iX xDrive40 lights a new path for local EVs

Otis Daniels_Finck
Staff reporter

The imposing and bold BMW iX heralds a new age in mobility for the Bavarian carmaker and (somewhat contentiously) also redefines the Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV) concept as the marque winds its way towards the Neue Klasse models expected from the middle of the decade.

Better in the metal

At first glance, the pioneering character of the iX clearly shines through in its exterior design. And yes, it does look better in real life than on images. The big, upright kidney grille, inspired by the BMW Garmish concept (and first used on the BMW 4-Series), is almost completely blanked off.

With complex design patterns, its surface is the product of innovative manufacturing techniques furnishing it with self-healing and scratch-resistant properties. It also incorporates camera and radar sensors for the new iDrive control/operation system.

Besides the intelligence panel in the grille, the iX also has an array of other discreetly positioned "shy-tech" devices - camera, radar and ultrasonic sensors - inconspicuously integrated into the body edging at the front and rear of the vehicle.

The daytime driving lights are incorporated in two-dimensional strips (including the turn indicators) along the upper edge of the full-LED headlight units (BMW Laserlight units are available as an option). Interestingly, the BMW roundel above the kidney grille serves as a filler neck for washer fluid, and the bonnet has no opening mechanism. Only workshop technicians can access this.

Seen from the side, the iX has minimalist surface sculpting and the nearly rectangular contours of wheel arches, the tapered window graphic to the rear and forward slanting C-pillars are hallmark design elements of the X family. Yet, its doors with handles integrated flush into bodywork (with optional Soft Close Function), frameless windows (previously only used on BMW Coupes) and low roofline set it apart from its X relatives.

With a super-slim base, the side mirrors are aerodynamically optimised to reduce wind noise and visibility, and the black surround at the lower edge of the body forms a band around the car. At the rear, the minimalist, generic rear design of the iX, with slim, single-piece rear LED lights and tailgate extending across the whole of the rear, in my view, is somewhat mundane compared to the ornate front end.

Distinctive blue accents are found in the outer areas of the bumper, the side skirts (references the presence of the high-voltage battery) and the logos on the bonnet and tailgate are ringed in BMW i Blue. Optional design packages, including a Sport package and BMW Individual Exterior Line Titanium Bronze are available.

Designed from the inside out

BMW has designed the new iX from the inside out - taking particular care to create a modern and minimalist interior with a luxurious lounge-style ambience. Dominant features of this new design approach include the fully digital BMW Curved Display grouping the latest generation of the iDrive operating system with sustainable, high-quality materials and shy tech.

The next interesting feature you encounter is the hexagonal steering wheel, making its debut in the BMW iX. Its polygonal geometry is inspired by racing-car steering wheels, and is well suited for switching between automated and active driving (the iX is Level 3 autonomous driving ready).

The six-sided wheel also improves ease of access and gives one a better view of the section of the Curved Display positioned directly behind the steering wheel, and it never feels uncomfortable or awkward. On the contrary, it fell easily to hand, and steering inputs were quite normal on the road.

The spacious feel is further helped by the slim Loft Stone Grey instrument panel and the free-standing BMW Curved Display (making its production vehicle debut) in a frameless, single-piece glass surface and an around 50% reduction in the number of buttons and switchgear. The high-quality display technology with anti-reflective glass is larger and sharper than in other BMWs. It combines the 12.3-inch info display and the 14.9-inch control display to form a single unit angled towards the driver.

The interlinked display uses BMW Operating System 8 to deliver a whole new graphics experience. The cluster offers new, customisable display options, and its intuitive operation (by voice or touch control) makes it easy to use. All the elements of the iDrive menu can still be selected and activated with the centre console controller, enclosed by a panel surface - in our top-spec test vehicles made from FSC-certified wood with open-pore walnut finish.

The Touch Controller's Swarovski-type polished crystal glass-effect finish has its origins in the X7 but nestled between the Start/Stop button, and the parking brake button is a new rocker switch that takes the place of the customary gear selector lever.

The absence of a centre tunnel creates space for extra storage, cupholders, a smartphone tray with inductive charging, a 12V power connection and two USB-C ports. (No regular USB ports are available in the iX, so you need to either have a USB-C compatible cable ready or an adaptor for this.)

Seamless power delivery

Pressing the Start/Stop button sparked an acoustic hum. This sound was created in a collaboration between composer Hans Zimmer and the creative director for sound at the BMW Group, Renzo Vitale.

BMW iX xDrive40 boasts a power output of 240 kW and 630 N.m of torque which gives it a 0-100 km/h acceleration time of 6,1 seconds.

The drive system in the iX xDrive50 (featuring a 190kW electric motor on the front axle and another delivering 230kW at the rear axle) produces a total output of 385 kW and 765 Nm of torque, making the iX surreally quick for a 2.5-tonne monster. It reaches 100 km/h from standstill in 4.6 seconds, with a limited top speed of 200 km/h.

Range and recharging

With fifth-generation BMW eDrive technology, the volumetric energy density of the high-voltage battery at the cell level is up by around 40% compared to the battery in the BMW i3. The battery in the iX xDrive50 has a net energy content of 105.2 kWh (gross energy content: 111.5 kWh).

BMW claims the efficiency of the drive technology, paired with the very latest battery cell technology, results in WLTP-calculated ranges of up to 630 km in the iX xDrive50 (and up to 425 km in the 240kW BMW iX xDrive40). This means average electric power consumption in the WLTP cycle of less than 21 kWh per 100 km (under 20 kWh / 100 km for the iX xDrive40).

The good range of the iX, even in Sport mode, also tempered the range anxiety generally associated with electric vehicles, and this made our trip even more enjoyable.

The optimised aerodynamic properties of the iX, contributing to a drag coefficient of only 0.25 further, contribute to improved efficiency, range and adaptive recuperation of overrun, coasting, and active brake energy.

New charging technology in the iX enables DC (direct current) fast charging with extremely high charging power. The xDrive50 can replenish its battery at up to 200 kW (the maximum charging capacity of the xDrive40 is 150 kW). This means a ten-minute plug-in time can provide sufficient energy to add more than 120 km of range. The battery's charge can be increased from 10 to 80% of its full capacity in under 40 minutes.

The iX also comes standard with an acoustic pedestrian protection system to alert other road users that it's approaching. Artificially generated and emitted through exterior speakers, the sound is active up to driving speeds of 21 km/h in European markets.

Also, the battery located low down in the underbody ensures a lower centre of gravity. Combined with its even weight distribution, the BMW iX feels solid and comfortable on the road. Wind noise is minimal, even at higher speeds, but road noise can be intrusive in the quiet cabin, depending on the road surface.

The BMW iX xDrive40/50 is an impressive full-electric SAV and serves as a good indicator of what can be expected from BMW in future.

Contact Pupkewitz BMW on 061 295 8100 to learn more.