BMW’s bold new electric iX SUV, revealed today in near-production form, will serve as the firm’s “technology flagship” when it goes on sale late next year.
The five-seat SUV, which was previewed by the Vision iNext concept, will offer up to 500bhp from two electric motors that drive all four wheels. According to BMW’s R&D boss, Frank Weber, it will have a 0-62mph time of less than five seconds and a range of more than 373 miles.
The iX is BMW’s second dedicated fully-electric production model after the seven-year-old i3. Weber said the iX nameplate was chosen to signify the new model’s position at the top of the electric i line-up and its role in showcasing technology: it uses the new fifth-generation version of BMW’s electric drive system, and also offers high levels of autonomous and connected technology. The iX will take on the likes of the Audi e-tron quattro and Mercedes-Benz EQC, as well as offerings from EV-only firms such as the Tesla Model S and Nio ES8.
Weber said that, while broadly similar in size to the X5 externally, the interior of the iX “offers accommodation and load-carrying space comparable to the X7”, thanks to the electric platform, which makes extensive use of carbon fibre in its construction.
The iX, developed under the internal codename i20, is a departure from BMW’s previously announced plan to base future electric models on the same platforms as its existing petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid cars. It uses a new aluminium spaceframe that supports an inner carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) structure, and a body made out of a combination of aluminium, composite plastic and CFRP.
Weber said the platform is described by Weber a “totally new development”, though he says it is “highly compatible” with the CLAR platform used for the likes of the 3 Series and X5, suggesting key elements of its engineering will be used by other new BMW i sub-brand models in the future. This shared chassis componentry is key to allowing BMW to produce the iX alongside the 5, 6, 7 and 8 Series at its Dingolfing factory in Germany.
The iX adapts the controversial design of the iNext concept in 2018, with a large blanked off grille, largely unadorned flanks, frameless doors, fixed B-pillars, and tapered glasshouse. Without the need for a front radiator, the large grille houses the cameras, radar and sensors needed for the driver assistance systems.
For the first time in a modern BMW model, the iX will feature a fixed clamshell-style bonnet. “Without a traditional engine or frunk [front trunk], there is no need for customers to open the bonnet,” said BMW design boss, Domagoj Dukec. The windscreen washer bottle is accessed via the BMW emblem above the grille. BMW’s traditional corona light graphic has been replaced by a quartet of light bands in the upper part of the slim headlamp assemblies. Full-LED lights are standard, though buyers will also be able to specify Laser lights as an option.