What took BMW so long to enter its challenger to the recent wave of electric European luxury SUVs? We’re talking about the likes of Jaguar’s I-Pace, Audi’s e-tron, and Mercedes-Benz’s EQC, all of which came onto the scene in 2018 and early 2019. You don’t have to wander far into the iX’s 23-page press kit to find a clue: The new SUV, it says, is BMW Group’s new technology flagship.
The I-Pace, e-tron, and EQC are much more tentative vehicles, both in terms of their hardware and the way they’re positioned within the Jaguar, Audi and Mercedes-Benz product hierarchies. The iX, on the other hand, is BMW going all in. This X5-sized SUV is being positioned as a vehicle that, more than even the company’s traditional flagship, the big 7 Series sedan, showcases what the best and the brightest brains in Munich can achieve.
Ultimate Driving . . . EV?
The iX is BMW’s future made real, a point BMW AG chairman Oliver Zipse made crystal clear at the car’s digital unveiling: “The BMW Group is constantly striving to reinvent itself. That is a central element of our corporate strategy. The BMW iX expresses this approach in an extremely concentrated form.” The iX not only debuts hardware, software, design elements, and manufacturing techniques that will influence all future BMWs—it also readies a brand once defined by its appeal to petrolhead driving enthusiasts for an autonomous, electric-powered world.
Some things haven’t changed, however. As you’d expect of a BMW flagship, the iX is powerful, with two electric motors—one mounted at the rear axle and one at the front axle—developing a total of more than 500 hp. And it should be quick, though BMW’s claim of zero-to-60-mph acceleration in under 5.0 seconds is almost certainly understated. For context, according to our friends at MotorTrend, the 355-hp, 5844-pound Audi E-Tron hits 60 mph in 5.1 seconds, while the 394-hp, 4696-pound Jaguar I-Pace nails it in 4.0 seconds. Mercedes-Benz claims a 4.8-seconds 0-60 time for the 402-hp, 5500-pound EQC.
How Much Range with the BMW iX Offer? Plenty
Of course, for most people the key issue with electric vehicles is not how fast one is, but how far it’ll go per charge. The iX’s powerful electric motors, which have been developed in-house and do not use rare earth materials, draw from a high-voltage 100-kWh battery, and BMW says it aims to beat a consumption rate of 33.8 kWh per 100 miles on the global WTLP test cycle to deliver an EPA-rated range of more than 300 miles. The iX’s power electronics allow DC fast charging at up to 200 kW, which means the battery can be topped up from 10 percent charge to 80 percent in fewer than 40 minutes. Adding 75 miles of range takes just 10 minutes. An 11-kW wallbox charger will take the battery from 0 to 100 percent charge in under 11 hours.
The iX is built using a bespoke aluminum spaceframe with light and rigid carbon-reinforced plastic used on the bodyside and roof frames, cowl, and the rear window frame. It’s as long and wide as the midsize X5 SUV, virtually the same height overall as an X6 (the X5’s slinkier sibling), and its wheelbase is 1.0 inch longer. Standard wheels are 20-inch alloys that have been optimized for aero efficiency, with flashier 21- and 22-inch items available as options. The kick-up at the rear of the greenhouse and the aggressive M4-style “grille”—it is actually a closed panel behind which are sensors, radar units and cameras—make the synapses snap “BMW,” but the closer you look at the iX, the more you realize how much of a departure it is from current BMW design themes.
It’s mostly a softer, cleaner looking car than any current BMW, particularly in terms of the bodyside, and at the rear, where the clamshell tailgate results in fewer obvious shutlines. (That said, modern BMW design is a busy look, so the iX is best described as among the brand’s least-loud than the best-looking.) The more compact powertrain under the hood has allowed the touchdown point of the A-pillars on the front fenders to be moved forward to improve interior room, and the front overhang looks longer than that of the X5. The large chamfers over the wheel openings, oddly reminiscent of those on the doughy first-generation Hyundai Santa Fe, and the round-cornered clamshell hood that squashes down over squinty headlights are like nothing we’ve seen from BMW before.
So, too, is the interior. The instrument panel and infotainment screens are combined into a single free-standing panel that curves across two-thirds of the cloth or leather covered dash and sits behind a hexagonal-shaped steering wheel. The start-stop button, gear selector toggle and e-brake are located in an extension of the armrest between the front seats, alongside a wood-surfaced panel that includes capacitor switches for various infotainment functions and a jewel-like glass rotary controller. Other different design touches include slim HVAC vents, minimalist switches for seat adjustment and the power windows, and audio speakers hidden behind the door trims.
“The vehicle itself is technologically very, very complicated,” says BMW design chief Adrian van Hooydonk. “But it’s this technology that has allowed us to reduce the interior design dramatically.” Van Hooydonk calls it shy technology: “The technology is there, but it’s not in your face.” Indeed, the iX boasts more computer power and more powerful sensor technology than any current BMW and is ready for 5G connectivity. “It is probably the most intelligent BMW we have ever built,” he says.
The iX goes into production at BMW’s Dingolfing plant in the second half of 2021, with the first cars expected to arrive in the U.S. in early 2022. In preparation, BMW North America has partnered with EVgo to provide access to more than 800 fast charge points and 35,000 Level 2 charge points via a smartphone app.
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