New BMW iX: near-production-ready version of electric SUV previewed

Published: 11 November 2020

► Full debrief on new BMW iX SUV
► All-electric and has X5 dimensions
► 100kWh battery, 300+mile range

BMW’s iNext has a new(ish) name, and it’s now much closer to being production ready. This is the BMW iX, a near-complete version of BMW’s long-teased all-electric SUV. Munich says this new EV crossover will debut the brand’s latest tech and innovations, and push the EV powertrain game forward.

Our original suspicions that the new electric SUV would be called iX5 when it made production were put to rest by member of the board, Frank Weber, who told us that 'iX' will be this car's production car name. In finished form, the new iX goes on sale at the end of 2021. Here’s a rundown of what we know so far.

Still looks weird…

That it does. Still, since that tall ‘grille’ had been teased through the iNext concept and i4 concept, it’s less of a surprise. BMW says the iX has exterior dimensions of an X5, is as tall as an X6 and has the wheelbase of an X7 – the latter implying full-SUV interior space in something with a smaller exterior footprint.

BMW ix interior

The bodywork is devoid of creases, the headlights are shallow and frowny and the shape of the rear end gives the iX a silhouette much closer to an X6 than the boxier X5. Blue detailing highlights its electric underpinnings – a staple since the original i3 and i8 – while flush doorhandles and a panoramic glass roof feature.

Our guide to electric and hybrid BMW cars

Inside, the iX’s cockpit again uses a lot of inspiration from the iNext; there’s a hexagonal steering wheel and a huge amount of screen real estate for the driver and front passenger to use. BMW calls it its Curved Display, making up a 12.3-inch screen for driver instrumentation and a wider 14.9-inch one in the centre – housed in one centrepiece. When CAR asked if the operating system running it was an all-new generation of iDrive, Weber confirmed that this was true: 'this is a completely new system, our iDrive version 8.0. You will find out more about its functionality in the first few months of 2021.'

Audio speakers and the head-up display are hidden away, while new touch controls with haptic feedback all debut here. An optional Bowers and Wilkins audio system is available with 30 speakers in total.

What powers the new iX?

BMW has been boasting about its new ‘fifth-generation’ electric powertrain tech for the best part of a year, making its debut here. There’s a 100kWh battery pack underneath, with BMW claiming a usable range of more than 300 miles on one charge.

BMW ix rear tracking

Two e-motors – one on each axle – provide 493bhp of shove, good for a 0-62mph sprint in under five seconds. BMW says the iX is capable of up to 200W DC fast charging, allowing a 10-80 per cent charge to be done in 40 minutes.

BMW also says that its latest EV tech is highly recyclable, with e-motors that don’t use rare earths.

When can I buy an iX?

That’s still uncertain, as this isn’t a 100 per cent real car yet. BMW says the production model that will be spun off from this will go on sale at the end of 2021.

For the concept that started it all, read on for details of the iNext concept car.

The iNext concept

The iX5 will be based on the iNext concept car: its technology, design and packaging is a showcase for the company’s future plans, particularly in terms of electrification, connectivity and autonomous driving.

Like the BMW Vision Dynamics concept (which previews the upcoming i4) and the more recent iX3, the iNext is dominated by a tall, conjoined-kidney grille, which looks set to be a signature of BMW’s electric range.

The windscreen flows unbroken into a panoramic glass roof, designed to fill the interior with as much light as possible.

It’s a very big car, with proportions described by BMW as being between the X5 and X6, but it looks even bigger in the metal. There’s no B-pillar, the central strength formed by an overlap between the front and rear doors. The doors themselves are enormous, the rears being reverse-hinged coach doors, and there are no conventional handles, replaced by gesture sensors.

Likewise there are no door mirrors, replaced by cameras in true concept car style.

Being a concept car, the iNext also sits on enormous 24-inch rims. Don’t expect those to necessarily make it to production, as witnessed by our spy photos above…

Autonomous car levels explained

Manual and autonomous driving modes

The iNext previews both autonomous and connective tech, and the interior can change configuration according to whether it’s in autonomous or manual control modes.

BMW Vision iNext pedals

The concept features Boost mode for old-fashioned human-controlled driving and Ease mode for autonomous travel. In Ease mode the steering wheel retracts slightly and the pedals become flush with the floor. In Boost mode, BMW claims the iNext will still live up to its ‘ultimate driving machine’ strapline, thanks to a low centre of gravity and strong acceleration, although it’s declined to announce projected performance figures.

BMW iNext interior

While the exterior design is domineering, the interior’s clean, uncluttered layout is composed of simple lines and focuses on innovative use of materials and surfaces. BMW design director Adrian van Hooydonk says the interior ‘is not inspired by car design at all – more architecture and boutique hotels.’

Conventional switchgear has been avoided, with many of the car’s primary functions operated by voice control and, intriguingly, touch-sensitive surfaces as opposed to touchscreens. The wooden centre console is a case in point, and in Ease mode its entire surface can act like one large trackpad.

BMW Vision iNext cloth

Similarly, the rear seat – which is an asymmetrical bench to encourage occupants to turn towards one another while in autonomous mode – is made from tactile, coarse-cut Jacquard cloth, and it too has touch-controlled elements. Trace your fingers across certain sections and you can skip music tracks, raise and lower the volume and execute various other commands, while illuminated light paths trace the path of your fingers. Very sci-fi.

Further electric car reading

The best electric cars and EVs on sale today

How much does it cost to charge an electric car?

Future electric cars: upcoming EVs to look out for

By Jake Groves

CAR's deputy news editor, office Geordie, gamer, lover of hot hatches