Electric SUV To Challenge Tesla Model X?

Electric SUV To Challenge Tesla Model X?

SUVs make up over 45% of the European market, while crossovers and SUVs are around

SUVs make up over 45% of the European market, while crossovers and SUVs are around half of US sales. So it’s no surprise that the other new pure-electric vehicle to arrive from BMW alongside the sedan-shaped i4 is in this class: the iX. Whereas the recently released BMW iX3 is based on the existing X3 SUV, the iX was meant to be electric from the outset. With the volume in the SUV market, will this be BMW’s most popular EV yet?

The iX is around the same size as the X5, a little longer but a little narrower and shorter. But while there is clear BMW DNA in the design, the appearance is more angular, and the kidney grille is bigger than ever. It’s not as prominent as in the Vision iNEXT concept that the iX comes from, thankfully, and the numberplate tempers this as well. The doors are also conventional compared to the iNEXT’s “suicide” arrangement. Overall, this is a more avant-garde looking vehicle than the X5, but not as much as, for example, the VW ID. electric range. It does have an impressive drag coefficient of just 0.25 – but Tesla’s cars are even better.

BMW iX: Versions

The iX comes in two main flavors – the xDrive40 and xDrive50. Both have all-wheel drive, but the motor power and battery size are quite different. The xDrive40 has 326hp and a 76.6kWh battery (71kW net), while the xDrive50 has 523hp and a 111.5kWh battery (105.2kW net). There’s an even more powerful xDrive M60 on the horizon with over 600hp, but few further details have been released yet.

Both drivetrains can be purchased with either Sport or M Sport trims. Both are well specified, including a host of driving assistance aids, parking camera, wireless phone charging and four-zone air conditioning. The M Sport adds a different type of 21in alloy wheel, some aerodynamic body additions, plus M Sport brakes. Of course, this is a German car, so there are quite a few option packs you can add as well, although some of these are included with the M Sport so upgrading to higher levels is a bit cheaper. The Head Up Display, for example, is included with the M Sport.

BMW iX: Driving Experience

With nearly 200hp between the xDrive40 and xDrive50, performance varies a lot too. But both cars are fast. The xDrive40 takes 6.1 seconds to hit 62mph, whereas the xDrive50 takes a mere 4.6 seconds. BMW has added customizable IconicSounds Electric vehicle audio developed in collaboration with Hans Zimmer to improve the experience, but these aren’t fake engine noises. They’re much more space age and an acquired taste (which I rather like).

BMW does give you the option to choose regenerative braking level, but it’s better to leave the car in the Adaptive mode. This uses the navigation system and sensors to adjust recuperation, providing more as you approach a junction but less on the highway. Most normal drivers probably don’t want to bother with this kind of adjustment, particularly SUV drivers, so this is a great feature to have most of the time.

Dynamically, the iX is nimbler than it should be. However, this is a heavy car. The xDrive40 weighs 2,365kg and the xDrive50 2,510. Much of that mass is low down so handling is better than you might expect for such a corpulent vehicle. Whereas the i4 can be really involving and fun to drive across the board, the iX’s party trick is its acceleration, particularly in xDrive50 form. That said, BMW has been making great-handling SUVs for a couple of decades now, and it really shows with how well the iX can throw its weight around.

BMW iX: Interior and Luggage Capacity

Although BMW has simplified the interiors of its new electric cars compared to its fossil fuel variants, the iX is nowhere near as spartan inside as a Tesla. There is a conventional stalk for the windscreen wipers, for example. You still get discrete buttons for other functions such as lights and drive modes, too, although most air conditioning functions are operated via the touchscreen.

Speaking of the display, this is presented as what looks like one incredibly wide screen that spans from behind the steering wheel to the central media area. However, it is actually made up of a 12.3in panel for instrumentation, with a 14.9in panel next door for controls and media functions. This system runs the latest BMW iDrive based on Operating System 8. You can operate the menu using the rotating knob in the central console or use touch. However, the satnav interface is a little opaquer than it should be.

The front seats are comfortable and both driver and passenger have plenty of room. Rear passenger space is excellent, too. There’s plenty of leg and knee room. The middle seat is quite wide, so if you’re an adult and draw the short straw as third rear passenger, it won’t bee too bad. Otherwise, there is a well-padded armrest in the middle seat back, with integrated cupholders that pop out the front.

Rear passengers also benefit from their own complete set of controls over air conditioning. BMW has also taken the innovative step of integrating the USB C ports for rear passengers’ devices into the backs of the seats in front. There are two of these per seat, for a total of four. Because you might have more than one device each, after all.

One of the most exciting interior options is the panoramic sunroof, which has a unique trick up its sleeve. It’s a permanent piece of glass that can’t be retracted, and at first you wonder whether there should be a blind. But no need to worry, because the window is made of a special liquid crystal that can be darkened and lightened at the flick of a switch, for more or less light transmission. BMW claims this is the first production car to sport the technology. It’s extremely cool.

One of the main practical reasons for buying an SUV is how much luggage you can put in the back, and the iX is reasonably impressive in this regard. Basic luggage capacity in the rear is 500 liters, which is decent but not outstanding. The rear seats have a 40/20/40 split configuration, so you can carry a long item and still have space for two rear passengers. Drop all three rear seats forward, however, and capacity increases to 1,750 liters, which is quite capacious, albeit less than a pure petrol X5, considerably less than a Mercedes GLE, and the Tesla Model X is ahead too. It beats the Mercedes EQC hands down, however, and matches the Audi e-tron.

There are buttons near the rear of the boot / trunk to drop the seats forward without need to reach unduly or open the passenger doors. The boot release is, of course, electrified. Towing capabilities are excellent, too. You can tow 750kg unbraked, and a whopping 2,500kg braked. That should please caravan owners, although you will always worry about the effects of towing on range in an electric car. But there some good news here too.

BMW iX: Tesla-Beating Range

Thanks to that huge battery, the xDrive50 boasts a class-leading 380-mile WLTP range, whereas the xDrive40’s range is a more pedestrian 257 miles. This places xDrive50 ahead of the Tesla Model 3 Long Range, with only the Tesla Model S going further – and the Model X having a considerably lower range. However, the xDrive40 is on par with the Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin AWD and Mercedes EQC.

In other words, if you’re planning on extensive highway driving, the xDrive50 is much more of a contender, although the xDrive40 will be okay too – you will just need to stop more often. To help with this, both versions of the iX support 11kW AC charging, and the xDrive50 goes all the way up to 200kW with DC charging, while the xDrive40 is limited to a still decent 150kW DC.

If you do have a three-phase 11kW AC walbox, the xDrive40 will take 8 hours to recharge to 100% from zero, and the xDrive50 will take 11 hours. Charging from 10 to 80% on DC takes 31 minutes and 35 minutes respectively, assuming you can find a fast enough DC charger. To help with this, BMW gives you a year’s charging membership in Europe that includes IONITY, which offers 350kW charge points. So if you stick to those, a lengthy trip across the UK or continental Europe is entirely feasible.

BMW iX: Tesla Model X Beater?

Of the two versions of the iX, the xDrive50 is the clearest contender. The performance and range of the xDrive40 are much more run-of the-mill, even if the £69,905 starting price isn’t. Unfortunately, the xDrive50 comes at a considerable premium on top of that. In the UK, the Sport version starts at £91,905 and the M Sport £94,905. This puts it in the same ballpark as the Tesla Model X, although you can’t currently buy the latter in the UK, just place an order. The Model X Long Range is also faster, with the Plaid version in a different league.

In the US, the iX is more competitive, starting at $83,200, where the Model X starts at $104,990. So in comparison, the iX is a bit of a bargain. This is for the xDrive50, as you can’t buy the xDrive40 in America, which seems like an understandable choice considering its comparable range limitations. The BMW iX xDrive50 will clearly appeal to those who want a fast electric SUV with superb range, but without the radical interior design choices of the Tesla Model X. This is a clear alternative for those who might have considered a BMW X5 xDrive M50i as well. The BMW iX xDrive50 is one of the best electric SUVs on the market, but you pay a lot for the privilege.