One week—probably in the far distant future—a new electric SUV won’t be released. This week is not that week. This time it’s BMW, dropping its 2022 BMW iX xDrive50 into a well-saturated market. You’ve got cheap ones, expensive ones, big ones, and at the luxury end of things, there’s plenty of competition. The iX is going squarely for the top end, competing with the Audi e-tron at a suggested retail price of $82,300, and it’s packed with enough features to justify the price tag.
BMW’s EV success has been the tiny i3, from an era where the assumption was that automakers needed to reinvent the Nissan Leaf and not the Rogue, but everything is now going in the way of crossovers and SUVs, so here’s the iX. It’s a big boy, showcasing specially built battery and powertrain architecture and with some genuinely laudable features, like sustainability threaded through every element of the design, from battery components to interior detailing. It also pushes back on increasingly screen-dominated cockpits, making use of touchable tech over visual for a less information-cluttered interior. Also, no matter what you say, that grille will stay: it’s, uh, self-healing.
Let’s start with the stats. A big, big part of what drives up that price is the sheer heft of this bad boy: 516 horsepower comfortably knocks back a 188-hp Mercedes-Benz EQA, bringing it closer to the Audi e-tron GT with its 523 hp. It’s all-wheel-drive, so this is a real SUV not just “kind of a large car,” although for some reason BMW calls it a Sports Activity Vehicle.
In regards to the architecture, it’s a specific platform built for the iX, which is designed from the start to be an exclusively electric model. BMW is swinging big into electric, converting significant amounts of its existing production capacity to be electric, as well as building new facilities. Using new battery and powertrain tech, the iX serves as a declaration of how BMW is going to approach EVs in the future.
It’s got 106.3kWh usable capacity in the battery, which is big, but then again, the iX isn’t small. That gives it an estimated 300-mile range, which is relatively middling these days, especially for the iX’s price tag. That being said, the range estimate isn’t a final figure yet, according to BMW. The automaker says that the fifth-generation eDrive system has 20 percent higher energy density than its predecessor, showing it’s putting work into developing the batteries not just adding kWh for performance numbers. It tops out at 200kW for fast charging, which is fine because—let’s be honest—more powerful chargers don’t really exist in large numbers right now.
Speaking of performance, it does zero to 62 mph (100 km/h) in 4.6 seconds. So, about the same as the F-150 Lightning pickup truck, roughly speaking. It’s a big car, so you wouldn’t expect this to be competing with the EQS or something on that front.
Mercedes’ perfectly smooth car has the lowest drag resistance of any production vehicle, ever, with a coefficient of 0.2. The iX can’t beat that but it does show that work has been put in at BMW’s wind tunnel for this, especially for such a chunky vehicle still managing a figure of just 0.25. Equivalent vehicles come in upwards of 0.6, so that is a heck of a cut BMW has managed to make.
There are some really smart features in the regenerative system, too. These get overlooked in EVs way too much but they’re so important to the efficiency of a vehicle, and BMW has absolutely emphasized that. There are different driving modes, ranging from
“efficient” to “personal,” and you can enable an “Efficiency Trainer” that gives tips on how to drive to get more out of the car.
A coasting function takes on a kind of pseudo-autopilot mode, where the car both maintains speed and will lift as soon as it senses it’s coming up on another vehicle. Drivers can pick between high, medium, or low braking recovery or just go for an adaptive mode that will intelligently switch to whatever’s best. There are driving position settings for traffic (position D, which has an assist for stop-go driving) or to recreate the feel of the i3’s braking, which customers might already be familiar with.
Speaking of familiarity, BMW has gone for a very specific philosophy on the interior. Lately, every manufacturer can’t help adding more and more screens as interfaces within a cockpit, often dominating the console completely. The iX designers worked on the idea that they wanted “shy” tech, meaning subtle and not designed to draw or hold your attention.
There is a screen—it’s 2021, after all—but it’s built to blend away, not intended to be something the driver consciously looks at. And it’s not controlled by jabbing at the dash. That black section of the center console is the controller, designed to be understood by touch and possible to control with muscle memory, like analog controls, without significantly distracting the driver’s attention to look at details on a screen. It’s a really nice touch, to incorporate the flashy tech but have thought of a way to make it intuitive, just a bit more like driving than the pandemic-flashback feel that you’re navigating life through a screen at all times.
The rest of the interior is as detailed and luxurious as you’d expect from a car with this price tag and it’s where BMW has paid plenty of attention to, using recycled and sustainable materials throughout. But that actually goes for the rest of the car, too, ranging from the assurance that none of the cobalt used in the battery is from the Democratic Republic of Congo (where mining practices routinely violate human rights) to the use of sustainable steel and aluminum in the frame.
And that grille? Well, you might hate it but it has a purpose. It’s actually the car’s front-sensor array and it has a polyurethane coating that can repair its own scratches. BMW says it can heal over a scruff “within 24 hours at room temperature or through a five-minute supply of warm air.”
The iX will be available to order in the U.S. at a predicted date of early 2022.