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All-new zero-emissions flagship luxury car strikes out in bold, sophisticated style

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Some car manufacturers probably feel similarly about the advent of 2030, and the gradual enforced phasing out of the combustion engine that it will begin to bring to markets all over the world, as 1990s tech companies did about the arrival of the millennium bug in 2000. Just a few, however, seem bold enough to look at it like our young century’s greatest business opportunity.

Having played a small but notable part in the emergent stages of the European electric car scene with the likeable i3, BMW has evidently got a busy few years of zero-emission launches planned – because, from a not-quite-standing start, the BMW Group is aiming for 50% of its total sales to be electric-only by 2030.

Headlights are all-LED units as standard, with BMW’s active Laserlights an option and fitted to our test car. The technology makes them compact as well as powerful, and their slimness certainly helps to define the visual character of the car

If there’s a sure-fire way to show the world that you’re serious about electrification, it’s with a statement car like this week’s road test subject. The BMW iX is an electric halo model based on an all-new, EV-only platform that’s coming not only to dominate its closest electric SUV rivals, but also to help redefine the luxury car for the zero-emissions age, and to blow away the compromises that we expect to apply to them.

With its most powerful versions breaching the 600bhp barrier, claimed range extending close to 400 miles and prices beyond £110,000, the iX promises to take few prisoners among the market’s existing electrified SUVs. Time to find out if, and exactly how, it might deliver.

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BMW iX line-up at a glance

The iX range is quite a broad one, priced to take on the likes of the Jaguar I-Pace and Audi E-tron at the cheaper end of the model scale, as well as the quickest and most expensive Teslas at the other end.

There are two trims – Sport and M Sport – although BMW’s pricier optional equipment and styling packs (Technology Plus, Comfort Plus, Sky Lounge) could be considered de facto trim levels and are also highly likely to influence residual values.

DESIGN & STYLING

2 BMW iX 2022 road test review side pan

The full-size, all-electric luxury SUV has been ‘a thing’ since Tesla introduced the Model X in 2015, but so far very few examples have been as boldly constructed, or as generously endowed, as the BMW iX.

The car’s structural basis is a new specialised EV platform that will go on to be shared by other top- level BMW Group cars. It consists of an aluminium spaceframe-style construction with various panelling in weight-saving carbonfibre- reinforced plastic, some of which is revealed when the frameless doors and wraparound bootlid are opened.

Pinched D-pillar is one of BMW’s little design homages to the diminutive, formative i3. It’s disarming for such a big luxury car to take inspiration from a smaller, cheaper one, and one of the ways the iX is made to feel less monolithic and more inclusive

BMW uses the term spaceframe here to refer to a lightweight underbody structure made mostly of joined aluminium extrusions rather than of conventional stampings or castings. It’s not intimating that the iX has a tubular construction like some giant-sized racing prototype, which is how you might be used to the term being applied. In the same way, the 2003 Rolls-Royce Phantom was described as a spaceframe car, as was the 1999 BMW Z8.

In the iX’s case, the construction style delivers something that’s lighter and stiffer than it might otherwise be – but, for obvious reasons, it’s still anything but light. The car measures just under five metres in length and 1.7 metres in height. Entry-level xDrive40 examples have an underfloor lithium ion drive battery of 77kWh of total capacity; higher- end xDrive50 and M60 derivatives have some 111kWh of installed capacity – and all examples of the car offer twin-motor, four-wheel drive via BMW’s electrically excited hybrid synchronous electric motors.

At its very lightest, then, the iX is a 2365kg car. Our xDrive50 M Sport test car tipped the Millbrook scales at 2593kg, 83kg heavier than BMW’s claim for it, with most of the ballast most likely added by its UK-market standard-fit air suspension and active four-wheel steering systems. That makes it just over 50kg lighter than the now-discontinued diesel-powered Bentley Bentayga we road tested in 2017, yet clearly you still would not want it rolling over your foot.

Whatever it is that you happen to want from your £100,000 luxury electric car in 2022 – be it supercar- level power (the iX M60 makes 610bhp and is claimed to hit 62mph in 3.8sec), any-weather four-wheel drive, SUV-typical space and versatility, or transformative range (up to 391 miles is claimed for the xDrive50 on the WLTP test cycle) – the iX is looking to cater for you.

That is, unless what you want most is elegant, understated design appeal. This car’s controversial styling has attracted plenty of comment on these pages over recent months, and it isn’t really the job of a road test to involve itself with subjective interpretations. If you find this car lacking in desirability at a fairly fundamental  level, though, you will already know that you’re not on your own.

INTERIOR

9 BMW iX 2022 road test review cabin

Swinging open the iX’s frameless driver’s door admits you into a cabin that’s notably less risqué than the car’s outward appearance, but little more ordinary.

The large front seats, with their integral-style head restraints, position you quite high and bent- legged at the controls, with good forward visibility (it’s less good over your shoulder and to the rear). The design theme of the fascia in front of you, and of the panels and consoles to either side, isn’t overly ornate or showy. This isn’t a luxury car cabin that’s out to dazzle you with chrome, or that ladles touchscreen technology on every available surface. It has fairly modestly sized features and beguilingly lavish materials and finishes, but it’s also a bit understated and feels harmoniously balanced. Nothing is clamouring for your attention; it’s smart, it’s inviting and it puts you at ease.

Cut-glass-like cabin fittings, part of the optional ‘Clear and Bold’ interior trim theme, look and feel very authentic. They refract sunlight to appealing effect

There are certain similarities between the iX’s cabin and that of BMW’s trailblazing all-electric i3: a flat cabin floor with front footwells left open at the inboard sides, a low-feeling scuttle, a two-spoke steering wheel and a raised centre console with split-level storage. The iX’s combined instrumentation and infotainment screen is of a grander scale than the i3’s was, however, and it curves around towards the driver a little as it runs across the dashboard. In terms of outright passenger space, the iX wants for little. The back seats are comparable to a full-size limousine on leg room, and would certainly beat one for head room; they’re very easy to slide in and out of, although they’re shorter and flatter in the cushion than a limousine’s rear chairs might be. They don’t offer the ‘stadium-style’ seating of other luxury SUVs, but your view out from the back seats is nonetheless good; and if you want charging ports to plug a device into, you need look no further than the seatback in front.

The iX’s boot, meanwhile, is shaped a little narrowly on account of the impact of the car’s wraparound tailgate, but it still offers some 500 litres of carrying capacity under the window line. That space can be extended to the roof and up to the front seatbacks in ways conventional limousines couldn’t match.

BMW iX infotainment and sat-nav

The iX bloods BMW’s latest generation of infotainment system, called Operating System 8.0. It lacks absolutely nothing for connected entertainment options and can be controlled via the curved, 14.9in central touchscreen display (which is very bright, clear and responsive); via an iDrive-style rotary input device (which to our delight continues to be part of BMW’s usability regime); via the steering-wheel remote; or via voice command. That means you can nudge a cursor around while flicking your gaze to and from the road if you prefer, and don’t necessarily feel as distracted by the need to swipe and prod at a screen with an outstretched arm.

The bad news is that it has subsumed the car’s heating and ventilation controls, which makes one more menu screen to scroll through, and which we regret a little. But there are enough physical menu shortcuts to make a fairly complex system easily navigable with practice – and the user-configurable, swipeable home screen helps here too.

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

25 BMW iX 2022 road test review charging port

The iX’s cut-glass-finish drive selector lever is certainly attractive, but it is somewhat small and fiddly, and isn’t easy to find without taking your eyes off the road. It doesn’t inspire much of a sense of tactile connection with the car, and while other EV makers offer column- mounted paddles with which to vary electric motor regeneration settings, BMW continues to decline to do so.

There’s little manual interaction on offer with this electric powertrain, then (although you can adjust the car’s regen settings through the touchscreen system). Predictably, though, it isn’t short on oomph. Since we referenced the diesel Bentayga earlier, let’s continue the comparison to gauge 2022’s idea of a forward- looking luxury SUV against 2017’s equivalent. The iX gets away from rest very smoothly, without uncouthness or wasted energy, and very briskly indeed for something so big. Under full power, it’s past 60mph in 4.4sec and 100mph in 10.0sec, covering the 30-70mph roll-on benchmark in just 3.4sec. The triple-turbo Bentayga (with 100lb ft more torque on tap) needed more than a second longer in the first instance, over 2.5sec longer in the second and 4.6sec in the third.

The iX is high, wide and (some cynics say) not so handsome but corners with grace and gusto. Its rolling refinement, despite those 22in alloys, is even more impressive

For the record, Audi’s E-tron S Quattro (torquier still than even the Bentley on paper, remember, thanks to its three-motor layout) is also slower than the BMW on two of those three benchmarks. Why should that be? Well, it has been tempting to think of all electric cars – and motors – in homogeneous performance terms, but the iX calls for a rethink. Its electrically excited motors not only create really potent roll-on pedal response and outright acceleration but also seem to have greater stamina than permanent magnet equivalents, continuing to make big torque at motorway speeds and beyond.

What that translates to on a luxury car in most real-world driving, however, is simply ultra-fine control of momentum and prevailing speed. The iX may be capable of eye-widening pace, but it’s a car you will rarely, if ever, drive to its full potential. It’s the almost instantaneous way it can respond to your intentions on part-throttle, noiselessly if you like and without any trace of effort, that really impresses.

If the car’s drivability could be improved, perhaps it would be by making those regeneration settings we touched on previously easier to adjust. BMW’s Adaptive regen mode, like so many, sometimes catches you out by blending up retardation unexpectedly in close-quartered traffic, when it detects a car changing lanes ahead or as it is approaching a corner or junction. Predictability and consistency is all when it comes to luxury cars – and in one respect, the iX’s could be improved just a little.

RIDE & HANDLING

27 BMW iX 2022 road test review ADAS camera

Powerful and quick as it may be, this BMW is clearly defined as a luxury operator first and a performance car second. It delivers filtered ease of operation at all times. It has surprising agility, manoeuvrability and wieldiness for a big car operating at low speed. It has high-speed sure- footedness and stability, too, and fluent country road precision and composure about its body control.

In most respects, the iX handles with the assurance of something that is comfortable with its size and role, and that is also devoted to its dynamic aims: putting you at ease, and making you relaxed and comfortable.

This car’s ride sophistication and close body control really are its crowning achievements: it’s supple and absorptive, but somehow feels gently taut with it.

The steering is medium-weighted and filtered-feeling. It’s quite direct in outright terms (with less than 2.5 turns between locks), although BMW’s standard-fit Integral Active Steering system gives it more gentle off-centre pick-up at faster speeds than it has when manoeuvring. This clever system tuning allows the iX to feel smaller and lighter than you expect it to when nipping around roundabouts and tight junctions, and more planted and steady when carving a line around a motorway slip road, but it’s nothing new or that rival SUVs don’t also achieve.

However, combine that steering system with a chassis with just enough lateral grip and body control to engender a sense of cornering tenacity, and a torque distribution that makes the rear contact patches work that bit harder than the fronts as the car is accelerating beyond an apex, and you actually end up with a five-metre, two-and-a-half-tonne electric luxury SUV that handles like a BMW. The iX does have a certain understated handling poise, and a quietly compelling agility for something so tall, wide and heavy.

It’s not the car’s greatest dynamic strength, though, and its sheer size and preference for wide lanes and smoother surfaces means you have to pick your moments to go looking for it.

Ride comfort and isolation

This is where the iX really excels. So it should, you might think, as a luxury car with no combustion engine to rumble or vibrate, as well as big wheel arches to help quell road noise, and air suspension to smooth over bumps. But many high-end EVs have failed to bring really revolutionary rolling refinement to the table over the past
decade, for one reason or another. The iX nails its potential, and then some.

Even though our test car rode on 22in alloy wheels, it admitted just 58dBA of ride and wind noise into its cabin at a 50mph cruise on the Millbrook high-speed bowl: the same level as Rolls-Royce’s Cullinan Black Badge recorded in 2020, and fully five decibels less than we witnessed in the Jaguar I-Pace two years earlier.

From the driver’s seat, you’re aware of a slight wind rustle around the car’s door mirrors, but very little road roar over well-sealed surfaces. Higher-speed, long-wave inputs are dealt with supremely well without disturbing the car’s level calm much at all, and sharper and more sudden ones are rounded off surprisingly well, too, considering the car’s wheel specification. There is no resonance, hollowness or ‘sproing’ in evidence from the air suspension, and wheel control is consistently good.

This isn’t a wilfully soft-feeling, wafting car; it’s a shade tauter and more poised-feeling than that, but it’s very supple and settled. You’re made aware when the iX’s axles are busier on one side of the car than the other as the chassis jostles and rotates around its roll axis just a bit, but that’s mostly because of the nature of an SUV in which you sit farther above that roll axis than in a lower saloon. For the most part, the iX’s ride is well beyond reasonable reproach.

Assisted driving notes

The iX’s mock radiator grille, or ‘intelligence panel’, is one of the places where its various sensors (12), cameras (five) and transceivers (12) are housed. The upshot? That, but forthesoftware(whichcan,andmost likely will, be updated over the air – for a fee), this car might already be ready for level-three, hands-off autonomous driving once it becomes legal.

As it is, the car’s front collision warning system is sophisticated enough to detect oncoming traffic when turning right across a live lane, as well as pedestrians and cyclists. Its lane control assist and active cruise control systems also have extended sensory functionality and greater operating reach than other BMWs’.

Our testers found the lane keeping, blindspot warning and cross traffic alert systems somewhat risk averse andoverlyintrusivewhenturnedupto their most sensitive, but the forward crash avoidance and active cruise control systems both worked well.

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

1 BMW iX 2022 road test review lead

With prices starting from under £70,000 for the entry-level xDrive40, the iX can be considered an alternative to the market’s better-established, premium-branded electric SUVs (Mercedes-Benz EQC, Jaguar I-Pace) at the lower end of the price scale, as well as its more exotic ones (Tesla Model X Plaid, Audi E-tron S Quattro) at the upper end.

Given the performance, refinement, versatility and space demonstrated by our test car, its starting price of just under £100,000 – full-size Range Rover money, in other words – seemed reasonable to most testers, although no doubt some will question if this car is desirable enough to justify its higher price points.

50% residual values after three years/36k miles of ownership is worth shouting about for any £100k luxury car

The iX clears the biggest obstacles associated with running an electric car in 2022, but perhaps not with the commanding ease you might expect. In chilly conditions, our car proved itself capable of a 70mph UK motorway touring range of 274 miles on a 100% charge, rising to 326 miles at 50mph (the test average energy efficiency of 2.4mpkWh included performance testing, as ever). That lifts it clear of rivals from Jaguar, Mercedes and Audi, but perhaps not by the margin many expected.

DC rapid charging at up to 200kW is offered as standard, at which pace a 10-80% charge would be possible in under 30 minutes, where available.

VERDICT

30 BMW iX 2022 road test review static

You might not like everything that the BMW iX is - but what it does as a luxury EV demands recognition.

The car’s combination of generous SUV-level cabin comfort and versatility, and of a genuinely relaxing and understated luxury ambience, with world-class rolling refinement and drivability, instant and effortless performance, and creditable real-world range is one unmatched by any of the market’s other zero-emission SUVs. It has compelling fitness for purpose and a real completeness of appeal as a near-£100,000 luxury car - even if it doesn’t smash down barriers in terms of outright electric range in the way that some will expect of a top-level EV.

Spec advice? If you can stretch to a bigger-battery xDrive50, do it. Avoid the biggest rims if you want to maximise electric range.

None of that might matter to you, however, if the car fails the first test of a piece of luxury product design: simply, that you want one. BMW’s current approach to design is likely to continue making that hard for some of us. For others, the less traditional approach to product positioning that this car represents, and the things that it says about its owner, could make the iX exactly the right kind of slightly reluctant, alternative status symbol for the rapidly changing, unsure times in which we now live.

BMW iX FAQs

Is the BMW iX available as a plug-in hybrid or electric?

Essentially, the BMW iX is an electric car only, designed from the ground-up not to have an internal combustion engine of any sort. Like the smaller BMW i3, it has a bespoke platform that’s not shared with any other model. That means it can have its battery located low down in the floor for excellent packaging, weight distribution and a low centre of gravity, while the electric motors can be mounted more or less directly to the front and rear axles.

What are the main rivals for the BMW iX?

The upmarket EV market has grown considerably over the last few years, meaning there are plenty of alternatives to the BMW iX. Leading the charge is the Tesla Model X, which offers more space and even more performance, but isn’t as accomplished to drive. The Jaguar i-Pace is more entertaining to drive, while the Mercedes EQS is every bit as luxurious as the BMW but is a sleek salon rather than a high-riding SUV. Offering similar levels of comfort and regiment as the BMW is the Audi e-tron, although it's not quite as entertaining behind the wheel.

How much power does the BMW iX have?

The short answer to that is, quite a lot. That’s especially true of the flagship M60, which packs an astonishing 611bhp from its two motors and can rocket from 0-62mph in 3.8 seconds. Next up is the xDrive50, which has 523bhp, enough for a rapid 0-62mph time of just 4.6 seconds., Even the entry-level xDrive40 is no slouch, using its 322bhp and four-wheel drive traction to complete the same acceleration test in 6.1 seconds.

What choices of gearbox are there for the BMW iX?

Like almost all electric cars, the BMW iX doesn’t need a conventional multi-ratio gearbox. With their instant torque and ability to spin to tens of thousands of revs, electric motors can cope with just a single gear, which is what the BMW has. Effectively you select drive, then squeeze the throttle and away you go, carried along in one smooth and seamless surge of acceleration. However, variable regenerative braking allows you to alter the resistance of the motor when slowing, almost like going down through the gears in a conventional transmission.

Where is the BMW iX built?

The BMW iX is built at the brand’s Dingolfing plant in Germany, alongside various 4 Series, 5 Series, 7 Series and 8 Series models. The facility also makes the batteries and motor modules for the iX and i4, plus it presses the body panels for all Rolls Royce cars. The factory can trace its roots back to 1905, when it was owned by the now defunct Hans Glas brand, which BMW bought in 1967. The first 5 Series rolled off the line in 1973, since when 10 million BMW’s have been built there.

How many generations of BMW iX have there been?

All-new from the ground-up in 2021, the BMW iX is the first model of its kind from the brand, so there are no predecessors. There’s also not likely to be a replacement for the iX for quite a while either, or a facelift due in the near future. However, a high performance M60 version is due to arrive in the UK later this year, packing an incredible 611bhp (in 10 second bursts) from its twin motor set-up and capable of 348 miles on a charge.

Richard Lane

Richard Lane
Title: Deputy road test editor

Richard joined Autocar in 2017, arriving from Evo magazine, and is typically found either behind a keyboard or steering wheel.

As deputy road test editor he delivers in-depth road tests, performance benchmarking and supercar lap-times, plus feature-length comparison stories between rival cars. He can also be found on Autocar's YouTube channel

Mostly interested in how cars feel on the road – the sensations and emotions they can evoke – Richard drives around 150 newly launched makes and models every year, and focuses mainly on the more driver-orientated products, as is tradition at Autocar. His job is then to put the reader firmly in the driver's seat. 

Away from work, but remaining on the subject of cars, Richard owns an eight-valve Integrale, loves watching sportscar racing, and holds a post-grad in transport engineering. 

BMW iX First drives