There’s no doubting that BMW’s revolutionary new flagship electric iX SUV aims to make you feel perfectly at home. That’s because it’s designed just like one.
The new iX is a real game-changer and the pinnacle of BMW’s electrification strategy. And BMW really has bet the house on it.
Before it hits UK showrooms from November, I’ve been one of the first journalists in the world lucky enough to have taken a new iX for a significant test drive – journeying across BMW’s true heartland from the mist-topped Bavarian Alps to the centre of Munich, the elegant southern German city in which the premium car-maker has its global headquarters and spiritual home.
Fiercely proud of its Bavarian roots – think of Bavaria as a super-rich Scotland with mountains, lakes, a very high standard of living and an independently-minded spirit – the three letters of BMW’s name are formed from the initials of Bayerische Motoren Werke or Bavarian Motor Works.
So what’s it really like? The car that is, not Bavaria.
Eye-catching from the outside, the whole ambience inside – from the contemporary soft fabrics and furnishings to the minimalist detailing and comfortable seating – is that of a stylish modern lounge.
It’s uncluttered and unfussy with a very long digital screen that sits proud from the main dashboard.
There are some lovely touches too. The jewel-like seat controls on the door which add a little – but not too much – bling. And when you want to open the door, there’s a button to press on the polished aluminium door grip that does it for you.
It mirrors the sort of stylish high-end homes – and I do mean homes plural – that the expected buyers of this sophisticated new executive battery-powered BMW will likely own, given that they’ll need between £70,000 and £100,000 to buy a new iX.
So before you even fire up the electric motor and set off to drive, you are already seduced by its cossetting embrace.
I set off on my travels from the beautiful Alpine resort of Berchtesgaden, which has some wonderfully twisty, hilly, and long-legged alpine roads on which to put the iX through its paces.
Standing nearly five metres long, two metres wide and 1.7 metres tall, the iX is an imposing beast with a large unmissable trade-mark BMW kidney-shaped grille which makes a dramatic statement of intent. This electric SUV means business.
Setting off at a pace it has fearsome acceleration from rest to 62mph in just 4.6 seconds – which is even more impressive given its size – but delivered in a smoothly powerful fashion.
It has phenomenal overtaking power and means you have time to think and act when needed.
Putting into sport mode tightens the sinews and gives you an even greater boost.
Germany’s de-restricted motorways means that on long stretches there’s no speed limit so a good place to test it out.
The iX’s 124mph (200km) restricted top speed (judged by the authorities there to be both safe and perfectly legal on German Autobahns) feels like cruising at 70mph on a UK motorway. It feels calm, solid, stable, and planted but flies by other vehicles.
There’s still plenty more potential power in the pot – but I hear a whisper that BMW are holding back a bit because they still need something to give to a sporty high performance ‘M’ version from their Motorsport division.
Although almost silent, you can, as I did, choose to switch on a bespoke ‘soundtrack’ created by Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer, to accompany your acceleration and deceleration – to at least give you that dynamic sound sensation of speed which we’ve grown accustomed to with the internal combustion engine.
The new iX is powered by BMW’s fifth generation ‘eDrive’ electric power and battery system.
It all-wheel drive system has two electric motors: the front one developing 258hp, the rear 313hp (230kW). These are charged by a high voltage 369 volt lithium ion battery with an energy capacity of 111.5kWh (gross) and 105.2kWh (nett).
It has a claimed range of 380 miles (WLTP) which is more than enough to get you from London to Newcastle, and almost to Edinburgh. So range anxiety is not a big issue.
Mind you, that 380 miles assumes steady pace driving.
I’m guessing most BMW drivers will be somewhat more enthusiastic in their driving styles so that is likely to drop in real world conditions.
But the digital screen does have a handy and helpful pictogram which – when using sat-nav – shows how much charge and miles you have to get you to your destination, and how much spare capacity.
A vast panoramic ‘Skylounge’ glass roof lets light flood in giving a light and airy feel.
For executives who may spend more time being chauffeured than actually driving, it makes a great office on wheels. I even tried it out for myself using the drop down table for my laptop to scour the latest Mail Online Cars & Motoring stories.
If there’s one niggle, it’s that the iX tech is almost too clever for its own good.
BMW made much of the fact that you can use your smart-phone as a ‘key’ and use the dedicated ‘app’ (has the world gone completely ‘app’-happy’?) to organise various things within the car. Personally, life’s too short.
The theory’s fine. But when I wanted to do a simple thing – like get the voice working on the sat-nav – it defeated not only me but also a number of BMW technicians with whom I raised the issue. Instead of delving through ‘menus’, why not a few more simple buttons?
BMW has retained the physical circular controller to move through various menus. So at least that’s a start.
Helping maintain stability, safety and control, the new iX is the very first all-wheel drive pure electric BMW to feature an intelligent four-wheel drive system that ‘reads’ conditions and adapts to them.
A lot of safety technology is operating under the surface on this exceptionally hi-tech SUV, so you are unaware of it until it makes its presence felt. It’s good to know that as occupants we are being looked after. But sometimes it too is a bit ‘nannying’ and kicks in to act before I might.
I noticed this when I spotted a BMW driver haring down a road to my right and about to hit the junction ahead. I had him in my sights. So did the safety system’s radar.
BMW iX: Will it fit in my garage?
BMW iX xDrive50
Price: from £91,905 (Sport) and £94,905 (M Sport)
iX range starts at: £69,905 (High performance 600 hp M60 iX to join the range next year)
Weight (unladen): 2,585kg
Propulsion: Battery electric
CO2 emissions: Zero
Electric motors: Two (front and rear). Fifth generation BMW eDrive
Power: 385kW / 523 horsepower (hp)
Transmission: Automatic single-speed with fixed ratio
Top speed: 124mph (200km/hr) electronically limited
0-62mph acceleration: 4.6 seconds
Front electric motor: 190kW / 258hp
Rear electric motor: 230kW / 313hp
High voltage battery: 369-volt lithium ion
Energy capacity: 111.5kWh (gross), 105.2kWh (nett)
Range: 380 miles (WLTP)
Direct current: 800 per cent in 40 minutes
Luggage capacity: 500 litres / 1,750 litres
It whacked on the brakes assuming he wouldn’t stop. I was preparing to slow, but reckoned he would stop. He did. But by the active and passive safety systems had taken that decision out of my hands.
Others I compared notes with experienced similar issues, with automatic braking doing its thing and making risk assessments and assumptions about spacing between vehicles that humans may judge to be fine.
And it begs an interesting philosophical and practical question: how much autonomy do you need to concede to the car in the name of safety? You can turn these safety aids off. But the default setting is that they are on.
My car was riding on 22-inch wheels but standard will be 21-inch in the UK.
I even had time to take a detour to the BMW factory at Dingolfen to see how the battery cells and units are put together to power and recharge the iX and other vehicles.
Parked up for a brief break I was even accosted by a cyclist who wanted to know more.
In the UK there will be the choice of my 523hp iX iDrive50 variant priced from £91,905 for the ‘Sport’ trim and £94,905 for the ‘M Sport’, plus the less powerful 326hp xDrive40 priced from £69,905 for the ‘Sport’ and £72,905 for the M Sport’.
The xDrive40 has the same 124mph limited top speed but acceleration from rest to 62mph is 1.5 seconds slower at 6.1 seconds. It will cover up to 257 miles on a single charge.
A more powerful performance 600hp M60 will join the iX line up next year promising ‘an exceptionally sporty all-electric driving experience).
The cars are rammed with kit and extras and personalisation packs.
Even standard Sport trim includes a 12.3-inch instrument cluster that merges with a 14.9-inch screen to create a single free-standing curved display unit which dominates the dashboard.
Owners will be offered a choice of charging packages.
Does the iX have the X factor? I’d say so. It is an automotive tour de force- though not without its niggles – and with a few hi-tech wrinkles that it would be good to iron out.
But I expect to see a lot of very happy executives and entrepreneurs putting in requisitions and orders for their next company car or personal indulgence.
Get ready for the charge.Internet Explorer Channel Network