Walking into the nearly empty Classic Car Club of Manhattan for a BMW event, at the tail-end of the Covid pandemic, was both odd and reassuring. Of course, everyone was masked, temperatures were taken at the door, and social distancing was practiced. But it felt like life was getting back to normal for the first time in a long time and it was good to see a lot of familiar half-faces. More exciting, though, was the chance to see the all-new BMW iX in person for the first time.
Inside Classic Car Club of Manhattan, BMW had the iX blocked off with black temporary walls. Being that the iX was still under embargo, BMW North America didn’t want us leaking any info or photos, so the iX was given its own little hidden room and then all of our phones and cameras were taken before entering.
Once inside the iX’s private chambers, we were given a bit of a tour of the car from its product manager and then were free to poke and prod to our hearts’ desires. I was surprised at how much freedom we were given to play with the iX, given that most of its design and technical specs were still embargoed. Aside from driving it, though, we could do whatever we wanted; play with the new electrochromic sunroof, check out the under-floor cargo area in the trunk, fiddle with its new iDrive, and ultimately give it such a thorough search it’d make TSA agents uneasy.
After my little investigation, along with many discussion with members of BMW’s team, I came away shocked at how much the BMW iX impressed me. The iX is no battery-swapped X5 — it’s a comprehensive rethink of what premium, luxury, BMW SUVs can be for the future.
When the BMW iX was first shown the the public, it was met with mixed reviews. Some BMW enthusiasts, such as myself, actually liked it more than most. Sure, its “grille” is still an eyesore but the rest of the car looks really good. Its proportions are great, it has delightfully short overhangs, and its overall design is a great blend of futuristic and current design. Plus, as odd as its faux-grille looks, it’s more forgivable on the iX because it serves a function. The iX’s fake grille is actually a housing panel for sensors, features a heating element to melt any ice or snow, and it also has a self-healing wrap, to prevent rock chips or scratches on the massive, flat, front-facing panel. Just apply heat from a heat gun or blow dryer and the scratches heal themselves. Neat.
The aero wheels also look really good. They’re equal parts stylish and functional, as they do reduce aerodynamic drag significantly enough to warrant getting them. Plus, they add to the car’s interesting, more futuristic aesthetic.
There’s no chance anyone mistakes a BMW iX with a BMW X5 and that’s a very good thing. If BMW wants to pull X5 customers over to electrification, the iX needs to look and feel more special. From the outside, it absolutely does.
In my humble opinion, the iX has the best interior ever fitted to BMW. Not only does it look entirely different from any other BMW cabin (the design isn’t for everyone but I really love it) but its material quality is a cut above every other Bimmer, too. I sat in a BMW iX xDrive50 model, which comes with gorgeously rich leather that’s sustainably sourced and dyed with olive tree oil, just like the BMW i3.
Everything that looks like metal is metal, everything that looks like crystal (iDrive controller, gear selector, and seat controls) is actually Swarovski crystal, and every piece of leather, metal, wood, and crystal feels incredibly well made.
Then there’s the killer tech. BMW’s latest iDrive 8 not only features an all-new screen but the graphics are massively improved. They’re crisp, futuristic looking, and easy on the eyes. It’s easier to read and navigate than the current system’s stark black, white, and red color palette.
More importantly, BMW improved functionality a ton, revamping how the UI works and making it more intuitive. There are also interesting new features, such as being able to being the entire climate control system up on the screen or using digital versions of BMW’s preset buttons at the top of the screen.
While BMW still kept the annoying backward rev counter and odd looking gauges, the new digital driver’s display is better looking than the current one. It’s simpler, therefor easier to read any information. It also get a bit more customization, making it more functional.
Back seat space is excellent, with passengers over six feet tall being able to sit behind me (5’9″), with knee room to spare for both of us. Interior headroom is great and the electrochromic sunroof makes it feel even airier. Plus, it’s cool to change the opacity of the roof with just the press of a button, changing it from completely opaque or completely transparent.
Overall, the BMW iX has the best interior of every modern BMW for sure and I’d argue that the Bavarians have never made a better cabin. It’s absolutely lovely and any customer looking at an X5 will have a hard time not taking the iX instead, simply because of its killer cabin.
Along with the aforementioned electrochromic sunroof, self healing kidney grille panel, and slick iDrive system, there are a few other interesting features.
The BMW Roundel on the hood is actually an access port for washer fluid. So press it and it pops open, revealing a spout in which to pour your washer fluid.
If you have the setting on, the iX will also greet you with a light dance, a carpet light in front of the doors, unlocking the car, and loading iDrive, simply by detecting you walking up to it. The iX can detect your presence, accurately within just a few centimeters, and will launch the greeting when you’re about three meters away.
Open the trunk and you’ll notice two lights on the body structure, on either side of the trunk aperture, which are there to act as hazard lights in case the trunk is open while on the side of the road.
The floor mats are made from recycled materials, making the BMW iX almost as sustainable as its much older sibling, the original BMW i3.
While this isn’t exactly a feature, the seats are absolutely fabulous; easy for ingress and egress, while also feeling very cozy and surprisingly supportive.
Overall First Impressions
I’m neither an SUV person, nor a fan of BMW’s new front end designs. However, the BMW iX still left a great first impression on me, simply by being cleverly thought out, incredibly well made, and packing the best interior I’ve ever seen on a BMW. I can’t wait to drive one and I honestly don’t see the point in buying an X5 over the iX, unless you absolutely need the extra range on a daily basis. The BMW iX might not be a typical enthusiast’s BMW but it seems to be shaping up to be an excellent EV.