BMW has lifted the wraps from its new all-electric flagship, the iX.
Based on the iNext concept I saw at the LA Motor Show in 2018, it retains the latest version of the humungous grille. You might just have spotted it.
Described as the “the first representative of a trailblazing generation of cars” for the brand, the iX — which is projected to have a range of 376 miles — will not go on sale for another 12 months as BMW continues final development of the car. Expect it to cost around £100,000 when it arrives in UK showrooms.
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No specific dimensions have yet been confirmed for what BMW calls its Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV). It has though stated it’s similar in length and width to the X5, and stands as tall as an X6. The wheels, apparently “bring to mind the BMW X7”.
Ooooh … that grille
I know: so let’s deal with the elephant in the room first: that grille. Subtle it most definitely isn’t. And there are times you wonder quite why, and how a design has sneaked its way passed the ultimate decision-makers. Because attractive, this most definitely isn’t.
The BMW press releases states — and I kid you not — the “expressive, vertical kidney grille serves as an intelligence panel”. It goes on to say the “grille has reinvented itself as an innovative and multifunctional high-tech interface for the advanced driver assistance systems with which the BMW iX paves the way for automated driving”.
That’s all well and good. But did anyone actually ever stop to look at it? It’s horrendous. Cast your mind back to the tale of the Emperor’s new clothes, and you see reality writ large.
Oh, and you see that ‘mesh’ on the grille. It’s false. The grille has been blanked off as a way of indicating the iX is an electric vehicle. Crucially, it does house the vehicle's camera, radar and sensor technology that is required for automated driving.
But surely there are positives?
There certainly are. What is attractive are the new LED headlamps, which are the slimmest BMW has ever fitted to a production vehicle. There’s also another first: flush door handles. These form a number of aerodynamically-optimised design cues which help increase the range of the iX by 40 miles.
Inside the cabin there’s seating for five adults. There’s no transmission tunnel running through the centre of the vehicle, a direct result of the iX having been designed from the outset as an all-electric vehicle. Not surprisingly this will increase the amount of space for both front and rear passengers.
Anything else good inside?
The feeling of roominess is also further enhanced by the electrochromic panoramic glass roof BMW which automatically adjusts its shading depending on the level of direct sunlight. Plus the design of the cabin purposely emphasises a ‘stripped-back’ look. Even the car’s audio speakers, air vents and head-up display have all been integrated so that they blend into the cabin, rather than stand proud of the surfaces.
In front of the driver sits an hexagonal steering wheel, plus for the first time there’s a new rocker switch for the gear selector. On top of the dash sits a bank of curved digital screens. The first is a 14.9-inch driver’s display, while the other is a 12.3-inch infotainment screen. The latter features BMW's next-generation operating system, which features new voice and gesture control.
BMW iX power and performance
Using the fifth-generation eDrive electric motors, which are more compact and power-dense than previous units, the 100kWh battery is positioned beneath the floor of the iX. Feeding power to two motors, one on each axle, BMW says more than 500bhp will be developed. That will catapult the big SUV from 0-62mph in under five seconds.
What will be more attractive to buyers is the range: BMW quotes 376 miles on a full charge. That’s a significant 100 miles more than the recent iX3.
And what about recharging?
The battery can be topped up at a rate of 200kW. That means the battery can be charged from 10 to 80 per cent of its full capacity in under 40 minutes. Plus, within 10 minutes enough energy can be fed into the battery to increase the car’s range by more than 75 miles.
Worth highlighting though that if you need to use a more conventional 11kW wallbox charger — that’s the type most people currently have placed outside their home — it’ll take 11 hours to recharge fully from flat.
Underneath the iX sits a platform based around an aluminium spaceframe and carbon-fibre core. Developed specifically to focus on electric vehicles and greater levels of automated driving functions, BMW says the level of computing power in the iX is 20 times greater than anything it has previously developed for a production vehicle. That means the big SUV can process double the amount of data from sensors.
“We are setting new industry standards with the technology in the BMW iX,” Frank Weber, BMW board member for vehicle development, explained. “The iX has more computing power for data processing and more powerful sensor technology than the newest vehicles in our current line-up, is 5G-capable, and will be given new and improved automated driving and parking functions.”