It’s a full-size electric SUV with 370kW of power, a sub-five second sprint time and 480km of range – but will buyers be able to look past the controversial exterior design of the BMW iX?
Say hello to the BMW iX: the latest near-production concept car out of BMW. It’s a full-size electric SUV with sights set on the Audi e-tron, the established Tesla Model X, and the Mercedes-Benz EQC, all of which are already on Australian roads. BMW’s local representation have confirmed that the iX will join the fray in Australia in late 2021.
BMW claims what we see here is close to production in a sense. However, we believe the controversially-styled iX will be toned down somewhat before this vehicle starts rolling off the Dingolfing production line in Bavaria in the second half of 2021.
The iX will be BMW’s second fully-electric SUV, sold alongside the incoming iX3 that will soon extend the brand’s best-selling X3 nameplate into the battery electric space. The iX3, however, is built in China, with mainland Chinese buyers expected to account for the majority of sales.
This iX is a highly progressed design study by BMW to demonstrate what the ‘i’ sub-brand will be capable of in the future: an SUV that they say is designed to soothe occupants instead of invigorating the driver. According to BMW, this iX3 has been designed from the inside out. That certainly appears to be the case from the exterior styling.
While the conventional five-seat layout remains in the iX3, there are no swivelling captains chairs here. Likewise, the familiar BMW control panel appears with the usual iDrive rotary controller and drive modes, with a long centre bin behind. The electric architecture allows for no centre tunnel, increasing the feeling of space in the front cabin.
A large panoramic sunroof will add to the feeling of airiness in the back, with BMW claiming lounge-like levels of comfort within. Taking a leaf out of Mercedes-Benz’s book, BMW has placed the electric seat controls on the doors and hidden details like speaker grilles in materials throughout the cabin for a more consistent experience.
Lining the dashboard is a pair of colour monitors, one touchscreen to control functionalities and the other a customisable digital driver’s display – again, all reminiscent of a Mercedes-Benz. However, Frank Weber, Member of the BMW AG Board of Management said the marque is “setting new industry standards in the iX”, with 20 times the computing power of any previous BMW on-board computers and 5G capability built into the iX.
It’s fairly evident that the designers flexed their efforts inside the iX. The exterior isn’t as appealing – there is a lot of visual bulk hanging around the rear three-quarter and, aside from the ma-hoosive kidney grilles and blue detailing, the iX is relatively anonymous.
The new iX SUV follows the incoming BMW 4 Series coupe and convertible in presenting buyers with an aesthetic they aren’t used to from a brand that was once deeply consistent in terms of exterior design.
Size-wise, the iX is equivalent to the BMW X5 for interior occupants, though it has a lower roof-line of the ‘coupe’ X6. As the kidney grilles are not needed for engine cooling, they have been repurposed to house sensors for autonomous driving which include radars and cameras; a neat little trick.
Beneath the frumpy exterior of the iX sits BMW’s fifth-gen eDrive technology comprised of dual electric motors constructed without using resource-heavy rare earth metals, which is a lovely green touch. Current calculations suggest that these will add up for a combined output of 370kW of power, adequate for a 0-100km/h sprint in the five seconds range. Not Tesla fast, but on par with Audi’s e-tron SUV.
Further calculations show the iX should be capable of consuming 21kWh/100km which, combined with a 100kWh battery pack, should work out to 480km of range in the WLTP test procedure. BMW says that there will be potential for feather-footed drivers to reach 600km from a single charge around town.
Charging of the lithium-ion batteries can be done at a maximum rate of 200kW at DC charging stations. That equates to a 10-80 per cent charge time of just 40 minutes, and the ability to add 120km of range in 10 minutes. Those who choose to install a wall box will see roughly 11-hour charge times from 0-100 per cent.
Charging at that speed will allow the BMW iX to begin to tap into Australia’s developing fast-charge network. Local EV infrastructure provider Chargefox is continuing to expand its national network of 350kW DC chargers.
Despite getting out the gates early with the i3 and i8, BMW is currently lagging behind the main competition of Mercedes-Benz and Audi in the EV SUV game, something this iX will address when the Australia launch occurs in the second half of 2021.
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