From £99,7858
Upper-level trim takes iX’s performance, range, comfort and refinement to impressive heights

What is it?

This is what will ultimately be the middle-sitting of three available versions of the all-new, all-electric BMW iX: the firm’s new zero-emissions luxury flagship model, and receptacle for its most advanced platform, connectivity and semi-autonomous driving technology, as well as its very latest electric propulsion tech. We’ve already driven the iX abroad, but in the UK so far, only in entry-level BMW iX xDrive40 form.

Unlike other luxury EVs, the iX offers twin electric drive motors (the electrically excited kind, which don’t rely on heavy rare earth metals to serve as permanent magnets) whichever version you buy. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t several technical lures to tempt you to part with the extra £25k you’ll need to step up from a 40 to a 50. 

There’s the usual power upgrade, which is quite a big one here (516bhp vs 322bhp). Then there’s the bigger drive battery (105kWh usable capacity vs 71kWh) and the associated improvement to usable range (the 50 is WLTP certified to put 120 miles more between charges than the 40). The 50 will also hit faster DC rapid-charging speeds (195kW vs 150kW). 

For customers with the wherewithal to have either, you can’t imagine there’ll be much of a decision to make, but there is more to convince if needed. BMW fits multi-chamber air suspension and four-wheel, active-ratio steering to iX 50 models as standard, whereas 40s only get those systems as cost options. Have M Sport trim and you’ll get uprated brakes, too, which ought to come in handy when slowing what is a 2510kg car without anyone or anything aboard.

The ‘carbon cage’ construction of this car’s mixed-material chassis and its new-generation model platform may both be cutting-edge, but a five-metre SUV with twice as much on-board energy storage as the longest-range Nissan Leaf is always going to be hefty. This is a heavy car.

What's it like?

It feels predictably big, tall and wide on the road, but surprisingly wieldy and balanced in its handling, too, and very ready to be driven quickly and keenly, should you want to. You might well not want to. This is a luxury car, after all - but it’s one with a broader spread of dynamic capability than you may be prepared for. I’m not sure I can remember another car quite like it, one that can be quite so quiet, smooth, versatile and comfortable at one moment, and then so instantaneously rapid the next. One that can do it all. An Audi E-tron S might approach it, but the Tesla Model X doesn’t even get close.

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BMW’s controversial current design philosophy hits a higher gear with this car, and lots of people have had lots to say about the iX’s styling as a result. That may even be considered a measure of the car’s success back at BMW HQ.

We know the rationale well enough by now. This car’s intended to look confident, characterful and arresting rather than beautiful - and to these eyes, in the metal rather than pictures, it does. You can make anything look confident and characterful, after all - but consistently designing beautiful SUVs, crossovers and compact MPVs of awkward proportions is near-enough impossible. So BMW is aiming instead for cars so esoteric, bold and distinctive that they seem to fully ‘own’ whatever effect they have on you, and they leave a lasting impression.

Without any sense of irony, BMW describes this as a car that’s been designed deliberately from the inside out. That ‘grille’ has actually been redubbed an ‘intelligence panel’ in the press material. (This car has five cameras, five radar transceivers and 12 ultrasonic sensors around its exterior, and is alleged to be ready for the enabling of level three autonomous driving ‘over the air’ - at an additional user subscription cost, needless to say - when it becomes legally allowable.)

At any rate, the styling didn’t offend me in the raw nearly as much as other recent BMW designs have. And the longer I looked at the iX, the more I saw the story of the development of the modern BMW i brand being retold in its design. This is a bit like a supersized BMW i3, you know. It’s a simplistic comparison, but just look. It has the pinched C-pillar, the scalloped lower flanks and the clamshell bonnet; and while it’s not quite as high-waisted or cabin-forwards as the electric supermini, otherwise its proportions aren’t too different.

On the inside, the echoes are clearer still. You find a chunky two-spoke steering wheel, a low sloping dash and a lowish scuttle offering good all-round visibility. A flat cabin floor with open footwells and a clever raised centre console. Exposed carbonfibre around the door closures and a predominance of appealing natural and recycled materials further inside. A floating digital instrumentation and infotainment screen. Remind you of anything? 

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It sounds a bit ridiculous to suggest that BMW would have used a slow-selling £35,000 electric city car as the design inspiration for its all-important, £100,000 techno-flagship SUV, but that’s very much how it looks to me. Maybe they’re just referencing what they’ve got, adding intrigue and familial character where they can. 

The risk with designing the luxury car of the future, I guess, is that you sire an orphan – something that just doesn’t fit. BMW has certainly sidestepped that problem. The iX is also a car with less of the affected grandeur that can prevent you from building affection for a big luxury car. It’s a lovely place in which to travel – not just spacious but really smartly and expensively appointed, and somehow still a little understated. But moreover, it doesn’t take itself too seriously; not inside or outside. It’s not aloof.

It is, however, seriously comfortable on the move. We said as much about the car on its standard steel suspension, but the xDrive50’s air springs take its suppleness and isolation on another step. Our test car rode on optional 22in wheels, but you’d never have known. The car’s motorway ride is exceptional. Its filtering of bigger, sharper lumps and bumps around town is very impressive as well. If it falters anywhere, it’s only on cambered and uneven country roads, where asymmetrical suspension inputs can make the body joggle from side to side a little, movement you feel principally because you’re sitting high up in an SUV.

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There are some recognisable BMW qualities about the car’s performance and handling, and some new ones - but they combine to agreeable effect. Those electrically excited motors certainly seem to respond very quickly, even by electric car standards, and they keep working really hard and giving abundant extra thrust at motorway speeds. 

The iX xDrive50 would be a very fast car just about anywhere you’d be likely to drive it in the UK. It’s quicker than it needs to be, frankly, allowing for its size. If anything, it could afford to have had slightly more dulled throttle response, just for the benefit of drivability - not that wrapping your head around the car’s sheer keenness takes very long. You just learn not to dive in with big pedal applications, because the car’s part-throttle potency is more than enough to meet most roll-on demands. Get on terms with what those motors can do and you can control this car’s progress and momentum very finely indeed. Drive it bullishly, though, and it can feel surprisingly aggressive and antisocial.

It’s a little frustrating that BMW’s energy recuperation regime forces you to accept the car’s default ‘adaptive’ regen setting if you want the car to fully coast along an open road and conserve momentum. (The manually selectable alternative settings are high, medium and low - but there’s no off, and there are no paddles.) When the car decides for itself to blend up regenerative braking on a trailing throttle, it can be an unwelcome surprise - especially in close-quartered traffic.

We criticised BMW’s decision to go with an off-circular ‘polygonal’ steering wheel for this car with the standard steering set-up, and you’ll know if that’s the sort of move that’ll bother you. It didn’t bother me too much in combination with the iX xDrive50’s Integral Active four-wheel steering system, at any rate, because the progressive pace of the system is such that you don't need to ‘feed’ the wheel around roundabouts and T-junctions. 

The car rolls a little, but corners with pleasing agility and a consistently neutral, stable line and balance of grip. There is a filtered lightness about the steering, but it’s in keeping with a luxury car - and in spite of it, you don’t feel the need to give notice for the car’s front end to respond. The car doesn’t struggle to regain its steady-state cornering composure when unsettled by a bump or an application of power. And there’s just a hint of rear-driven rotation about its lower-speed cornering attitude under power – just enough to make a big car feel BMWish.

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As regards range, we tested the car in fairly chilly conditions, but not exclusively those below 10deg C - and it promised a real-world, mixed-route range of around 290 miles at best, ranging down to about 260 miles around freezing. That's not the sort of autonomy you might want of an ultimate EV, to lift it out of the range anxiety equation entirely, then, but it's a very viable, daily-drivable proposition for all but the highest-mileage drivers all the same.

Should I buy one?

There’s an informality and inclusiveness about the iX that’s genuinely disarming and likable. It’s not a car you buy to be seen in, or to project your status with, but those might not be the greatest qualities in a modern luxury operator anyway, and maybe that’s the point. This is a car to be used, to enrich the everyday - and whatever you think of the way it looks, it’d be very good at that.

It’s fast and comfortable; refined and enveloping; spacious, practical, versatile - and rangey enough. And, from the minerals in its battery pack and metals in its motors, to its recycled carpets and olive-tanned leathers, it’s made in the most responsible and sustainable way that BMW can come up with.

There’s an awful lot more to this car, in short, than may initially affront your eye. If there’s a big, upmarket electric car on the market right now that’s really worth paying a luxury-level premium for, you’re probably staring right at it - whether you're staring for the right reasons or not.

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Aussie David 8 April 2022

I ordered my new iX 50 in March 2022 in Sydney, delivery is expected in December 2022.

I searched for 18 months before I could find an electric car that I would actually buy. I never planned to buy the iX due to its size and price. But after driving it I was hooked. It is a car without compromise. It is luxurious, seriously quick, cutting edge high tech, handles and rides exceptionally well, and the interior is spectacular. After driving down the road for just 1km my wife was saying, "can we buy it". It has one of the biggest batteries currently on sale anywhere in the world with real world range in Australia with spirited motorway or country highway driving of around 420km (365km is the worst I have seen on line in a cold climate). The WLTP range of 630km is a bit optomistic. The charging infrastructure is 2 years away from being respectable, but with that range I can go anywhere I need to go without worrying about charging. You can top up for 10 minute charging sessions during rest breaks and charge further during meal breaks. There is no range anxiety. I have never had cause to drive more than 400km in a day over the past 18 years. Most other cars only have a WLTP range of 420km, so you drive 2 hours and spend 30 minutes charging, which is just ridiculous.

I was seriously considering buying the BMW i4 M50,but could not get past the rear foot and leg space in the back seat. It has the same body as the 4 series BMW but the batteries take up the entire foot space for rear passengers and trhe driver has to lift their seat 100mm just to fit a back seat adult passenger. Then you are left with a high awkward knee position with no thigh support and an awkward rear set angle. With it's size I would have had to regularly towed a trailer to meet my storage needs due to the boot shape. The rear space in the iX 50  on the otherhand is phenominal and the boot space is very practical. Plus it tows 2.6 t. I couldn't justify buying the i4 M50 and stepped up to the iX 50.

I can't wait for my new iX 50 to arrive. It will be a very pleasurable daily drive, a great weekend drive, plus a fun car to drive on a windy road or at the traffic light Grand Prix.

 

shiftright 27 January 2022

The interior is well done and a bold departure from traditionally staid BMW desigs. The exterior however, makes me vomit a bit in my mouth everytime I see it. It also makes me irrationally angry and irritated.

harf 24 January 2022

Credit where it's due, I think it's a really well balanced and well written article. Acknowledging the, ahem, challenging aesthetic and framing that alongside its more positive attributes.

Does this set a record for the biggest price gap between the base model and mid range - £25k!!! That's extraordinary. I agree with another poster here that it is really rather galling to see £100k only buys you an electric 5 seat SUV these days.

 You've gotta really want it for that money, and I'm really not sure why you would. Ah well