iX xDrive50 M Sport
Does the BMW iX get any better looking if you live with one?
So, I took a picture of the new Top Gear lifer BMW iX cosying up to my mate Dan’s Autobianchi Bianchina and posted it on Twitter, to social media-convulsing effect. To be clear: the latter is one of the cutest and most diminutive cars ever made, which distorts the image in the comedic manner I intended. But that doesn’t alter the fact that this BMW is big.
Someone said it reminded them of a Winnebago towing a Smart car, and while 60 years and a universe of safety advancements separates them, the fact remains that both cars have room on-board for four humans and their job is to move them around.
Then there’s the design. A few years ago I interviewed il maestro Giorgietto Giugiaro, the man responsible for some of the best-looking and most intelligent cars ever made. Beauty these days seems irrelevant, I suggested. "Design has become about differentiation. A designer should, of course, always strive to do more interesting work, but car makers do also need to build cars that sell; they copy each other to avoid commercial mistakes," he told me.
A shout out, then, to BMW’s head of exterior design Domagoj Dukec, a man who knows full well that you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs. Or in this case taking the express elevator to the penthouse and then bazooka-ing them into the ground below at 2000mph.
Having borne witness first-hand to the controversy that engulfed BMW during the Bangle era, personally I can live with the iX’s, erm, uncompromising form, literally and metaphorically. There are elements to its design that appear to be wilfully disharmonious, but if it’s an experiment, I’m happy to participate for a while. We’ll get used to it, no question.
It’s easier to deal with inside. There’s a flat floor, no transmission tunnel, and a lofty centre console with a control panel at the top of it that houses the drive controls (no ignition slot to worry about), iDrive controller (in crystal in this car) and multi-media buttons. They’re a back-up, because the sweeping 14.9in touchscreen and instrument display, that sits on machined brackets attached to the dash-top, is your go-to. The stuff that you don’t trigger by touch BMW would prefer you to operate by voice command, a service that always seems to work when company employees demonstrate it but less often when I try it. Almost all the traditional switchgear has been binned, including the stuff that controls the climate, which is a risky move. But it all looks like… the future.
And it’s clever. Two examples: infra-red panels heat the lower dash, door trims and console, helping preserve battery life. The panoramic roof uses PDLC (polymer dispersed liquid crystal) and applies a voltage to the middle layer to go from transparent to opaque in a split second.
Ours arrives extremely well-specced in the grand German luxury car tradition. An xDrive M50 is £94,000 list, to which is added here black sapphire paint, the Interior Design Suite, Visibility Pack, Technology Plus Pack, Comfort Plus Pack, Sky Lounge Pack, and the Clear & Bold interior application.
All up this car costs £115,670, marking it out as a hi-tech rival for the new Range Rover (as much as the Mercedes EQS and top-flight Teslas). The RR is also ultra-modern and majors on refinement above all else, although it remains ICE for now. More on the driving experience to come.