BMW is entering yet another foray in its EV strategy with the introduction of the iX, which will occupy a rather niche segment in the German marque’s portfolio, as it offers part SUV and part MPV proportions. Built on the company’s large platform that also underpins the X7, the iX is proportionally longer, narrower and lower than its X5 counterpart, making it relatively roomy inside.
Sustainability remains high on BMW’s agenda, and having been one of the first premium manufacturers to bring a modern electric car to market back in 2015, the market is seeing more players follow suit. The i3 was a good start indeed, but the game has since moved on as battery technology and energy density becomes better. Jaguar’s launch of the iPace made a huge statement in Mzansi and around the world as it brought with it decent electric range, all wrapped in one of the most versatile packages. A great product, but quite pricey and that sticker price has only ticked up since then, with the model now coming in over R2m. Mind you, it cost around R1.6m when it launched back in 2019!
BMW seems to be gunning at the iPace with its latest iX and, instead of just offering it in one derivative like Jaguar has, the iX is available in two flavours; the xDrive 40 and the xDrive 50.
Both have two electric motors, one on each axle. The former has 240 kW, while the latter makes 385 kW and it was this model that we got to put through its paces at its global launch in Munich, Germany.
Styling wise, EVs give designers an unconventional approach as there is no engine and ancillaries to work around, so they can, for instance, place more active driver aids behind the grille. Another aspect is the ability to create less overhangs and push the wheels further into each corner of the car, thereby creating more cabin space, thanks to a longer wheelbase. As is the case with most EVs, the batteries are located on the floor, meaning designers can work around this as there is no centre tunnel for the propshafts etc. Space has definitely been optimised and that is the first thing you notice when you climb aboard, particularly in the rear quarters. Minimalist in its execution, the instrument cluster comprises a 12.3” instrument cluster, which is combined with the 14.9” infotainment to create a seamless, curved digital screen that is angled towards the driver.
Sustainability remains the buzz word with BMW’s i products and according to the Bavarian marque, the iX contains up to 90% of recycled material in its make-up, which is essential to close the loop in its “green” manufacturing cycle. Unlike the i3, the iX has definitely taken things a step further with regards to perceived quality and materials, lending an ambiance of premiumness throughout the vehicle. The use of carbon fibre construction, which is something that BMW has used extensively in its i cars and the 7 Series in particular, has ensured the iX keeps weight down all the while enhancing its structural integrity.
Being the fifth generation e-Drive technology, the iX’s batteries offer significantly better energy efficiency and density than its predecessors. For instance, the 100 kWh gross energy content is bang up to date with the best available globally, thus giving the xDrive 50 variant of the iX a 630 km range according to the WLTP test cycle, but one can expect around 400 km in real-world terms, which is still impressive. Charging can be done either via your conventional 240V plug, or a charging Wallbox, while the public DC rapid chargers of up to 200 kW can be utilised, which can charge the battery from 10 to 80% in only 40 minutes, while a quick 120 km range can be achieved in just 10 minutes.
However, the iX’s repertoire is in the way it drives, and I am happy to report that dynamically, the engineers have done well to give it a very responsive nature. Now, it might not be the first word in BMW dynamics, but it managed to hold its own when chucked into some switchbacks of the German countryside. Body roll, in particular, is minimal thanks largely to the model’s low centre of gravity and the extensive use of carbon fibre materials. Power is instantaneous, as is the case with electric cars, while regenerative braking can be varied via the gear lever selector – with B offering maximum regeneration – you can essentially drive the vehicle with just one pedal without needing to touch the brakes.
Sporting either 21 or 22” Aerodynamic Wheels, the iX sadly has very little off-road capability, but could more than likely tackle some gravel tracks. To be frank, that is not the model’s downfall as many BMW SUVs, save for those kitted out with the optional off-road package, are meant to be urban warriors. Expect the iX on sale from this month, while the high-performance M Performance variant, with around 450kW and 1 000Nm, is earmarked for 2022.
Jaguar’s iPace remains an impressive product, however, the advent of the BMW iX simply moves the game on. It is capacious enough for the family with decent range to take it on a family road trip. EVs might still have a low uptake due to range anxiety and capital outlay, but the BMW iX makes a rather compelling argument for electric mobility.