Tested: 2022 BMW iX xDrive50 Is a Showstopper
The BMW iX xDrive50 is a Broadway diva on opening night. It’s dressed to the nines, with those massive patterned grille panels, thin streaks of headlight, and satin bronze trim that looks almost rose gold. Things only get more dramatic if, like our test car, it’s equipped with the faceted glass for the seat, window, and infotainment controls. Theatrical and unapologetic, the iX would be excessive if it weren’t also balanced, powerful, and as smooth as the raising of a velvet curtain. Expectations for any new high-end EV are that it needs to be quick and needs to go more than 300 miles on a charge. At $104,820 as tested, the iX is certainly high-end and hits its marks on performance and range. Two current-excited AC motors (no ethically questionable rare-earth permanent magnets here) combine for 516 horsepower and 564 pound-feet of torque. The iX scoots with a hum from zero to 60 mph in 4.0 seconds flat. A 105.2-kWh lithium-ion battery pack makes it possible to travel an EPA-estimated 315 miles between charges. Stick with the standard 20-inch wheels, and you’ll get an extra nine miles of range (and save $950), but the optional 22s look great—oddly, the middle-sized 21s deliver the least range at 305 miles. Using a DC fast-charger, BMW says the iX can add 90 miles of range in 10 minutes or go from almost empty to an 80 percent charge in less than an hour. We put a lot of miles on, which meant plenty of time spent at the chargers, where our only complaint was the charge port’s placement over the rear wheel, which rarely matched up well to the charging-station layouts. Once recharged, using its stored electrons is a delightful, and customizable, experience. Want more noise and the powerful kick of electric acceleration? Go to Sport mode, and the iX lowers down, hums louder, and lightens the virtual spring on the accelerator. Want to be scolded for your wasteful ways? Efficient mode stiffens the accelerator and offers real-time suggestions on how to get more range. We found the default setting to be just right in its steering weight and pedal response, but if you wanted just Sport mode’s orange accent lights or the power usage display, Personal mode lets you mix and match elements. Regenerative braking can be tailored to provide one-pedal driving. With the help of GPS data and sensors, Adaptive mode adjusts the regen to be more aggressive in urban traffic and less so on open roads, where it allows coasting. While the feature is a neat parlor trick, we switched it off, preferring a more consistent response. Use the actual brakes and the iX stops from 70 mph in 166 feet, besting rival electrics like the Tesla Model X and Audi e-Tron. The iX is less dominant on the skidpad, where it only managed 0.84 g. In street driving, though, this BMW is much more maneuverable than its size would suggest, thanks in part to rear-wheel steering, and it untangles twisty roads like a yarn-ball winder. That it is so capable in the corners and yet so plush and silent over all kinds of road surfaces feels like a magic trick. The impressive dynamics start with an aluminum frame that supports a body made of steel, aluminum, thermoplastics, and carbon fiber. The material choices allow for a rigid skeleton while partially offsetting the weight of the electric powertrain. Our test car was equipped with the Dynamic Handling package ($1600), which includes the rear-axle steering and air-spring suspension that pairs with adaptive shocks and provides 1.2 inches of height adjustability. Knowing how it’s done doesn’t make it any less miraculous, though. From outside, there’s no other way to say it: The iX is weird. It’s neither an upright SUV like the X5 it’s similar in size to, nor a rounded four-door like most of its EV competitors. The giant BMW grille hasn’t grown on us, although we do like how the iX’s has a patterned material coated with a self-healing layer that self-levels when warmed to erase small rock chips and scratches. Disappointingly, there’s no front trunk, but the rear cargo area is enough for most luggage and shopping needs at 36 cubic feet with the seats up—that’s more than the X5. Whatever our doubts about its exterior, the iX interior earns a standing ovation. BMW rejects the sparse minimalism of so many EV interiors, but the cabin doesn’t look cluttered or overdone. A curved, floating glass panel houses the digital instrumentation and the central touchscreen. It provides just the right amount of screen to feel modern without turning the cabin into a video-game designer’s cubicle. The panoramic glass roof has electrochromic controls that make it frosted or clear at the touch of a button. The leather seats are patterned and comfortable, but not overly stuffed. If we had to take one thing off, we’d swap the hexagonal steering wheel for a round one. Leave that weirdness to ’70s custom vans. But that’s a small critique considering the iX is such an outlandish production. Both in driving satisfaction and comfort, the iX is a showstopper.