This time next year, BMW customers will have their choice of two fast, very luxurious SUVs at around the same price point but with very different approaches — the BMW iX xDrive50 and BMW X5 M50i. There will be many reasons to buy one over the other; range, power, performance, comfort, handling, and tech; but since we haven’t driven the iX just yet, we’ll have to settle for comparing their style. Before the pitchforks and torches come out, we do acknowledge that this is an apples to oranges comparison. At the same time, it’s fair to assume that some customers will ask the dealers this very same question: BMW iX or X5?
Despite both being similarly sized and similarly priced, the BMW iX xDrive50 and X5 M50i look nothing alike. The BMW X5 M50i is a very traditional SUV, with classic SUV proportions, functional kidney grilles, front air intakes, and exhaust tips. While the BMW iX xDrive50 looks like the same car but from the future. It lacks functional grilles up front, save for a couple of air intakes, it has no exhausts, and while its proportions are pretty classic, its overhangs are nice and short.
Is there actually a better looking car? I’m not so sure you call one better looking than the other because they’re not only different, design-wise, but are such fundamentally different vehicles underneath that their designs must be different. However, there are some design elements of both cars that are better than the others’.
For instance, the grille on the BMW X5 M50i is miles better. Of course, it’s much different because is actually a functional grille but I do find it ironic that the car which actually needs quite a bit of airflow to cool its massive V8 has a smaller grille shape than the car that doesn’t actually need a grille. If the BMW iX had a kidney grille, which is admittedly just a sensor-housing panel, shaped like the X5 M50i’s, it be a much better looking car. But the iX’s slick headlights are very cool and look far more modern than the X5’s.
In profile, the BMW X5 M50i is probably a bit cooler looking but that’s not all that fair, considering it’s designed to look like a performance car and the BMW iX is not. However, you can see that both cars have classic SUV proportions, both accentuate their rear wheels, and both have relatively short front overhangs. So there’s certainly some familial BMW design in their silhouettes. Personally, I actually like the iX a bit better from the side, because I think it’s a more visually interesting car, but I get why enthusiasts prefer the X5 M50i.
Out back, it’s interesting to see how much functional design can influence how a car looks. The BMW X5 M50i looks far more aggressive, thanks to its quad exhausts and rear diffuser. Those functional bits make the X5 M50i seem more purpose built for performance, despite the fact that the iX xDrive50 is probably just as fast.
However, the iX xDrive50 looks far more futuristic, thanks to its ultra-slim taillights and minimalist design. Again, I think I prefer the iX better but I totally get why the X5 M50i would be preferred by purists.
Inside, there’s actually a clear winner — the BMW iX. It’s not just the fact that it has far more cabin space, due to its lack of internal combustion engine bits taking up space. The iX’s cabin is futuristic and refreshing in the same way that the i3 was back in its day.
While the X5 M50i is a lovely place to spend some time, its materials, seats, design, and technology are quite a bit behind the iX’s. Admittedly, the X5 is quite a bit older. Still, the iX is the next step in BMW design but it feels like it’s several steps ahead. Plus, if you slap a three-spoke steering wheel on the iX and some aluminum or carbon fiber trim, instead of wood, it will look just as sporty as the X5 M50i. Of course, the X5 is now 4 years old, so lots of things have changed since…
This design comparison wasn’t done to pick a winner as much as it was to compare and contrast two very different design philosophies from the same brand in similarly sized and priced vehicles. When customers enter BMW showrooms, they’ll have the choice of both cars.
Choosing between them will obviously come down to more than just style but their style might play a huge factor in that choice. If it were my money, I’d go for the BMW iX. But I can easily see enthusiasts opting for the X5, simply due to its more traditional design.
[BMW X5 images provided by Hendrick BMW and @vote4pedrog on Instagram]