BEST TESTS ’22: BMW’s iX is an Electric Concept Car You Can Buy

BMW tells us that it’s trailblazing iX is paves the way towards a future generation of BMWs that promises to redefine premium driving sustainability and pleasure. Developed from the ground up, inside out, this is also a car we have waited patiently to test for so many reasons. It’s controversial, to start with. All electric cars are. The fact that it arrived less than fully charged because of a scrum and a fight at a hard pressed Cape Town charging point only added fuel to that fire.

BMW iX a Concept Car for the Road

But what about this concept car for the road? What’s it like to drive? And to live with, for a bit? Well for starters, it feels just like that. Something straight out of your driving future — inside and out, and driving it. But it’s here now, so let’s just get on with it!

The first (and probably last) BMW built on a specialised modular, scalable platform, iX sustains strict environmental compliance through what Bavaria suggests is an all-encompassing approach to the extraction of raw materials. Using a high proportion of recycled materials and renewable electricity in its manufacturing process, it contributes to a ‘global warming saving’ of around 45 percent versus a comparable diesel Sports Activity Vehicle, over 200,000 kilometres of driving.

BMW calls its iX a modern Sports Activity Vehicle designed from the inside out to redefine space and luxury. Progressive and imposing, not everyone took to the iX’s clearly structured, reduced design language. Those who liked it, however loved it. It’s also a case of function over form. That innovatively manufactured and almost completely blanked off BMW kidney grille for instance hides many of its automated driving and systems camera and radar sensors.

Minimalist Design Showcases ’New Mobility’

BMW recons iX is a clear and minimalist design that showcases a new form of mobility. They say it is geared to squarely satisfy every occupants’ need as it enables each to best enjoy their time spent on travelling any journey in a relaxed, safe and secure new form of luxury. They may have a point. Expect to be stunned when you swing that door open to reveal a truly opulent showcar cockpit. Abounding in luxurious ambience, it feels vastly spacious inside iX.

Our tester’s splendid newly developed cross-stitched integral head restraint pews bring the aura of high-quality furniture. They invite you into a remarkable crystal, leather and wood encrusted space. You feel its i3 and i8 ancestors’ influence in there too, while the open space left by the expulsion of a monster central transmission tunnel brings an almost eerie sense of room. It also leaves more than enough space for thingy storage around the innovative centre console and just about everywhere else.

BMW’s latest generation crystal clear curved touchscreen iDrive system blends into the car’s instrumentation behind that Bauhaus steering wheel. Based on BMW’s ‘future toolkit’, this latest in car tech traverses several BMW development fields, from onboard network architecture to futuristic software and latest generation digital services advances. All while embracing Munich’s strides toward most efficient energy management, connectivity and automated driving.

20 Times More Powerful Computing

Among those advances, iX boasts computing prowess 20 times more powerful than previous models. To allow double the amount of data to be processed by vehicle sensors and further underpin significant future automated driving advances. The iX of course packs in a full selection of latest BMW driver aids. Its front collision warning system now even detects oncoming traffic when turning across oncoming traffic. And wayward cyclists and pedestrians, when steering away from the road.

All of the above is built into a carbon caged aluminium spaceframe flaunting carbon reinforced plastic in its roof, flanks and rear quarter. To try offset natural battery electric vehicle weight gains. The BMW iX also utilises advanced aerodynamics to cheat the wind and achieve an impressive 0.25 coefficient of drag. But the BMW Group Plant Dingolfing-built iX’s biggest claim to fame is its greenness. Which spreads throughout this quite remarkable machine

BMW for instance procures the cobalt and lithium required for those high-voltage batteries from controlled sources in Australia and Morocco, for supply to its battery cell manufacturers. Those battery cells, all iX aluminium, its FSC-certified wood, olive leaf tanned leather, floor mats made from recovered fish nets and other core raw materials, are all manufactured using only exclusively certified green power sources.

Revolutionary Synchronous iX Motors

Even its electric motors avoid the use of rare earths in their unique construction. Built as integrated single units in compact housings comprising all transmission and power electronics components, these current-excited electric motors eliminate the use magnets and the critical materials required to manufacture them. Synchronous electric motors are induced by fed-in electric energy, rather than conventional fixed permanent magnets.

Precisely powered rotor excitation has a further positive effect on these fifth-generation BMW eDrive tech motors’ performance. It enables immediate peak torque produced on pulling away, to be maintained over an extremely broad band and consistently maintain lightning fast power delivery. Munich promises a typical BMW sporty feel from the 385 kW and 765 Nm bi-motor BMW iX xDrive50.

Geared to ensure emissions-free driving pleasure, The BMW iX has fast-acting and precise electric bi-motor all-wheel drive. Comprising two electric motors, one on the front axle and another at the rear, it boasts near-actuator wheel slip limitation, our test barge included two-axle air suspension, Integral Active Steering and Sport brakes too. It’s all powered by a fifth-generation BMW eDrive battery pack sitting low down in the vehicle floor as an integral component of the chassis.

BMW iX Has a Market Leading 630 km Range

The lithium-ion high energy density high-voltage battery pack yields 20% improved gravimetric energy density for a gross energy content of over 100 kWh. That allows iX to boast a 20 kWh per 100 km WLTP combined electric power consumption to ensure a most impressive and market-leading 630 kilometres of WLTP-calculated battery electric operating range. At zero local CO2 emissions. BMW also claims 4.6 second zero to 100 km/h and iX is rated for a 200 km/h top speed.

Recharging is normally a challenge, but iX’s extreme range makes living with an electric car far easier. It is a mere formality to plug it in to your wall charger and the power it consumes costs about a fifth or less of what we’d pay to fuel a frugal X5 M50d. Who knows how much less than an X5M? Interestingly, were you to take your home off the grid and charge your iX via you domestic solar or similar system, not only would you drive, but you’d also basically live for free.

So what is this BMW showcar for the road like to drive? Well, first off, as noted, iX brings that weird sensation of space and freedom inside. Love it or hate it, that at room is really and truly concept car cool and we felt privileged to drive it. Some of the controls and operating systems take a bit of time to get one’s head around, but thy are all quit logical in the end. And once again, neat.

Cue Skywalker & Vader’s Pods

It ‘fires up’ and operates stealthily. No noise, no fuss, no bother. But boot it and by golly, does it go! That immediate maximum torque response is brutal and it just keeps on shoving from there. Cue Skywalker or Vader’s pods. Just quieter. And real! Our test data was better than BMW’s claims and it felt like it too. Driven normally, this big electric bus is friendly to live with. We enjoyed single pedal motoring, but that takes a bit of practice and patience to get used to. It was good to occasionally watch the range climb too.

Overall this car proved a bit of a conundrum. On the one hand from a petrolhead point of view, charging challenges and where that electricity comes from, what will one day become of that huge battery, and all that, are always questions. But this BMW iX renders all of that back of mind in so many ways. It’s now adequate driving range being the prime contributor.

Just looked at as another car on another day, the BMW iX is one of the finest we have driven this year. Electric warts and all. And that’s a huge electric step forward for us. — Michele Lupini

Data & Testing: Giordano Lupini

Motors: 2x synchronous electric
Output: 385 Kw 765 Nm combined
Drive: Direct AWD
Battery: 100 kWh lithium-ion
0-60 km/h:          2.23 sec
0-100 km/h:         4.29 sec
0-120 km/h:         5.78 sec
0-160 km/h:         9.88 sec
400m:               12.5 sec @ 182 km/h
80-120 km/h:        2.64 sec
120-160 km/h:       3.88 sec
VMax:               200 km/h
Energy Consumption: 21 kWh/100 km
CO2:                0 g/km local
Warranty/Service:   2y 100K/5y 100K km
LIST PRICE:         R2.225M
RATED:              9
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