It was time. While Mercedes and Audi have long had their first electric, all-wheel-drive autonomous cars on the road, BMW, which once pioneered electric mobility with its i3 and i8, has so far been able to offer only the electrified X3. But now the guys from Munich are back impressively with the iX. The leading technology in the X5 format combines everything BMW currently has in terms of electronic drive technology, assistance systems, connectivity and multimedia. Although this model will not bring electric mobility to people with prices starting at 77,300 euros, it is certainly a suitable answer for Tesla & Co.
Even at first glance, the 4.95-meter-long, nearly two-meter-wide, electric SUV with up to 22-inch wheels (20-inch chainstays) makes a stately figure. The designed “SAV reinterpretation” harmoniously blends the length and width of the X5 with the height of the X6 and the dimensions of the X7 wheel. Together, this results in a massive feat, with ultra-flat LED headlights and taillights as well as the integrated flow-in electric knobs, ultra-compact door handles, on the other hand with a tall body, massive rear section and a stunning kidney grille. Its brand and now calls it a “smart deck” without further ado for cameras and radar technology – knowing full well that these components take up only a tiny fraction of the space.
Let it be. There are few things that you can still recognize BMW in the iX, with the introduction of electric mobility that not only misses the distinctive engines and drive trains to experience the ultimate driving pleasure that characterizes the brand. In terms of the interior and controls, too, Bavarians have to redefine what a BMW of the electric age should look like – and just sound. They had the soundtrack of Electric Instruments created by Academy Award-winning multi-musical composer Hans Zimmer. In this regard, the iX also plays the role of a blueprint for all future electric models in many areas.
This can be clearly seen in the cockpit design. The traditionally tilted arrangement of the instruments towards the driver has led to the iX’s so-called “curved width”. It forms an all-digital display grid consisting of a 12.3-inch display and control screen with a 14.9-inch diagonal screen behind a common display facing the driver, a curved glass surface with a striking display. It looks very tidy and comfortable, but it needs some time at first to get familiar with the display and operating logic. If needed, an extended personal assistant is available for help and advice – and in natural language.
In addition, there are familiar elements such as the iDrive traction control or the sliding controls for the seat settings in the doors, which are more familiar than on Mercedes models. Depending on the equipment, this, in addition to the gear selector switch, the knob and the pulley wheel are made of cut frosted glass. Other materials such as the ‘Sense and Sensation bars’ in open-pore wood, olive leaf suede, high-quality textiles and microfiber fabrics underline the character of the interior lounge. In addition to the curved screen, hexagonal steering wheel, which was installed for the first time, and the optional frameless head display ensures a futuristic appearance.
The elimination of the central tunnel creates a sense of spaciousness on board and comfortable seats with integrated headrests, which can optionally be equipped with speakers, also contribute to the feeling of well-being. Also in the second row, up to three people have plenty of legroom without being restricted by the 500 liters of storage space behind them. If the backrests are folded forward, then 1750 liters are produced.
But BMW also has to reinvent itself when it comes to engines. The iX is initially available in two versions: the xDrive40 with 240 kW (326 hp) and a range of 425 km according to WLTP and the xDrive 50 with 385 kW (523 hp), which should ideally cover a maximum of 630 km on a single battery charge. The iX M60 will follow with more than 440 kW (600 hp) later. In all versions, there are two electric motors on all four wheels for all-wheel drive. In the iX xDrive 50, this results in a strong torque of 765 Nm, with which Strömer, as expected, kicks off the starting blocks with impressive power. The 100 is reached after 4.6 seconds, and the electronic lock is locked at 200 km / h so that the high-voltage battery of 112 kWh (105 kWh net) on its knees does not move too quickly.
Even according to the WLTP standard, BMW indicates a maximum consumption of 23.0 kWh per 100 km, and the display never fell below this during a test drive. If the energy storage is low, it can be filled up to 80 percent in about 35 minutes using 200 kW direct current. With AC, the charging box, which currently has a maximum current of 11 kW, takes a good eleven hours for the battery to fully charge again.
Although it can be taken for granted in an electric vehicle, the iX impresses with its smoothness and comfort. In addition to excellent aerodynamics (Cd value 0.25), the steel frame and sound-absorbing 22-inch tires absorb most of the wind noise at high speeds. Plus, the optional two-axle air suspension, which our test car was equipped with, keeps the load in its lane with easy sleepwalking.
But even on winding trails, the iX, despite its aluminum-and-carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) chassis in the roof, side and rear, still weighs two and a half tons, trumps BMW. The high-voltage battery, placed deep in the ground, lowers the center of gravity, ensures a balanced distribution of the load on the axle, and therefore agile driving behavior. Traction and driving stability are also created by the wheel slip constraints associated with the actuator, which were first combined with an all-wheel drive system, allowing for particularly fast and precise control interventions.
With the iX, BMW also prides itself on the largest range of driver aids ever used on a new model. For the first time, the collision warning system detects oncoming traffic when turning left as well as cyclists and pedestrians when turning right. The parking assistant including the rear camera and the reversing assistant is always on board. With optional systems, Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go function now provides better distance setting. Also new in the offering is an exit warning, which signals cyclists and pedestrians near the vehicle before the doors are opened, as well as a theft recording device.
When it comes to prices, Munich residents live in familiar territory. The BMW iX xDrive 50 is not available for less than 98,000 euros. Then of course not everything is there. 22-inch wheels cost €3,150, the full-color display €1,500 and the panoramic glass roof €3,300. The premium remains expensive – also or especially in the case of electric mobility. (aum / striker)
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