We drive the new xDrive50 – the current range-topping version of the BMW iX electric SUV
4.5 out of 5
The new BMW iX xDrive50 is a seriously impressive electric car. With the bigger 105.2kWh battery, this bells-and-whistles SUV now has a real-world range to match its exemplary motorway manners. The standard-fit air suspension transforms the way the iX drives, too, making it feel either plush or pointy, depending on your mood. It’s expensive, but it raises the bar in what is becoming an increasingly competitive area of the new-car market.
We’ve already driven the BMW iX in the UK; the entry-level xDrive40 model impressed us late last year with its exceptional comfort, refinement and general build quality. Its luxurious motorway manners were without question, in fact, but outright cruising ability was pegged back by a disappointing 200-odd-mile real-world range.
For some, that won’t be an issue. If your commute or daily usage allow, the cheapest iX is a force to be reckoned with; it may not be quite as fast as a Mercedes EQC, but the BMW trumps it in every other respect.
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Mercedes gives its electric SUV buyers just one battery option, but BMW is attempting to tackle range anxiety head-on by offering the new iX with a 105.2kWh battery. Fitted here to the xDrive50, it’s one of the biggest in any production car currently on sale.
The result is a WLTP-rated range of 380 miles, or, in cooler conditions like the ones we’d experience in a typical British winter, not far shy of 300 miles. Furthermore, with 200kW rapid charging (the cheaper iX xDrive40 is restricted to 150kW) the xDrive50 can replenish its cells from 10-80% in 34 minutes.
So this is now a comfort-focused zero-emissions cruiser with a range to match. Trouble is, you’ll pay for the pleasure; prices for the iX xDrive50 Sport start at £91,905 – and £5k more for the M Sport model we’re driving here. That’s an extra £27,000 over the entry car with the smaller battery.
For your money you get a pair of uprated motors boosted to a combined 516bhp; there is no option to spec the bigger battery with the less-powerful drivetrain. As you’d expect, performance goes from adequate to astounding – 0-62mph in the xDrive50 takes just 4.6 seconds. Not Tesla Model X fast, but enough to make your eyes widen at even the gentlest prod of the throttle.
Straight line speed is one thing, but engineering a 2.6-tonne SUV to handle like a sports car is another matter – especially one as plush as the iX. But this bigger-battery model has a trick up its sleeve: standard-fit air suspension.
To suggest this has a transformative effect on the car’s dynamic ability would be to sell the whole thing short. The iX xDrive50 can waft along the motorway in complete comfort, but flick it into Sport mode to tighten up the dampers and the difference in body control is night and day.
Trouble is, you’ll find yourself tweaking the car’s parameters and switching it into Sport more than you might in something lower, or lighter. The iX pitches and wallows in a quite unwelcome way if you just leave it in its default drive mode, only feeling tied down with the suspension in its stiffest setting.
So the flagship iX, until the M-division’s M60 version arrives, has something of a dual personality. Though the important thing is that the xDrive50 feels like it can do it all; quiet, soft and supple when you want it, tauter and more responsive when you don’t.
Otherwise, everything we like (and don’t) about the basic iX is applicable to the more powerful model. The cabin is exquisite – the seats are comfortable and supportive, the perceived quality is faultless. The infotainment set-up may look the part, but it isn’t as intuitive as BMW’s previous iDrive systems.
When it comes to space and practicality, the maker’s designers and engineers have done a fantastic job of making the iX feel roomy on the inside. This is a big car, but the benefit for passengers is generous head and legroom whichever of the five seats you’re sitting in.
The same can’t be said for the boot. At 500 litres it isn’t exactly small, but for a car of this size, you expect more. The BMW iX3, which effectively sits in the class below, beats its brother for boot space, while an Audi e-tron’s load bay is over 20 per cent bigger. A family of four may find the iX’s boot simply isn’t big enough for everything they need to carry.
|Model:||BMW iX xDrive50 M Sport|
|Engine:||105.2kWh battery, dual electric motors|
|Transmission:||Single-speed automatic, four-wheel drive|
|Range/charging:||380 miles WLTP/200kW 10-80% in 34 minutes|
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