TEST DRIVE: 2022 BMW iX xDrive50 – The Bavarian Magic Carpet

The BMW iX is an entirely new concept, built on an electric-first platform.

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After six years of design, engineering and testing, BMW’s flagship electric car is now ready for the world. The 2022 BMW iX will enter production in November before arriving in global markets next year. And what better place to test its capabilities other than the beautiful landlocked state of Bavaria.

The New BMW Flagship

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BMW iX

Born in Munich, but manufactured in Dingolfing, the new iX electric crossover is as German as it can be. Yet the provincial German engineering DNA has been altered more than ever before. The BMW iX is an entirely new concept, built on an electric-first platform and with a new philosophy in mind: comfort over sportiness. Instead of building an X5-like vehicle with an all-electric drivetrain, BMW set out to create a new flagship model. In a way, the BMW iX is a trendsetter for the brand, just like the i3 and i8 were back in the day.

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BMW iX

Of course, the iX has nothing in common with these cars when it comes to dimension or design, but it does inherit one fundamental idea: smart packaging and great freedom in designing the interior. At 4953mm in length, 1967mm in width and 1695mm in height, the BMW iX is just 31mm longer, 37mm narrower and 50mm lower than current BMW X5. Its wheelbase is also 8 mm longer than the popular SAV. Yet, BMW says that the iX will give the driver and passengers similar room as a 7 Series limousine. The cargo space is slightly smaller than in the X5 – 500-liter capacity or 1,750 liters if you lower the rear bench.

Purpose-Built Architecture

Having a dedicated electric vehicle platform means a few things. Firstly, it’s lighter than converting a traditional architecture over for an electric vehicle. The structural points and package requirements are designed specifically for a battery pack in the floor, electric motors at each axle, and the lack of traditional powertrain equipment. So there’s no waste in the chassis.

Secondly, as we mentioned earlier, the EV-first platform allows for better packaging, which in turn allows for better interior space, a larger battery pack, and more cargo space. Lastly, it gives BMW designers more freedom to design the car as they want, as there are fewer powertrain packaging constraints to worry about. There are other tricks at play here too. For example, the car’s design was made this way to keep the drag coefficient as low as possible and the iX is a record holder in this regard, with 0.25 cd.

For instance, the completely flat rear trunk floor in the iX is only possible because it doesn’t have a traditional transmission tunnel to work around. The battery can be stored completely flat underneath the floor with no obstructions. Therefore, the battery is packaged better and rear passengers have far more foot room. Also, because the rear subframes and suspension were designed for an electric motor, the entire eDrive unit can be stored under the rear trunk floor with no intrusion into cargo space.

The BMW iX also makes clever use of materials in its chassis. Some of the chassis’ lower half is made from CFRP (carbon fiber reinforced plastic), which helps reduce weight and add stiffness.

All-Wheel Drive And Latest Battery Tech

TEST DRIVE: 2022 BMW iX xDrive50 – The Bavarian Magic Carpet
Crossover-Like Design

Powering the BMW iX is the brand’s latest Gen5 electric drive unit. Our test car was the BMW iX xDrive50 which features two drive units, one at the rear axle and one at the front. Each drive unit consists of the electric motor, the one-speed transmission, and all requisite electronics, all of which are packed into one compact unit. According to BMW, it’s free of magnets and other rare-earth materials, while also being 93-percent efficient.

Total system power for the BMW iX xDrive50 is 385 kW (516 horsepower) and 564 lb-ft of torque (765 Nm), which also makes it the most powerful electrified BMW in history. Sending juice to the drive units is a 111.5 kWh battery pack (105.2 kWh net), making it the largest battery ever fitted to a BMW vehicle. BMW says that the new battery tech features 30 percent increase in energy density over that used by the BMW i3. During a presentation, we were able to see the battery pack up close and how its modular cells can easily be swapped if needed.

BMW also claims the iX can achieve 205 kW charging speed and can be charged from 10 percent to 80 percent in less than 40 minutes on a 200-kW DC fast charger. Or you can add 90 miles of range in just 10 minutes.

The Most Advanced Suite Of Safety Features

BMW iX

BMW iX comes with the most advanced cameras and radar systems. While Level 3 of autonomous driving is still far out, the iX is capable of true Level 2+ systems. There are no less than five radar sensors, five cameras and 12 ultrasonic sensors in the iX. The Camera technology, radar functions and sensors are integrated seamlessly into the grille behind a transparent surface. As far as safety features, there are quite a few upgrades. For example, the front collision warning system now detects oncoming traffic when turning left as well as cyclists and pedestrians when turning right. Of course, the opposite will happen in countries where the steering wheel is on the right side.

Another novelty is the BMW Maneuver Assistant which has the ability to save and store memorized reverse paths. For instance, if you have a long, tricky driveway, pull in correctly once and you can save that exact path. This way, when it’s time to reverse, it uses that specific path each and every time. So if you’re a bit tired one night and you pull in a bit wonky, it’s not going to use that path as its memory for next time.

Up to ten paths can be saved, though the longest a single path can be is 200 meters, with only up to 600 meters total. So the limit is ten paths or 600 meters, whichever comes first. It also can self-correct by up to 30 cm (almost 12 inches), in case it needs to maneuver around a new obstacle in is its path that wasn’t upon entry. It will always revert back to its original path but there’s some wiggle room now, for self-correction. Interestingly, it can also make multiple-point turns throughout the path. You can watch a demo here.

This Is Not Your Typical BMW SUV

TEST DRIVE: 2022 BMW iX xDrive50 – The Bavarian Magic Carpet
Slightly Larger Than The X5

From the moment I left the Munich Airport aboard an Alpine White iX xDrive 50, one thing was clear: this new model is not your typical BMW SUV and shares nothing with the X5, for example. Sure, it features a crossover design, but compared to the X5, which aims to be a sporty crossover, the iX takes the opposite approach. During a conversation with BMW engineers, we learned that comfort in driving was one of the top requirements of this project.

The “Magic Carpet” feeling is instantly noticeable, with the iX running smoothly over any imperfections in the road. And it does so with the ease and the confidence of an ultra-luxurious SUV. Even the seats were adjusted to be more comfortable than in any other BMW. They feature greater cushioning and, of course, they sit high in the cabin overlooking a low-positioned dashboard. The comfy ride is also aided by the standard four-corner air suspension with adaptive dampers.

BMW iX

Despite weighing 2,585 kg (5,700 lbs), the BMW iX xDrive50 is no slouch. The massive electric crossover pulls away easily from under you and it does so in an aggressive matter. What’s fascinating about the iX is that it can pin you back into the seat at any given time, regardless of the speed. A simply push on the gas pedal releases that instant torque which is one of the great things about driving an electric vehicle.

The BMW iX is also the perfect Autobahn cruiser. Even at 200 km/h (124 mph), the iX xDrive50 is composed and balanced, and more importantly for me, it is extremely silent. The faint whine from the electric motor is barely noticeable in the regular driving mode, especially since the car does a great job blocking any road noise. Now if you’re still an old-school type of driver, BMW includes a gimmick for you.

New Driving Modes

BMW iX

Switch over to the SPORT mode and the BMW iX xDrive50 not only gets stiffer and sportier, but it also delivers a fake V8-like sound from the BMW IconicSounds package. Compared to the Active Sounds induced in the cabin of combustion-powered BMWs, this one sounds different and certainly more unique. It’s also quite cool that it was produced by Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer.

BMW iX

Speaking of driving modes, the new BMW iX comes with a new button preset dubbed My Modes. Behind that tech you will find three new settings: Personal, Sport and Efficient. Each one of them comes with their own presets, like the UI/UX in the head-up display and dashboard, but also with customized driving settings. And thanks to the new BMW iDrive 8, the customization level of the entire car is at an all-time high.

TEST DRIVE: 2022 BMW iX xDrive50 – The Bavarian Magic Carpet
Polarizing Looks

The ride from Munich to Berchtesgaden takes me through the scenic land of Bavaria, and briefly into Austria, before hitting some twisties on the way up to the Alps. Still in SPORT mode, the BMW iX seems to forget about its weight and runs with confidence through the tight corners. Naturally, not many iX drivers will push their car too hard through hairpins, but it’s reassuring to see how effortless a spirited drive can be. The iX also delivers a quite different feeling when it comes to cornering forces and lateral acceleration, and I guess that’s another difference when compared to an X5.

BMW iX

Since the acceleration pedal is quite sensitive, you will quickly find yourself traveling at high speeds, and that’s one of the things you should pay attention to in an electric car. Despite being built with comfort in mind, the BMW iX xDrive50 employs a precise steering column which allows for quick turn-ins. The low center of gravity is certainly noticeable, especially when quickly changing directions or needing to aggressively brake. The optional Integral Active Steering plays a part in the overall spirited driving experience as well, and it should help drivers quite a bit on tight city roads.

Brake-Regen Technology

BMW iX

Speaking of braking, the BMW iX models come with two settings: D for adaptive regenerative braking system and B for one-pedal feel braking. The adaptive regenerative braking system helps feed as many electrons back into the battery as you can this side of a perpetuum mobile. The recuperation and active braking is adapted to the road situation which is constantly being scanned ahead by a multitude of sensors and GPS data.

I’ve noticed first hand how the system worked when approaching STOP signs or junctions. The degree of braking was increased automatically in order to maximize the energy recuperation. Naturally, open roads will favor the coasting feature of the BMW iX. Just like the BMW i4, the iX allows for a customization of the brake energy recuperation in the B mode. Three settings are available – High, Medium or Low – which deliver the characteristic one-pedal feeling.

I played around with all brake regen settings during my lengthy drive, and while I do enjoy the prediction game of the one-pedal braking, in the end, it’s the Adaptive (D) mode which delivers a better overall experience. Especially if you’re new to electric vehicles.

What’s The Actual Electric Range?

BMW iX

BMW claims that the iX xDrive50 has an EPA-rated range of 300 miles or 630 km on the WLTP. Of course, these figures are calculated in best case scenarios. But unfortunately (or fortunately), my driving experience was far from normal. For a few reasons. Firstly, the driving route included a combination of Autobahn and curvy roads up the mountain. American meets the Autobahn – therefore, the top speed number took over my instincts. I often found myself pushing the car close to the 200 km/h limit, which naturally has a high impact on the efficiency and range of an electric vehicle.

TEST DRIVE: 2022 BMW iX xDrive50 – The Bavarian Magic Carpet
Comfortable Ride

Secondly, like a kid in the Candyland, I pushed the iX hard through the twisties with a combination of heavy braking (which should help the range) and quick acceleration runs (not so great for the range). The overall route was split in three: 70 km to the BMW Plant in Dingolfing, followed by 20 km to a photography spot, and then another 155 km to the final destination in Berchtesgaden. So roughly 245 km (152 miles).

Upon reaching the hotel, the BMW iX xDrive50 still showed about 345 km (214) miles of range. At some point, I traveled around 15 km at 175 km/h (109 mph) and the battery charge dropped only around 2 percent. This is far from being a very accurate range test, but that’s something that we will attempt to do once we get a week-long loaner from BMW. The efficiency reported by iX’s onboard computer was 2.9 miles per kWh.

Should I Buy One?

BMW iX

As I write this review, I’ve been scratching my head to dig deeper and find some faults in this BMW iX. But there aren’t any major flaws. Of course, I would have loved the iX to have come out 2-3 years ago, as a complementary car to the quirky, yet fantastic i3. That timing would have put BMW ahead of its competitors, so a lot of the current chatter would have been put to bed early on. Arguably one could say that the 300 miles range is still shorter than some of its competitors, and they might have a point. But it’s also fair to acknowledge BMW’s way of bringing products to life: consistent iterations and extensive testing.

I’m also taking a leap of faith in saying that the 300 miles range would be sufficient for most people. And that comes from an i3 owner with a typical range of 140 miles who has survived in the automotive world in the last 7 years. As an electric car owner, you learn to adjust, to adapt and, often, to even change your lifestyle. Furthermore, if there is a solid charging network around you, then the range aspect becomes less stressful.

Lastly, one could also argue that the design is too polarizing and daring, and they will certainly be right in that aspect. The iX is not your conventional BMW, but that shouldn’t really surprise us. BMW has been known for shaking up their designs every few decades, it’s just that now, we have more tools at our disposal to share our feelings.

In the end, the BMW iX xDrive50 is a solid product and will certainly be a strong competitor in what is shaping up to be a new battleground for premium cars. As always, our reviews can only paint an overall picture, so it’s always best to jump behind the wheel, if the opportunity arises.

The 2022 BMW iX xDrive50 will arrive in March 2022 in the United States and a few months before that in Europe. In the U.S. the car is priced at $82,300 plus $995 Destination Charge. A comparable Tesla Model X starts at $94,690 for the Long Range model. The BMW iX is also comparable in price with the 2021 BMW X5 M50i which rings the register at $82,800 plus $995.

2022 BMW iX xDrive50

Exterior Appeal - 7.5
Interior Quality - 9
Steering Feedback - 8
Performance - 9
Handling - 8
BMWness/Ultimate Driving Machine - 8
Price Point - 8

8.2

In the end, the BMW iX xDrive50 is a solid product and will certainly be a strong competitor in what is shaping up to be a new battleground for premium cars.