BMW iX xDrive50 (2021) review

Published:29 September 2021

BMW iX xDrive50 (2021) review
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5

By CJ Hubbard

Former CAR magazine associate editor, road tester, organiser, extremely variable average wheel count

By CJ Hubbard

Former CAR magazine associate editor, road tester, organiser, extremely variable average wheel count

► BMW takes shock and awe approach to new EV
► xDrive50 variant packs 516bhp and 564lb ft
► Lux interior, loads of clever tech, 380-mile range

Say one thing for the way the BMW iX looks – say it’s distinctive. Whatever you think of that nose, or that rear overhang, you aren’t going to mistake it for any other car. Which is good news, I reckon, because BMW has certainly put some effort into engineering its first bespoke-platform EV since the i3.

For all that you might sneer at yet another electric SUV, the iX is built around a carbon, aluminium and high-strength steel mix, uses BMW’s fifth generation of e-motor and battery technology, delivers the firm’s first all-electric all-wheel drive, and has an interior that majors above all on comfort.

Best electric SUV

The xDrive50 version we’ve been driving at launch will go a claimed 380 miles per charge, has 195kW charging capability that will add an extra 93 miles of range in 10 minutes, and puts out a fairly handy 516bhp.

So it’s quite good then?

No-one is really surprised by this, are they? I mean, the latest M4 looks gopping in the wrong finish but that’s bloody magic to drive, so BMW wasn’t about to make a mess of what it’s describing as ‘the pinnacle’ of its new electric vehicle technology.

Elements do still come at you unexpectedly. With this form-factor and a kerbweight in excess of 2.5-tonnes, I wasn’t anticipating it to be quite so immediately agile. And while all-round air-suspension and a very stiff structure were always going to be great for comfort and refinement, it rolls on minimum 21-inch wheels so surely it shouldn’t deal with bumps quite so unflappably?

Electric BMWs: what you need to know

On the other hand, there are some daft indulgences. You can probably already guess what they are from looking at the interior.

Can we skip the outside and go straight inside, then? 

We could, but let’s just cover a few exterior details. That shape may appear ungainly, but it has a drag coefficient of 0.25. The wheels are aerodynamically optimised, and designed to break predictably in an accident. The grille is made of ‘self-healing’ plastic and has a heated element to make sure the sensors – including long-range radar and a forward-facing camera for the augmented-reality nav-guidance – keep working in the snow.

The recessed door handles look like horrible dirt traps; open the car – for which you need only your phone, rather than anything as old-fashioned as a key – and you’ll see the bare carbonfibre reinforced plastic that makes up the bodysides. If you’re at all interested in machines, the iX has a distinct air of intrigue.

But what about that interior?

General consensus suggests the inside is more universally successful, although also far from ordinary. The curving slither of display screen on top of the dash – actually two screens joined – is de facto EV to the point of near cliché, but elsewhere it gets really wild.

There are stark joins between materials, and a fusion of soft quilted surfaces with hard, faceted crystal control elements for the iDrive and the electric seats. These last are mounted on the door, which is unusual for a BMW and slightly unwise for this material, as when the sun hits them they send weird, trippy colours scampering about the cabin.

The steering wheel is a highly shaped hexagon. Some of you will probably be screaming at your browsers, but frankly it didn’t occur to me to be annoyed at this at any point during the drive – perhaps because the now remarkably intuitive variable-ratio steering means you rarely have to move your hands once you start holding it.

Beyond this is a customisable set of digital dials, above that a customisable head-up display – which prompts you with warnings such as ‘dangerous bends ahead’. Beside the dials is the infotainment screen for the new BMW Operating System 8 iDrive system. Which is as complex or as easy to master as a modern phone, depending on your perspective, and responds smartly to touch input as well as the now crystal iDrive puck.

The BMW voice assistant is supposedly smarter, too. But I found it slow to respond and quickly stopped bothering to try – possibly because we were in Germany, where the phone network isn’t always up to the task.

Is the iX comfortable?

Most definitely. The cabin is spacious – and airy, if you option the Skylounge panoramic roof, which goes opaque at the touch of a button – while the air suspension really does a remarkable job of soaking up poor surfaces, even if you’ve got the drive system set to Sport.

There is a huge amount of adjustment in the driving position, and the seats are big and armchair like, rather than sporty and embracing. Which suits the character the car is trying to project, but does mean you’ll likely find yourself sliding about once you get into the spirit of slinging the iX around a bit.

What is it like to drive?

Utterly incongruous. Turn off the Hans Zimmer backing track – which is actually pretty good as you might expect from an Oscar-winning film score composer – and the iX is as quiet as the grave it could easily put you in if you really got carried away.

That’s somewhat melodramatic, it being packed with a vast array of safety kit and integrated control systems that mean the front and rear motors can juggle grip like a top-class speed climber. But there is very much an aura of the closet loon about this car – you know, the sort who barely says a word at work but goes totally bananas at parties.

You’ll notice this the first time you find yourself hurtling towards the speed restriction at the start of a village, doing about a million mile an hour in near-total silence. Try that trick in an M4 and locals will be dislocating their eyeballs; in the iX no-one even glances up (although they might double-take at the looks if it happens to pass in front of their retinas).

Perhaps for this very reason BMW has limited the iX to 124mph, a speed the xDrive50 version has absolutely no trouble thrusting at for sustained periods of time. But with 516hp and 564lb ft, of course it’s fast, and of course it does 0-62mph in 4.6sec – the real sock to gob here is the way it maintains the initial urgency even at higher velocities, and the way it dances around those dangerous bends like Bob from accounting’s on the Es again.

Yes, there’s some body roll. But with a circa-650kg battery pack bolted to the floor pan, the centre of gravity is very much in the right place and the opportunity to exploit every essence of that performance comes up apparently repeatedly.

What’s so trick about the BMW fifth-gen electric drive stuff?

BMW refers to the motors and batteries as Gen5 (Gen1 going all the way back to the BMW Concept ActiveE of 2009). The motors are the more interesting – probably – as they use copper-wound iron electromagnets instead of rare-earth permanent magnets. This is not only greener, it allows the engineers to manipulate the magnetic field, holding on to maximum power and torque until higher rpm.

Other neat EV features include the adaptive recuperation, which uses the sensors and nav data to control how much the iX slows when you lift off the accelerator. Works well, but I mostly just used B-mode for even greater regen and near-flawless one-pedal driving.

The brakes are fascinating, however. The iX debuts BMW’s new Integrated Brake technology, which as with many other areas of the car, takes a bunch of traditional components and compresses them into a single unit. The brake pedal only makes a physical link to the friction brakes in a system failure situation; up until that point, the Integrated Brake manages slowing the car via the motors and/or friction.

The result is consistent (if artificial) brake feel no matter how the iX is doing the stopping – although it will supposedly simulate brake fade if you’ve really been rinsing it, just as a warning that you’re reaching the limit.

There’s also a lot of current ‘self-driving’ tech available in the iX, including the option to have it automatically speed up to new limits, such as when leaving that village you smoked up to earlier. But this was easily foxed by autobahn slip roads, so I kept it mostly turned off.

BMW iX – the initial verdict

The iX xDrive50 is deeply impressive in nearly every area – as well it should be for an asking price upwards of £91,905 (and that’s for the ‘entry-level’ Sport trim; M Sport is £3k extra). There will be a more modest 322hp xDrive40 at UK launch in November 2021, but that only claims a 257-mile range and still costs at least £69,905.

So, you’ll need to be quite invested in the idea of a luxury electric BMW that might occasionally scare children in order to justify the cost. If you are, though, it seems very unlikely you won’t enjoy it. As even if the garnish is a little too strong in some places, the not-so-basic basics are spot on – the iX is good to drive, good to sit in and good at making you feel like you’ve just slightly stepped into the near future. Which is surely what a modern high-end electric car should be.

Specs are for a BMW iX xDrive50 M Sport

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Price when new: £91,905
On sale in the UK: November 2021
Engine: Front and rear mounted electric motors, max system horsepower 516bhp, max system torque 564lb ft
Transmission: Single-speed transmission, electric all-wheel drive
Performance: 4.6sec 0-62mph, 124mph top speed (electronically limited), 105.2kWh net battery capacity (111.5kWh gross), 380-mile WLTP driving range, 19.8kWh/100km electric energy consumption, 0g/km CO2 in motion, 195kW DC charging (10% to 80% in 35 minutes)
Weight / material: 2585kg
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4953/1967/1696


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  • BMW iX xDrive50 (2021) review
  • BMW iX xDrive50 (2021) review
  • BMW iX xDrive50 (2021) review
  • BMW iX xDrive50 (2021) review
  • BMW iX xDrive50 (2021) review
  • BMW iX xDrive50 (2021) review
  • BMW iX xDrive50 (2021) review

By CJ Hubbard

Former CAR magazine associate editor, road tester, organiser, extremely variable average wheel count