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(Pocket-lint) - BMW was ahead of the curve when it came to electric cars, with the BMW i3 launch in 2013 presenting a car that was substantially different to others on the road. That it still remains desirable - despite being discontinued in mid-2021 - is testament to what BMW achieved.

With the iX, it's like a fresh start for BMW. Despite dropping behind the electric curve compared to some competitors, the Munich automotive company is looking to muscle in on its German rivals, Mercedes, Audi, et al.

The BMW iX is perhaps the most significant electric-only launch for Beemer, as it's aimed squarely at the top end of the segment. So can it succeed?

Our quick take

The iX is a big deal for BMW. This is its flagship electric car, looking to appeal to those who want something a cut above, and distract people from the Tesla Model X, the Jaguar i-Pace, or those German rivals from Audi and Mercedes.

From the inside, the BMW iX is sublime: it's great to drive, it's great to be in, and it comes with all the latest tech and convenience - with some real premium options for those willing to pay.

Undoubtedly, this is one great electric car. That said, however, we can't help feeling that the BMW iX's exterior design will remain central to any conversation about it. And that will divide opinion.

Alternatives to consider

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Jaguar i-Pace

The i-Pace has been refreshed and offers many of the advantages of being a car designed around being electric. There's refinement, there's poise, plus it doesn't half look good.

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Audi e-tron

Audi's approach was to offer an electric car that mirrored its combustion sibling. It comes with all the presence of a large Audi SUV, with loads of comfort and quality. 

BMW iX review: BMW's flagship electric car

BMW iX

4.5 stars - Pocket-lint recommended
For
  • Excellent interior quality
  • Comfort and refinement when driving
  • Plenty of interior space
  • Lots tech
Against
  • Exterior design might divide opinion
  • We're not sold on the frameless windows
  • Costly

Design and build

There's a carbonfibre cage in the BMW iX, which you'll glimpse when you open the doors. It's not often you see untreated materials in cars, but we love that cheeky reveal, a reminder that you're slipping into something rather special.

Pocket-lintBMW iX xDrive50 photo 14

The iX is a big departure from previous BMW models and that adds to its appeal: it's a fresh start, a complete departure from the BMW X5 or BMW X7 models that it sits alongside in terms of size.

The exterior design presents a big SUV - or SAV ("sports activity vehicle") as BMW puts it - and there's no avoiding that the recently redesigned signature grille will attract its fair share of comments.

When we started to see this size of grille on concept models, we did question whether it would make it through to a production car. Yet here we are. That it's infilled, i.e., has no traditional function in terms of air intake, does raise the question of why BMW wanted to make such a statement with it.

Pocket-lintBMW iX xDrive50 photo 1

The rear quarter of the car is also pretty hefty, which you notice when opening the rear. The boot is deep, but the rear pillar is also wide, which affects the proportionality of this car, so at some angles it looks a little odd. We're also not totally sold on the frameless windows, which can rattle a little when closing the doors. We don't think it's as attractive as some competitors at first glance, but we can't hand-on-heart say it's an issue once you've experienced the interior.

What you do have though, is size and space. This is a big car, a little longer than the BMW X5, but with that rear slope the boot comes in at 500 litres, including a split parcel shelf. It's a big space, but not as capacious or useful as the X5.

There are some interesting exterior details on the iX. The door handles invite you to put your hand in to find a button to pop them open - so while they aren't flush to the body, they are futuristic. No conventional pull handle release to be found here.

Pocket-lintBMW iX xDrive50 photo 3

We also like the way the bonnet aggressively wraps into that grille on the front and the optional Sky Lounge glass roof. This can be changed from clear to opaque with the press of a button, but it is a £3500 option in the UK. Ker-ching.

It's all about the interior

Where the BMW iX will win most of its points is with its interior. This is almost a complete departure from typical BMW interior design - and it's refreshing that when you sit in the iX, it feels different.

That makes this car pretty much the polar opposite of the BMW iX3, which is essentially identical to the existing combustion model; the BMW iX is not, it's unique for the time being.

We also feel that gives it the advantage over the Audi e-tron or Mercedes EQC, which while very comfortable and high quality, are just like other models from those companies. The BMW iX feels fresher and much more futuristic as a result of a more dramatic reworking.

The aim with much of this design is to create a comfortable and inviting interior, more like a lounge than a tired old car. This comes together with a great feeling of spaciousness and plenty of knee space for the rear bench - it really is a comfortable car whether up front or in the back.

It's interesting too, taking advantage of being designed as an electric car, offering a flat floor. The dash has been minimalised, the technical wall you're often faced with in a car is simplified, with pretty much all the buttons stripped away, while the centre console is simpler, detached from the dash.

Pocket-lintxDrive50 interior photo 18

It still, critically, hangs onto the iDrive controller that's not too dissimilar to BMW's current generation of other cars, so it's instantly familiar.

Removing the gear lever again reduces clutter, but clever use of materials - rather than just glossy black plastic - can make this interactive area a little more standout. We're not fully sold on the mock jewels - especially on for the seat adjusters on the doors - which just feels a bit over the top, but each to their own.

There's a choice of Sport or M Sport trims, with interior choices (some at no cost), but which need a little more consideration than in most cars.

Pocket-lintxDrive50 interior photo 3

Because the dash offers so much space to show off the interior fabrics and colours you choose (when many traditional cars are just swatches of black soft-touch material), you might want to think a little harder when choosing your interior here.

An evolution of the tech

Turning to the technology and while it's designed differently, with a curved display running from behind the steering wheel into the centre of the car, it's all familiar if you're a BMW driver.

The 12.3-inch driver display section isn't a radical departure from the existing digital displays in many current models, while the 14.9-inch main display offers the latest Operating System 8 from BMW, an evolution of the work started by Operating System 7.

Importantly, interaction remains similar, although the implementation of Operating System 8 here invites you to touch more than many previous models with more buttons. That's led to a more modern and graphical infotainment system - perhaps a little complicated in places - but it's well supported by voice control from BMW's very capable system.

You'll have to get used to hitting the home button to help you navigate (there's one on-screen in addition to the one next to the iDrive dial). There are direct buttons for navigation, telephone, media and navigating back - as there have been for 10+ years in BMW cars - and you then have the option to use that clicky dial or instead touch to get around the system.

The highlight is the augmentation of the navigation direction. As you approach a junction, the display will switch to the camera view, showing you exactly where you have to turn with giant AR arrows. It works really well, the only downside being that your eye is drawn to the display and away from the road.

Pocket-lintxDrive40 interior photo 18

There is a head-up display (HUD) too, offering plenty more information, it's just a shame that the rich AR experience doesn't make it into the HUD as you can opt for on the Audi Q4 e-tron.

On the whole, the fluidity of Operating System 8 makes this a better experience than previously and it's richer and more modern than some rivals, but there's still quite a lot to learn your way around. There's wireless support for Android Auto or Apple CarPlay too, if you'd rather use those systems on your phone.

The BMW iX offers 5G connectivity, there's an abundance of USB-C connection points around the cabin, including those for rear passengers.

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One of the step-up options is for the Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound System (standard on the iX M60 model). This is a comprehensive surround sound system that offers a little more than just speakers, as it delves into something called 4D bass.

Not only do you have a 1650W system coming from 30 speakers, but there are speakers built into the headrests to give a more immersive surround sound offering (which works really well), as well as vibration "shakers" in the front seats.

Those optional shakers are designed to literally give you bone-shaking bass. Having tested this option, we can't say it's for us - turn up the 4D bass experience too much and it feels like a bad case of indigestion churning through your intestines - but we know some will appreciate it.

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Still, for those wanting to opt for the B&W system as part of the £5000 technology package, it does offer phenomenal overall audio performance.

BMW iX battery, range and performance

There are three models of the BMW iX which have an impact on what range and performance you get. The BMW iX xDrive40 (pictured here in black) is the entry point, the xDrive50 (pictured in red) is the step up, and the M60 is the performance option at the top-end.

  • xDrive40: 71kWh (usable), 240kW motor, 150kW charging, 249-mile range
  • xDrive50: 105.2kWh (usable), 370kW motor, 200kW charging, 373-mile range
  • M60: 105.2kWh (usable), 455kW motor, 200kW charging, 357-mile range

There is quite a big price difference between these models, but as you move up the range you get more options bundled in. All models are all-wheel drive though.

The above are BMW's figures for range, which we'll dive into versus our own experience below, but the big thing to takeaway is that the xDrive50 gets a larger battery and therefore longer range - and that's a big part of what you're paying for.

Comparatively, that makes the 50 look the most attractive, but once you factor in the price, you might decide that the 40 offers everything you need. It's less powerful, but this is a car that feels like a comfortable cruiser rather than a sports car, and the quality of the xDrive40 is up there with the others, so if 200-something miles fits your typical range needs, you'll save a lot by choosing it.

The slower charging speed is negligible for those using it as a daily driver and charging at home, where you'll more likely be charging at 7kW, while typical UK chargers are usually 50-150kW (at the time of launch).

The iX M60 is new, so we haven't driven it, but the feel of the xDrive40 and xDrive50 on the road is pretty much the same. Both are quiet, comfortable and refined to drive. The xDrive50 will offer faster off-the-line speed, too, but it's really the range that has the greatest appeal.

Turning to the performance figures in the real world and the achievable averages from our test drives, both cars came in close to 3.2 miles per kWh. That's not bad for an SUV of this size, and it would equate to a real-world range of 227 miles for the xDrive40 or 336 miles for the xDrive50. These figures were from mixed urban and motorway driving in cool conditions.

Pocket-lintBMW iX xDrive50 photo 4

The real-world range will cary depending on how you drive, the conditions you're driving in, and how the car is loaded, so our figures will vary for each individual's differing circumstance.

Regeneration plays its part, and like other electric BMWs, there's a range of options. The default is adaptive, which will attempt to tailor the regen effects to suit your driving, but switching into B mode will engage more powerful regen, allowing one-pedal driving, which many prefer on EVs.

Importantly, everything comes together really nicely in the BMW iX. It's a great car to be in: the visibility is great (even better with the advanced parking options to give you 360 camera views), it's quiet (even for an electric car) and it's a blast to drive.

Pocket-lintxDrive50 interior photo 20

Even that quirky shape to the steering wheel doesn't detract from the experience, as the steering remains refined. Besides, we quite like having a flat top to rest a hand on.

To recap

This is a great electric car, aimed at the top of the market. A refreshing interior marks out a new chapter in BMW design, but the exterior might divide opinion. Big price differences between the different models demands serious consideration about how much range you really need too.

Writing by Chris Hall. Editing by Mike Lowe.