BMW has openly admitted it’s deliberately trying to shock people with its new styling direction. So, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if the colours of the iX reveal car were carefully chosen to make the thing look as divisive as possible. As a reminder, it has a two-tone bronze/grey finish with bright blue accents. Subtle it was not.
Fast forward a few months, and I’m looking at one in the metal for the first time - one stealthily daubed in ‘Black Saphire’. I don’t think most passersby would even notice it, let alone get mad at its abundance of lines, which are far less prominent here in this darker hue. And yes, it has that giant kidney grille (which isn’t really a grille at all, this being an EV), but aren’t we all used to BMW’s big nostril thing now?
In any case, where it counts - the interior - BMW has come up with one of its best-looking cabins ever. Unlike some EVs, you can immediately see that the designers have made full use of the extra space afforded by a lack of engine and gearbox to package.
There’s a huge expanse under the dashboard where you’d normally have a bulky transmission tunnel eating up a load of room, while the dash itself is much further back than what we’d consider ‘normal’. There’s no cowl for the gauges either, with the iX instead getting a curved display containing the digital instrument cluster (12.3-inch) and an infotainment system (14.9-inch).
You get an interesting blend of different materials, and the build quality is top notch. All of this makes for a fabulously airy and pleasant space in which to spend time.
A lack of physical climate controls is annoying, but the tried and tested rotary iDrive controller is still present and correct. There’s also a hexagonal two-spoke steering wheel which looks downright odd in photos, but I didn’t mind it at all IRL. The opening at the top is much bigger, giving a better view of the big digital gauge cluster.
It’s all very impressive when you get in, but as the days rolled by during our week with the car, annoyances started to rise. Yes, this may be smarter than any BMW we’ve ever seen before, but that rings hollow when it’s far less simple to use.
It’d get easier in time once you learn everything and customise the menus to your preferences, but all the stuff you want to access seems to be a few more button pushes away than previously. Even the trip computer is needlessly faffy to operate.
A quick prod of the accelerator will make you forget all of that. With 516bhp and 564lb ft of instantly available torque in this 50 xDrive version, the iX is downright violent in the way it picks up even when you’re not in Sport mode. If you are, the electric savagery is accompanied by a surprisingly likeable sci-fi-ish soundtrack. Most performance EVs do something similar, but BMW’s effort - which had input from film composer Hans Zimmer - might just be the best yet.
How the iX feels once you back off again (which you’ll be doing pretty soon after putting your foot down) depends if you’re in D or B. The latter is the one-pedal mode, while the former feels more normal, except for when it doesn’t. The iX has an adaptive regenerative brake system, which uses various parameters including navigation data to work out how much the car slows as you lift off. When you’re not expecting it to kick in, the system can be unnerving initially, but for the most part, it works very well. If preferred, it can be switched off.
If you do have the room to mash your foot on the pedal and keep it there, 0-62mph will arrive in 4.6 seconds. That’s fast, but perhaps not quite as brisk as you might expect for a car with 500bhp. The reason? Weight. Lots of it. The iX is an X5-sized SUV with a battery pack that weighs 650kg on its own, which makes for a vehicle weighing around 2.7 tonnes.
You’ll often hear us talk about EVs hiding their typically porky weight figures due to the low-lying nature of the battery in a skateboard-style platform, but this only works up to a point. When you have something that isn’t all that far away from three tonnes, it’s harder to mask the mass. Sure enough, the iX often feels hefty and unwieldy in the corners, pushing on into understeer much sooner than an ICE BMW SUV.
Firmed up air springs in Sport mode help keep any considerable body roll at bay, although with the ride becoming choppy on rougher bits of B-road, I’d rather just keep things smoother and drive a little slower. It feels detached when driven fast, which is sadly a pretty common thing for sub-M BMWs these days.
This feels like less of an issue for a large SUV, and when pootling around normally, the iX makes more sense. It’s comfortable and quiet, and with the 105kWh (useable) battery pack providing a range of up to 372 miles, you’ll be saved from stopping at public charging stations too often.
Just bear in mind the “up to” bit - chilly conditions and a mix of driving conditions saw us covering only 2.1 miles per kWh on average, which translates to a range of more like 220. With some care and warmer weather, a figure closer to 300 should be reasonably achievable.
The iX impresses more than it disappoints. Some elements that contribute to the latter are self-inflicted (the fiddly interior, for instance), and others endemic to this genre of EVs. I get that the popularity of big SUVs means electric versions are inevitable, but such platforms seem so unsuitable for the job, with massive weight figures making for inefficient charge use and handling disappointment.
The price often ends up being pretty eyebrow-raising too, and it’s no different for the iX - the 50 starts at £91,905 and ours was optioned up to nearly £100k. There’s an even more expensive 626bhp M60 version for another £15k, which seems especially silly.
The iX is, at least, one of the better enormo E-SUVs, putting shade on the Audi E-Tron in particular. We just reckon unless the extra space in the iX is a must, you’d be better off with an i4, which we just so happen to have a test for on the way.