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M-lite makeover gives flagship electric SUV outrageous performance

What is it?

It’s just possible that the arrival of this new M60 derivative means a murine aesthetic is no longer the most shocking thing about the BMW iX.

You can decide for yourself. On one hand, well, look at it. On the other hand, know that in M60 form, the dual-motor powertrain makes a combined 611bhp and 749lb ft. Monstrous figures both, and enough to fling this 2584kg electric SUV to 62mph in just 3.8sec, making it not only the most powerful electric BMW so far but also the most accelerative. The next-best i4 M50 saloon is all of 0.1sec slower, despite, interestingly, having 7bhp per tonne more to its name and less drag. 

The flagship iX will cost just under £117,000 when it goes on sale next month, making it £10,000 dearer than the 516bhp xDrive50 M Sport version that we already quite like. The difference isn’t exactly small change, although the M60 does come with a good degree of extra kit as standard and the hike in power isn’t merely the result of two or three lines of extra code.

The M60 introduces an upgraded, 355bhp rear motor – one whose rotor is 2cm longer than that of the motor used by the xDrive50, that has extra cooling and that uses a six-phase inverter, rather than a three-phase one. Word is that it fits neatly in the i4.

In the M60, the rear anti-roll bar is also beefed up, the damper rates are a fifth higher and the air springs and steering have received adjustments for a little more precision and control, should you ever need it.

The superficial changes are less meaningful. There’s some bronze-effect detailing and M60-specific 21in alloy wheels wrapped in 255-section Pirelli rubber put power to the ground. M logos are dotted about the interior but almost apologetically so, and the modular seats are the same as you’ll find in the xDrive50.

Clearly, the M60 isn't intended as some Lamborghini Urus-slaying street fighter but as an extra-quick extension of the current iX range.

What's it like?

Which is just how it plays out on the road. In the default driving mode, the M60 makes restoratively easy progress, like its lesser rangemates. The steering is still overly filtered but the gearing feels natural, as does pedal response and visibility throughout the spacious cabin is very good.

You would never know that marginally more torque than that developed by even the twin-turbocharged Mercedes-AMG V12 in the Pagani Huayra is only milliseconds away at any point.

As this is an M-lite model, the efforts of the motors are accompanied by a Hans Zimmer-designed soundtrack. But beyond the gentle and surprisingly convincing gruffness that percolates the cabin when you lightly squeeze the accelerator, the ambience is still more luxury limousine than high-performance SUV.

You can let M60 rip, of course, and to most dramatic effect in Sport driving mode, when Zimmer bares his teeth and the accelerator response is ramped up to levels that even an S54 straight six couldn’t hope to match.

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The slab of uniform acceleration that ensues is more impressive than captivating, but one notable feature of BMW’s motors is that the rate of acceleration doesn’t conspicuously tail off at higher speeds, as is so often the case with electric cars.

On the autobahn, the 155mph limit is reached with such ridiculous ease that were it not the rev-ceiling of the motors, I would swear 200mph were possible.

I didn’t get to put the M60 through many challenging corners, but during what opportunities presented themselves, it was competent enough, if not anything like as scything and adept as the i4 M50. The Porsche Cayenne S would also give it short shrift in balance, control and natural agility, but the M60 does at least feel fundamentally rear-driven, and there’s a reassuring consistency to the way it adopts up roll.

I wonder, though, whether that smidgeon of extra concerning capability over the xDrive50 will result in a marginally more reactive everyday gait on UK roads. We will find out soon enough, but if so, I’m not sure this is the iX to have, even for those with an unlimited budget.

Should I buy one?

The M60 isn't as offensive as you might think, and the chassis modifications really do make it more reassuring than the xDrive50 when you want to get from A to B just a little quicker than you normally might.

It sounds counterintuitive, but subtly weightier steering and closer body control make this 2.6-tonne car less tiring to drive quickly, while in Comfort mode it still slinks around in very laid-back fashion indeed. There's just that question mark over UK roads, which we will answer soon enough.

What the iX M60 isn't, however, is something to rival the better combustion-engined performance SUVs. If you want something big, quick and surprisingly agile, you're still better of choosing something from the upper reaches of the X5 range or anything by Porsche. And if you want an effortlessly quick but neat-handling, refined and versatile electric SUV, I'm struggling to see what's wrong with the iX xDrive50. 

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TempleOrion 31 May 2022

That grill makes a Ford Edsel's look classy...  

The Apprentice 25 May 2022

Seems to be becoming very common on here now to feature £100K+ cars, even more mundane ones are 50K, 60K.I can't see how they even work on leases 110k cars, it still leaves a £40-£50K secondhand car to shift and which 2nd hand buyers are going to have that? yet if they don't depreciate heavily the leases would be stupendously horrendous, even more so.


magic_marker 25 May 2022

"Murine aesthetic" I had to look that up - that's a good one!