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BMW iX Review

Introduction

The BMW iX certainly looks like it’s from the future. But the future is here – and, unlike most futuristic concept cars, this one’s going to market.

Featuring a plethora of technologies, some of them (notably the electric motor) already familiar, some we’ve never seen before – but some we thought were science fiction.

Those who remember the i3 will recall it wasn’t well-liked. In fairness, it had ‘different-for-the-sake-of-it’ looks, and it was too far ahead of its time to be universally accepted. Although you can see the inspiration of the i3 in the new iX, this is a leap forward in many ways – and we expect this will be far more popular.

Select's rating score* - 4.1 / 5

At a Glance 

The iX has been built using composite materials, including reinforced carbon fibre, saving weight (although it still weighs around two-and-a-half tonnes).

It features BMW’s new-look enlarged kidney grilles (albeit they’re just large unperforated badges now). It might be odd to include them, given electric vehicles don't need them. But the kidney grille is such a vital identifier of the brand that it’s understandable BMW has kept them.

The front of the entry-level Sport trim looks a little bare. The headlights are mean-looking, thin, and next to the grilles, make it look angry. There are two oversized air intakes towards the bottom edges - and that’s about it.

You get a large, blackened bumper running around the car, which looks better than it sounds, but there’s little else to the front.

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The higher trim M-Sport increases the blackness, carving out a space beneath the headlights and making the air intakes look bigger. As a result, it looks sportier but leaves the central section underneath the grille in the main body colour. We prefer this and, given it’s the more expensive trim, BMW probably hopes you do, too.

Down the side, both trims look near identical and flat, with no lines or creases in the door to accentuate any particular design philosophy. A small black stripe joins the back windows to the rear windscreen, adding a bit of personality.

The rear of this new BMW is an acquired taste. Viewed diagonally, it looks fine, but looking square on at the back, it seems somewhat awkward. Like at the front, the lights are thin stripes, working their way into the centre of the car. The obligatory BMW badge sits in the middle, closely underneath the number plate. There is a lot of unused space beneath it that is only broken up by the black bodywork, which is less intrusive and more styled in M-Sport trim.

Some all-electric cars have a habit of looking unique for the sake of it. Unfortunately, this is often detrimental to their aesthetics, as if manufacturers must style electric vehicles so that they're obviously 'different'.

While the iX has flashes of this, most cosmetic changes are more to do with BMW’s modernised design signature than trying to make its electric cars stand out from the fossil-fuelled range.

Whether the iX is good looking or ugly is debatable. It might be one of those cars that’s so ugly it’s good looking - if that makes sense.

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Key Features

As you’ve probably gathered, the iX is available in two trims.

Sport gets you 21-inch wheels, full LED headlights, DAB radio, four-zone automatic air conditioning, heated front seats and leather-look upholstery. You also get electrically heated and folding door mirrors, BMW Live Cockpit Plus (a digital instrument display) and SatNav as part of the BMW Curved Display (part of its upgraded infotainment system, which we'll cover later). Then there is a wireless phone charger, and a Harman/Kardon surround sound system.

M-Sport adds more aggressive bumpers and an aerodynamic body styling kit, darkened glass for headlights, taillights, and anthracite headlining.

Both powertrains are four-wheel drive. xDrive40 produces 326PS and does 0-62mph in 6.1-seconds. xDrive50 produces 524PS and does 0-62mph in 4.6-seconds. Both models have a top speed of 124mph.

Ingeniously, front sensors are integrated into the plastic between the two kidney grilles. But the plastic is 'self-healing', so stone chips and scratches can effectively work their way out when heat is applied to the affected area.

The reversing camera is inside the BMW badge at the back, making it invisible.

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Range & Batteries

The xDrive40 contains a 71kWh battery and a claimed range of 257-miles. In the xDrive50, it's 105kWh, taking you up to 380-miles.

Our test drive of the xDrive50 suggested we were on course for about 340 miles from a full charge.

Performance & Drive

The iX looks like a big, heavy 4x4. And it is. But it doesn’t go like one.

Instead, put your foot down, and it leaps into life instantly, with acceleration on a par with a sports car.

The four-wheel-drive helps it get the clout down. You can put it into ‘Efficient’ mode, which reigns it in more smoothly, helpful for low-speed cruising or driving around town.

The car feels stable, with the heavy battery pack beneath the floor giving a low centre of gravity. Some body roll is inevitable in a large, heavy vehicle, but it’s not excessive, and it grips well around bends. Rear-wheel steering helps this, making tighter turns easier, although it still tends to understeer slightly on corner entry.

Adaptive suspension is fitted as standard, helping to smooth uneven surfaces. An excellent level of ride comfort results, making the iX straightforward to drive.

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The handling is not exactly athletic. It is hefty, after all – but it matches most rivals, although Jaguar’s i-Pace is more fun to drive and has better feedback through the steering.

Changing driving modes is a faff, requiring a button push on the centre console before choosing a setting from the infotainment system. This seems unnecessarily fiddly, given we’ve been toggling one button by the gear lever all these years.

Anyone who’s put off by difficult-to-judge braking – a common trait of electric vehicles – will be pleasantly surprised. The BMW’s brakes feel linear, making it simple to judge stopping distances. The trait in other cars stems from the regenerative braking system, which takes the heat energy generated under deceleration to put some charge back into the batteries. Thankfully, BMW has mastered it here.

If you turn the regeneration to maximum, one-pedal driving (where you lift off the throttle to brake and stop) is possible. Setting it to Auto means the car will judge how ferociously the brakes are applied depending on where you are, which, of course, it knows from the SatNav.

Journeys are smooth and quiet thanks to superb soundproofing. At high speed, you’ll think you’re coasting along much slower, as there’s little road noise from the tyres. The attention to detail with the iX’s aerodynamics, which helps lower the energy consumption figures, also ensure that windblast is kept at bay.

The iX even features an artificial futuristic ‘engine note’ created by movie composer Hans Zimmer. It's a bit gimmicky, but it’s a nice touch that doesn't try to mimic the typical sound of a real engine poorly.

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Charging

The xDrive40’s 71kWh battery can only be charged at a slower 150kW, whereas the xDrive50’s bigger 105kWh battery is faster at 200kW.

In percentage terms, this means they top up at virtually the same rate, from 10-80 per cent in just over half an hour.

There aren't many charging points in the United Kingdom that can manage those speeds yet, so you may be waiting longer for now. If you need to charge quickly, then Tesla’s supercharger network, which is far more established, might appeal – but you’ll need a Tesla.

For home-charging with a 7kW wall-box, it’ll take 11-hours to fully charge the xDrive40 – 16 hours for the xDrive50.

And if your still scratching your head a little as to what it all means, take a look at our complete guide to electric car charging, here!

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Running Costs & Emissions

Emissions are one thing you need not worry about, of course. Even the manufacturing process is optimised for environmental friendliness.

Running costs will vary depending on where you charge it, as public charging points vary in price. If you’re charging at home, make sure you’re on the most optimum energy tariff.

Furthermore, a low Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax will make the iX attractive to company car owners.

And, just for info, BMW offers a three-year unlimited-mileage warranty and has performed better than most rivals in recent reliability surveys.

Interior & Technology

The first thing you clock about the interior is the rounded but hexagonal steering wheel, which is just weird. Maybe you’ll eventually get used to it. But, if you prefer the wheel to rotate freely through your fingers when exiting a bend, you’ll find it disconcerting.

We can't understand the point. It adds nothing and makes driving slightly less convenient. Moreover, it's reinventing the wheel – utterly pointless. A flat-bottomed steering wheel (which, ironically, BMW bizarrely shies away from) would be far better.

Other than that blemish, the rest is gorgeous.

Minimalism reigns supreme with a clean, simple layout without looking bare or lacking.

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There’s an unmistakable premium feel with soft-touch surfaces. Even the air vents are styled and look like a miniature version of a conference suite’s air conditioning system. No common-as-muck plastic grilles are pumping out air here. Meanwhile, radiant surface heating uses infrared panels to emit heat from various surfaces in the cabin.

The interior leather is sustainably made, while the iDrive rotary controller, the volume control and the electric seat switches are crystal glass. And there are touch-sensitive buttons on a (sustainably sourced) walnut surround sat on the centre console. The crystal seems unnecessarily flashy, but the future is well and truly here.

The iDrive is upgraded, too, combining with the new BMW Live Cockpit Plus (the digital instrument display). Like in newer Mercs, this provides two screens in one unit – 12.3-inches for the instruments and 14.9-inches for the infotainment system.

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The new system is superbly clear, with easy-to-navigate menus and the responsiveness you’d expect from a brand-new smartphone. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included. The former can display SatNav directions on the Live Cockpit (the latter can’t, but it’ll be added soon via an automatic update).

Voice control is built-in and performs well, although the lack of physical controls for the climate control is disappointing. Why? Well, you’re forced into menus on the infotainment system, although BMW’s counter-argument will be to use the voice control.

The stereo system is excellent, too, with speakers integrated into various parts of the car, including the front headrests.

The head-up display is very clear, but the augmented reality SatNav will blow you away, displaying directions as if they were on the road itself. It's incredible and makes vague instructions from SatNav systems a thing of the past, as you follow an arrow on the street in front of you to know where to go.

The SatNav considers charging locations, too, and can learn your regular routes and warn you via your phone about unusual delays, so you can leave earlier. So it's beavering away even while you’re eating your porridge.

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Practicality & Boot Space

Space in the front is plentiful. So much so that there’s no need for the centre console to connect to the dashboard, so there’s a gap instead.

The front has loads of legroom and headroom. And because the roof doesn’t slope down that much towards the rear, there’s tonnes of headroom in the back, even if you have the panoramic sunroof (which, incidentally, can auto-dim at the touch of a button). Your feet aren’t restricted, either, as the floor is flat, while the seats are superbly comfortable.

Storage space is copious inside, too, with large door bins, two cupholders in the front and a generously sized cubby hole. Mind you; the glove box isn’t that big. Neither is the boot, sadly - it’s still 500-litres. So, unless you’re buying the entire family’s Christmas and birthday presents at the same time as a mammoth food shopping trip, you should be fine, but it’s smaller than its rivals.

On the plus side, the flat floor has no load lip, and the boot opens automatically.

The BMW's rear seats fold down automatically at the push of a button in a 40/20/40 configuration, increasing the cargo space to 1,750-litres.

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There’s a wireless phone charger in the front, plus two USB-C sockets, with two more sockets on the back of each front seat. The climate control can be adjusted in the back, too.

There are also a couple of tools for the back – a small tray table can be ‘plugged in’ to the back of the front seat so you can put a drink or laptop on it. But it’s horrendously fiddly – and seemingly made from incredibly cheap plastic. It’s such a faff that we wouldn’t bother with it – it’s utterly pointless – and we hope BMW can make a more elegant solution.

Unusually, the bonnet doesn’t open at all. This is disappointing as not only can you not admire the, ahem, lack of engine; it also means there’s no room for storage. This seems odd given how big the bonnet is. You ‘pop out’ the front BMW badge to fill it up with washer fluid, which is an elegant solution, but we can’t help wondering what’s happened to all the vacant space in the front.

Finally, soft close doors mean you don’t need to slam them shut, while a surround-view camera system means you can view your iX as if looking at it from any angle.

Safety

Euro NCAP hasn’t tested the iX yet, but safety isn’t BMW’s weakness.

The last eleven BMW cars to be tested all earned a five-star rating. That said, Euro NCAP revised its safety criteria in 2020 after all these cars were analysed, so they might not get five stars if they were re-tested today.

Nevertheless, in percentage terms, most BMWs tested in the last few years scored in the high 90s for adult occupants, mid-to-high 80s for children, and 70s for safety assists.

The BMW X5, tested in 2018, had scores of 89 per cent, 86 per cent and 75 per cent, respectively.

Speed limit detection, lane departure warning, a rear collision warning system, automatic emergency braking and an exit warning system (to stop you from opening the iX’s doors on a pedestrian or a bike) are included as standard. There's also a reversing camera and parking assistant.

BMW iX Range

Options

A Comfort Pack, which adds a heated steering wheel and lumbar support for the front seats, is available. Comfort Pack Plus also adds front massage seats and soft-close doors.

The Visibility Pack adds laser headlights, while the Sky Lounge Pack adds the large panoramic sunroof and sun protection glass. The Technology Plus Pack adds an interior camera, parking assistant plus and upgraded surround sound system.

Some of the extras included in these packs can be bought individually, too.

The default colour is solid white, although metallic paints are offered, while the 21-inch wheels can be upgraded to 22-inches.

Rival Cars

The iX doesn’t have many rivals, but the few that exist are worth considering.

Audi's e-tron and the excellent Jaguar i-Pace, which is more fun to drive and handles better in the bends, are both worthy contenders for your money. However, if you have a lot of it, then the Tesla Model X – which offers seven seats and a massive boot – shouldn’t go unnoticed.

We’d also recommend having a look at a Mercedes EQC.

Verdict & Next Steps

The BMW iX is truly a marvel of modern-day technology and engineering.

If you can get past the rather loud looks, you’ll be benefitting from the contrasting quietness of the iX in no time.

It’s not cheap, although fully kitted-out 4x4s rarely are – but the level of refinement is superb. It's very smooth and calm, has a magnificent interior, and the infotainment system is a step up from what we've seen before.

Competing cars are worth considering, as some handle better. The iX is hardly impractical, but the boot space is small, given its size.

Nevertheless, this is a real yardstick – and a great measure of the standards challengers will need to live up to.

Where to next?

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*Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the BMW iX

**Correct as of 13/01/2022. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £6286.68  Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.

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