Comfy, roomy, refined, chockful of tech that works pretty well. As sustainable as a huge SUV can be
The looks. Not that engaging to drive. 'As sustainable as a huge SUV can be' isn't a great claim
What is it?
Just when you thought BMW couldn't get any more controversial, here comes a really controversial BMW.
It's hyped as the company's technology flagship. Fair enough. But did it have to be a hulking two-and-a-half tonne SUV? Did it really need a whole new operating system that demands hours of learning? Most of all, did it have to look like… this? It first turned up as the iNEXT concept three years ago. Ever since, the bandwidth of online hate has been fusing entire server farms.
How does it look in real life?
Approach the thing in the street and it's actually less offensive than the pictures suggest. Quite interesting perhaps, because it's not pretending to be that impossible thing, a sports-SUV. The ugliest part is doubtless the nose, but an iX specced without the M-Sport package avoids those hideous black trapezoids below the headlamps. They're part of a specious 'aerodynamic pack' that actually doesn't reduce the drag at all.
Meanwhile that huge not-a-grille is covered in plastic that self-heals after scratching. Maybe BMW expected physical attacks. Might we suggest Sinex Nasal Spray?
Inside, almost none of the hardware is recognisable from any other BMW. It's as distinctive as the i3's cabin was (and remains) and aims for the same sort of atmosphere: to invoke a lounge not a car. Unusual materials include matte wood with lit graphics showing through, an optional denim-like recycled fabric, a glass iDrive knob. Straight lines and diagonals dominate. OK, your sitting room might not actually be much much like this. But your sitting room is surely not at all like the cabin of an X5.
The flat floor and long wheelbase and width all boost the space. Which makes it bulky on the outside too. Like the i3 and i8, this is a wholly bespoke structure. The cabin sits in a three-dimensional box-frame of carbonfibre. There's a lot of aluminium too. None of this is shared with the X5. But the motors, battery design, and the high-voltage electronics are modular versions of what's used in the iX3 and i4. Those electric-drive parts are unglamorous, hidden and most of us don't know how they work. But they're critical to how efficiently an EV runs, how smoothly it drives and how fast it recharges.
SO IT'S ELECTRIC. STATS PLEASE.
Initially there are two versions. Both are twin-motor AWD, so get the xDrive prefix in their full names. The xDrive 40 has 71kWh useable capacity, for a range of 257 miles WLTP. The xDrive 50 has a 105.2kWh, for a range of 380 miles on the standard 21-inch wheels. Performance? In the iX 40 it's 326bhp and 6.1 seconds to 62mph. We tested the iX 50, which has 523bhp for a 0-62 of 4.6 seconds.
If that's not enough, an M Performance version, the iX 60M, is coming next year, with the same large battery but kicking out well beyond 600bhp. That'll be the first time the three worlds of M, X and i have collided.
BMWs ARE SUPPOSED TO BE UNCONTROVERSIALLY EXCELLENT TO DRIVE…
It's pretty good. It just doesn't involve you much in the process. But the calibration of all the controls is intuitive, so it's quite satisfying. The steering is accurate, the acceleration smooth and prompt, and it manages its weight neatly enough.
It has a Sport mode but it doesn't make much difference and anyway why would you? This car is about comfort, silence and relaxation, even when covering the ground at surprising speeds.
What's the verdict?
BMW will do battery versions all its mainstream models – as it already has with the Mini Electric and iX3 – but it also wanted to build this all-in electric car as a showcase for its best work on materials, aerodynamics and driver assist.
BMW isn't selling this as a driver's champion. If you want a traditional BMW sports saloon that happens to be electric, the i4 is your car. The iX is a big comfy home-on-wheels, and a vast amount of technology has been poured into making sure the driver is soothed while the passengers kick back. It's efficient for a full-size e-SUV. The range is impressive, and it can recharge pretty rapidly too.
Choose carefully from among the visual option packs, wheels and paint. Then you might find an iX you can like the look of. There's a lot else to like.