The BMW iX is almost here and the first review have dropped. The verdict appears to be as expected – hard to look at but great to drive. We’ll have our own review later this year. But in the meantime let’s take a quick look at some of the first reviews out there.
The driving experience of the iX is predictably well distinguished from that of the X5, and not only on account of the electric powertrain. The emphasis is on comfort and refinement – both of which are clear strengths. There will be more powerful versions of the iX promising greater performance in time, but the balance struck by the xDrive50 should suit a wide range of potential buyers. Step-off is sharp in Sport mode – but isn’t kick-in-the-back aggressive, like some battery-propelled rivals. Rather, it has been programmed to deliver a smooth surge of propulsion from the off, after which it gathers speed very smartly.
The serenity of the powertrain is combined with particularly well-suppressed wind noise. Our car’s performance-based tyres did prove sensitive to road surface changes, but we suspect the standard rubber will be less prone to such noise. In any case, the iX sets new levels of refinement for a BMW, delivering an abiding sense of calm and tranquillity in everyday driving.
The electromechanical steering is lightly weighted by BMW standards, although it’s quite incisive in its action, delivering an engaging sense of precision on turn-in. This directional responsiveness in combination with outstanding all-round purchase ensures the car remains contained and predictable along winding roads, although the handling is ultimately limited by the weight of the battery, which contributes to an early onset of roll and in doing so defines how much speed you can carry through corners.
Still, for an SUV of such mass, the iX is commendably wieldy. Its four-wheel drive system is programmed to provide a rear bias, but you have to be quite committed in Sport mode before this is noticeable. The stability and traction control systems, meanwhile, are well judged, remaining unobtrusive until they’re really required.
The iX’s body is a space frame of aluminum, reinforced with high-strength steel and carbon-fiber composites in the roof frame and the A and B pillars. More visibly, BMW has used carbon fiber for the side frame, cowl panel, and rear hatch frame; the material saves weight versus more conventional plastics as well as adding a little extra structural strength. The result is a curb weight of 5,534 lbs (2,510 kg), which is in the same ballpark as the V8-powered X7.
Despite the iX’s mass, it responds to direction changes quickly—the electric motors that drive the wheels and assist the steering counteract the excess kilograms, and the optional air suspension does a highly effective job at controlling the ride.
The iX is not quite as plush as the Rolls-Royce Ghost we tested earlier this year (which also starts life in Dingolfing before being shipped to the UK for final assembly). But it’s close, which is impressive for a car that costs a fifth as much. Like the Rolls-Royce, it might be at its most enjoyable on a flowing country road when you’re trying to conserve momentum. Keep it in D, and then just add enough energy here and there as necessary, gliding along in near silence.
But the iX is still a BMW. For spirited driving on a twisty road—a thing that’s still core to the brand—the combination of Sport mode and B works very well. Under these conditions, you only need to use the brake pedal (which blends regenerative and friction braking) if you’re having to brake heavily; for braking at about 0.3 G or less, lifting your foot off the throttle is all that’s required. The travel is long enough that it’s easy to modulate that lift-off braking even after just a few minutes in the iX. However, even though the steering gets heavier in Sport, it doesn’t really gain any extra feel.
The iX drives at least as well as the Tesla Model X, and now that I’m thinking about it, quite similarly. That impression makes sense as both weigh about the same, have said weight located in the same spots, and make about the same power. To be clear, I’m talking about the last Model X I drove back in 2016 when the 90D version of the electric three-row SUV produced 518 horsepower from its two motors. For 2022 you now choose between 670 Long Range or 1,020 ponies in the Plaid. Like the equally heavy Tesla, the iX is betrayed by physics. This might be part of why this EV SUV doesn’t necessarily feel premium. There’s a minivan quality that’s hard to get past. I’m not feeling the ultimate driving machine. I’m not feeling BMW as a brand in the way it tackles a road. It’s quite like how I felt about the i3. Interesting car, interesting concept, but doesn’t feel the way a BMW should feel when I close my eyes. The iX just feels like… an electric thing.
While the exterior looks odd from certain angles, the interior is modern and attractive. A large, curved panel houses two screens measuring 12.3 and 14.9 inches. The number of buttons and switches has been cut in half, and there are several new features, including 5G connectivity, augmented-reality navigation, and the capability to use a phone as the key. That works without having to hold it up to the door handle; just walk up and the car unlocks like it does with the fob. Other tricks include the ability to record a parking maneuver up to 650 feet long—say, driving up a long driveway and backing into a garage—that the car will mimic at the push of a button. (However, it won’t do so remotely with the driver out of the vehicle.)
Although the iX is about 450 pounds heavier than a V-8-powered X5, its acceleration won’t be far behind. It should hit 60 mph in just over four seconds. There’s so much instant thrust available that the passing-maneuver-calculation part of your brain needs reprogramming.