The BMW iX xDrive50 is like a rolling art project. This all-electric utility vehicle wears futuristic (and controversial) exterior styling, has a high-fashion interior that pushes boundaries, makes extensive use of eco-friendly materials and is built on an aluminum-composite spaceframe structure. Indeed, the iX is a grand vision of the future, and for the most part, BMW’s world of tomorrow is a brighter, happier place.
You can think of the iX xDrive50 as a trendier, battery-powered alternative to the BMW X5, as the two vehicles are similar in size. Setting it apart from conventional vehicles, the iX is blocky and futuristic, with angular bodywork, sleek flanks and leering headlamps. Of course, the gigantic kidney grille that’s front and center is unmistakable, for better or worse.
The iX tested here rolls on optional 22-inch wheels and features upgraded interior trimmings. The Aventurine Red Metallic paint this vehicle wears costs an extra $1,950, though it doesn’t pop like its price tag suggests it should. The Frozen Portimão Blue Metallic found on the BMW i4 M50 recently reviewed is much more eye catching, even though it was far ritzier at $3,600.
SEE ALSO: Toyota exploring portable power utilizing hydrogen, benefits huge
Of course, what’s beneath the surface matters more than styling, and this BMW’s bones are far less controversial than its bodywork. The iX is built around an aluminum spaceframe bolstered by carbon fiber reinforced polymer, or CFRP, for greater strength and less weight. All that forms a “carbon cage” around the passenger compartment, with the body side apertures, rain channels, roof frame, cowl panel and rear window opening all being made of the lightweight material. And kudos to BMW, because they actually allow you to see the carbon when you open the doors or rear hatch, which is really cool.
What you can’t open, however, is the hood. BMW only allows technicians to access the iX’s powertrain components. To fill the windshield washer reservoir, a common maintenance task, you push on the front BMW roundel and it pops up, revealing the filling port.
In keeping with today’s trends, this SUV’s exterior door handles are electrically operated, with the buttons located in rectangular recesses. This design is a huge upgrade over the slip-prone flipper-style grips found on the i4. What’s unusual about the iX, however, is the use of frameless windows, something normally seen on coupes or convertibles. There’s nothing wrong with this design, but the glass is always a little floppy and it sounds like something’s broken when you close a door.
Like its exterior, the iX’s cabin pushes design in unexpected ways. Many will love the look, but some of you probably won’t. The interior is rather unlike anything we’ve seen from BMW; it’s artistic and playful instead of industrial and serious. There are no coarsely textured soft plastics, no rows of little black buttons and few hard lines. Overall, the cabin looks like something from a French automaker, not BMW.
Avant-garde design wasn’t the only focus with this interior. Just like the iX’s structure, sustainability was a major goal. Plenty of things were done to make this vehicle’s cabin greener, you know, for a brighter, or at least less polluted tomorrow. Any leather employed was tanned with an olive leaf extract; the available microfiber fabric is made from 50% recycled polyester; down low, the mats and other floor coverings are made of yarn produced from recycled nylon that is, in part, recovered from old fishing nets; inside and out, designers reduced the amount of chrome used in this all-electric SUV by 90%; the available open-pore wood trim used on the center console is sustainably harvested; and lastly, the cloth used in iXs fitted with the Stonegray interior incorporates natural wool fibers. Overall, each iX xDrive50 contains some 130 pounds of recycled plastic.
Despite the abundant use of eco-friendly materials, nothing seems cheap. The microfiber is lovely and abundant, plus the optional crystalline control switches feel like high-end jewelry. Comfort is another feather in the iX’s cap. No matter where you sit, the seats are cushy and there’s Transit van-rivaling headroom. Passengers in the back are treated to stretch out amounts of space, making the iX a great people hauler.
For enhanced versatility, the rear backrest is spilled into three sections. With all portions up, there’s nearly 36 cubic feet worth of room. When everything is lowered, which you can do at the push of a couple buttons from the cargo area, you get just shy of 78 cubes of luggage space. There’s also an underfloor cubby to help keep your valuables safe.
Crowning this BMW’s dashboard is a curved housing that’s home to a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and 14.9-inch central touch screen. Both displays are colorful and super crisp.
The iDrive 8 infotainment system that lives in the main screen is plenty responsive, though it’s not the most intuitive. It takes time to learn how this multimedia array works, so spend a minute or two poking around before hitting the road. Thankfully, wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are both supported, which is great. Of course, there’s also a wireless charging pad near the cup holders.
YOU WON’T BELIEVE IT: That new gas powered, V8 Mustang with a manual transmission? You can thank the Mach-E for that
For the most part, I love what BMW has done in the iX’s cabin, but there are two things I do not like. One, is the hexagonal steering wheel. It feels weird when your hands are at 9 and 3. Seriously, there was no need to literally reinvent the wheel. And the second thing that could be improved is the placement of the front cup holders. This might be the BMW of the tomorrow, but people will still get thirsty in the future. Beverage receptacles are always something of an afterthought in German vehicles — and there are excellent arguments why you shouldn’t be wrangling a Big Gulp or Venti Mocha Frappuccino while driving — but still, these cup holders are poorly placed and hard to get at.
Aside from aluminum and carbon fiber, the iX’s lithium-ion battery is also an integral part of its structure. With a husky gross capacity of 111.5 kWh, this SUV offers an EPA-estimated — and admirable — range of 315 miles between charges. Carefully massaged aerodynamics and a heat pump-based HVAC system help deliver that excellent performance for what is a large vehicle with a hefty curb weight of around 5,700 pounds.
When it’s time to replenish that electron reservoir, the iX can DC fast charge at up to 195 kW. That’s an impressive, if not amazing performance that BMW says will take you from 10 to 80% in a little more than 40 mins. Level 1 and 2 charging speeds are comparable to other EVs on the market today. When it comes to efficiency, this vehicle is rated to get about 2.56 miles per kWh, or roughly 86 across the board if you prefer MPGe.
With all-wheel drive, the iX xDrive50 is graced with an undeniably healthy 516 horsepower and 564 pound-feet of torque, enough for a 0-to-60 run in a brisk 4.4 seconds, even when fitted with mammoth 22-inch wheels. Honestly, the performance is effortless. Just tickle the accelerator and this vehicle moves, getting up to speed with zero drama. Of course, if you want even more, BMW offers the iX M60, which has nearly 100 additional hp.
Checking the specs, BMW’s xDrive50 compares favorably to rival all-electric luxury SUVs. This Bavarian bruiser’s competitive set includes the Audi E-Tron S and Tesla Model X, but let’s throw in the all-wheel-drive Cadillac Lyriq, too, ‘cause why not? It’s new and looks pretty cool.
As mentioned before, the BMW has 516 horsepower, which is plenty to be sure. With boost mode engaged, the Audi delivers 496, the Tesla should have a walloping 670 and the all-wheel-drive Caddy an even 500 ponies.
The iX here has an impressive 315 miles of range, far more than the E-Tron S can muster. When fitted with 21- or 22-inch wheels the Audi maxes out at just 181 miles between charges, which is not great. The Model X with 22s and five seats — you can get it with room for six or seven if you have lots of people to haul — offers an excellent 332 miles of range. Unfortunately, the all-wheel-drive Lyriq has not been rated by the EPA just yet, but the rear-drive model should be able to go 312 miles between charges. Versions fitted with four-corner traction will almost certainly have shorter legs, but how much of a hit the range will take remains to be seen. Based on the closely related Chevy Blazer EV, I’d expect 25-30 fewer miles on a charge.
And finally, when it comes to DC fast charging, the iX tops out at an impressive 195 kW. The E-Tron S is significantly slower at just 125. Winning this category by a wide margin is the Model X, which should be able to absorb electrons at a rate of up to 225 kW. Finally, the Cadillac is right in the hunt, with a rating of 190.
Out and about, the iX’s available air suspension system provides a supple, floaty ride. I love how this setup smothers bumps, ruts and other roadway imperfections. Unfortunately, relatively soft suspenders and the heft of that giant battery means there is quite a bit of squat when you accelerate and dive when you hit the brakes.
Of the three available drive modes — Personal, Sport and Efficient — I prefer Sport because it’s still smooth and supple, but the steering is firmer and the ride a touch more controlled, if only barely. Efficient dulls the accelerator pedal significantly and Personal should probably just be called “Comfort” because it’s soft and, ironically, you can’t actually personalize anything, at least that I can see. Sport, however, does allow you make adjustments to the steering, chassis and other parameters.
SEE ALSO: The best interior cleaners to keep your cabin spotless
In corners, the iX feels huge, borderline ponderous and the tires are a bit greasy, especially in rainy weather. No matter the setting you choose, the steering is dead, deceased, lifeless. The lights are on, but nobody’s home, which is a real shame. The BMW i4 M50’s wheel was similarly unengaging, which is disappointing.
Like any proper EV, the iX offers a one-pedal drive mode, which I love. If you’re careful, you basically never have to use the brakes. To access this setting, just click the shifter nub from “D” to “B.” Intuitive and seamless, this setting allows the vehicle to roll to a stop all on its own.
The 2023 BMW iX xDrive50 starts around $85,000 including $995 in delivery fees, though this 2022 example checks out for about $104,000. A variety of options packages plus a fancy paint job, fabric interior and a smattering of other extras account for the inflated the bottom line.
This utility vehicle’s premium yet eco-friendly interior, roomy accommodations and rapid acceleration are all laudable, though the styling is not for everyone, iDrive takes some getting used to and the driving dynamics are not engaging. Overall, the BMW iX is undeniably advanced, and as a vision of what’s to come, this vehicle mostly gives me hope that tomorrow will be brighter than today.
At a glance
- Year: 2022
- Make: BMW
- Model: iX
- Trim: xDrive50 (22-inch wheels)
- Type: All-electric luxury SUV
- Horsepower: 516
- Torque: 564
- MPG ratings (city/highway/combined): 86/85/86
- kWh/100 miles: 39
- EV range: 315 miles
- Pros: Avant-garde and eco-friendly interior, roomy accommodations, effortless acceleration
- Cons: Exterior styling not for everyone, iDrive 8.0’s steep learning curve, disappointing dynamics
- Estimated base price: $85,000 (including $995 in destination fees)
- Price as tested: $104,020 (including $995 in destination fees)