedals or steering wheel. Four-wheel-drive serves up relentless grip in all weathers and in ‘50’ spec the rear-wheel-steering increases the sense of agility not to mention manoeuvrability when you end up in a cul-de-sac or along a narrow country road and a three-point turn is called for. In performance terms, it’s genuinely hair-raising. Bury the throttle and you will be kicked back into your seat until you ease off again. It has all the performance you will ever need – and more.
PROS & CONS
+ Takes comfort to a new level
+ A technological tour de force
+ Eye-catching, capacious interior
– The iX is not exactly cheap
– Styling is sure to be divisive
– Long charge times for most
CHARGING: The ‘50’ can accept DC power at a rate of up to 195kW, so the battery can be charged from 10% to 80% in around 35 minutes. This set-up also allows 90-miles of range to be added in 10 minutes. The iX’s cutting-edge onboard computer system even has the ability to adjust the car’s regenerative braking and control this for you in bursts by alerting the system to road ends or downhill sections.
INTERIOR: Four-zone climate control, a head-up display, heated seats, wireless charging and driver aids like park assist all feature on the equipment list. An interior camera that is activated should the car ever get broken into, soft close doors and a Bowers and Wilkins ‘Diamond Surround Sound System’ that features speakers integrated into the head restraints and front seat ‘bass shakers’ all cost extra.
STYLING: Wrapped in a radical SAV body shape, the iX is a more appealing piece of design in the metal. 22-inch bi-tone alloy wheels, LED laser lights and a panoramic glass sunroof were some of the options that came fitted on our ‘M-Sport’ test car. This grade secures an ‘Aerodynamic Pack’ as standard and is made up of a sculpted front bumper with air curtains, smoked lenses for the tail-lights and a rear bumper diffuser.
PRACTICALITY: Space for those up top is cavernous and the same applies for rear seat passengers who are sure to appreciate the way the padding extends right out to the doors in an arc shape for added comfort. The floor in the 500-litre boot is completely flush for easy loading and has an underfloor compartment in which the charge cables can be kept. There’s also quick release buttons for the 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats.
Price: £116,965 (as tested)
Battery/motor: 105.2kWh/Dual motor set-up
Power/torque: 516bhp/564lb ft
Transmission: Single-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
0-62mph: 4.6 seconds
Top speed: 124mph