Part of BMW’s new portfolio of electrified vehicles, the iX XDrive50 is aimed at a global audience for mid-sized SUVs. Dan Neal runs the pros and cons.
The i sub-brand may have started out as greenwashing, but it is now thanks to the Paris climate accord, thanks to Tesla—central to BMW’s corporate strategy and imagery, starting with our guest, the iX xDrive50 .
Amazing on the inside, crazy on the outside—I’ll get into the styling—the iX is addressed to the tech-savvy, earth-hugging mainstream who are looking to buy or replace a similarly sized BMW X5. The company says the iX can also speak to those who prefer the “expressive” front-end styling of the X7. Crazy, in other words.
Scheduled to arrive in the US in the first quarter of 2022, the iX xDrive50 will be joined by the M division, a performance version of the iX M60. Also on the dock is the i4 eDrive40 and i4 M50, which are a proper EV sport sedan to cross-shop against the Porsche Taycan. By the way, sorry for the BMW model naming hell. It cannot be avoided.
The logic opens up to 195 kW between the IX charge and DC fast-charging capability with a range of about 300 miles. This range and health benefits will help the IX clear the limits of everyday practicality that the earlier brace of premium electrics—the Jaguar I-Pace, the Audi e-tron—couldn’t.
The initial range estimate sounds pessimistic to me. I took the Kriegsmarine-Gray IX for a long, undisciplined drive of about 185 miles in four hours through postcard Bavaria. I still had half the battery as stated. I must have a magnetic personality.
IX has multiple ownership rights. The drive units (motor/inverter/controller) are assembled at the factory in Dingolfing, with an electric motor of BMW’s own design, using electromagnets in the rotor instead of permanent magnets made from rare-earth metals. This is good.
The combined boom of the motors (516 hp and 564 lb-ft) can lift the IX to a top speed of 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and 124 mph shortly thereafter. The drive units are separated from the subframe to virtually eliminate motor vibrations reaching the cabin. Amidst picturesque villages with strict speed limits, the iX rests like a fine mainspring.
One of the heroes of this story is German composer Hans Zimmer, who helped create a mood-enhancing palette of synthesized sounds for IX called Iconic Sounds Electric. With Sports mode engaged, a hot, blazing warble cascades up and down with acceleration and speed. At peak power the cabin is filled with a continuous, polyphonic power cord, a hallelujah—applause. In other moods and modes, the car goes silent.
Whatever the IX is or does, its legs are: an all-aluminum suspension with an aluminum subframe; double-wishbone front suspension with anti-roll bar; five-link rear suspension with anti-roll bars (and some Trick-Ass spring struts); Two-axle air suspension with optional adaptive damping and automatic self-leveling. Plus, e-assisted, speed-variable steering and optional rear-wheel steering. Round the corner, the iX felt cramped in comparison to the New Zealand.
With iX, any topic will get you back on battery. At a press event in Berchtesgaden, BMW thoughtfully provided the partially dissected iX, exposing the right proper frame rail that secures the 105.2-kWh aluminum battery pack to the front and rear subframes. The frame rail and pack carry so much structural weight that engineers felt free to splurge on the dramatic single-piece panoramic glass ceiling with electrochromatic shading. That’s a big hole in the ceiling.
The iX’s aluminum-spec frame also features carbon-fibre reinforced elements around the roof rails and door pillars, which serve to lower the iX’s center of gravity. But compared to its carbon-dense forebears, like the i3 and i8 hybrids, the iX’s carbon-y bits seem almost residual.
In BMWs, the cockpits were close-quarters and driver-centered, and the human-machine interface was dominated by the tachometer and speedometer. In IX, all that gives way to an open and airy workspace, with plenty of room for your poultry. The front view is dominated by an extra-wide, gently radiated glass touchscreen monitor mounted on pylons on a microfiber-upholstered forward console. Space Ghost!
BMW’s interior designers chose to use a fair number of hard buttons, available but discreetly in what the company calls “shy technology”. But a selector is practically an exhibitionist: a cut-glass rotary controller in the floating center console, part of the executive package. It’s among those details that offer warmth and tact to buyers looking for an alternative to Teslas’ Vulcan minimalism.
Note to Tesla: The iX’s hexagonal-shaped steering wheel is a corrected yoke.
My question is, does BMW really want to sell electric vehicles or is this just an elaborate scheme to discredit the technology? Because, man, the iX’s exterior styling is pretty brutal. What is a monastery? Those tiny LED eyes, soft shoulders, severe belly, swollen nose with a glass-butterfly stripe. Is this some kind of purity test for eco-awareness? Because I am failing.
Some measurable portions of IX’s styling are exaggerated for effect—optic, directed at German domestic and political audiences. This is BMW, turning a page. While the auto industry represents about 5% of German GDP, the automakers themselves are deeply unpopular. BMW, in particular, has been reluctant to announce an end date for gas-powered cars.
2022 BMW IX xDrive 50
Base Price: $83,200
Drivetrain: Battery electric, with front- and rear-mounted AC synchronous motors with integrated power electronics; temperature controlled lithium-ion battery pack (105.2 kWh, 303 Ah); single-speed automatic transmission; Rear-biased all-wheel drive.
Combined system max power/torque: 516 hp/564 lb-ft
Length/Width/Height/Wheelbase: 195.0/77.4/66.7/118.1 inch
curb weight: 5,659 pounds
0-62 mph: 4.4 seconds
top speed: 124 mph (electronically limited)
Max Charging Rate: up to 195 kW; 90 miles in 10 minutes
EPA-Estimated Limit: 300 miles
Cargo Capacity: 35.5 cubic feet
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