2022 BMW iX a techy EV with an eye on design

Credit: Martin Meissner

Credit: Martin Meissner

The BMW iX makes a bold first impression. From its polarizing exterior design to the holy-smokes-that’s-good interior to the onslaught of new tech onboard, there’s a ton of stuff to pore over before you even hit the road.

The 2022 iX is one of two new BMW EVs coming to the U.S. next year. But while the upcoming i4 is pretty much just a 4 Series Gran Coupe with an electric powertrain, the iX is a clean-sheet design from the ground up. It’s unlike anything else in BMW’s current portfolio.

It all starts with a composite spaceframe made of carbon-fiber reinforced plastics, aluminum and high-strength steel. Sound familiar? This is the same framework BMW used when building the i3 hatchback and i8 coupe, and just like those cars, the iX’s body structure is as light as it is strong. Plus, it looks cool — lift the iX’s hatch and you’ll see the exposed CFRP shell along with inset taillights that illuminate when the tailgate is raised. Safety first.

Laid over that lightweight skeleton is the iX’s smooth skin, with slim horizontal lighting elements, textured surfacing on the faux front air intakes and a roundel logo that doubles as a windshield fluid port. Yes, the iX has that grille, but instead of focusing on its size or design, check this out instead: The grille has a polyurethane coating that makes it less-susceptible to damage, and can actually fix itself. BMW says the self-healing effect takes about 24 hours when left at room temperature, but things like small rock chips and scrapes should quite literally fade away. Ugly? Yeah. Cool? Definitely.

It’s hard to get a sense of how big the iX is, especially in photos. At 195.0 inches long, 77.4 inches wide and 66.7 inches tall, the iX is about the size of a BMW X5 SUV, just a little shorter in height. In the US, the iX will come standard with 20-inch wheels, and a range of 21- and 22-inch options will be available. The Sophisto Grey car pictured here is rolling on 22s, and like so many modern vehicles, the iX really needs big wheels to make the overall design work.

On that note, I hope you like the more aggressive face of the iX xDrive50, because it’s the only one BMW will offer in the US -- well, for now. There’s a slightly smoother front fascia with blue accents on the less-powerful iX xDrive40 that’ll be sold in other countries, but I don’t think we got the short end of the stick here; the xDrive50 looks better. Want something super aggro? BMW is working on a hotter-looking and hotter-driving iX M60, which is expected to debut in January.

The xDrive50 is a pretty great spec, though. Situated in the middle of the iX’s 118.1-inch wheelbase is a 111.5-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, of which 106.3 kWh is actually usable. This sends power to a pair of electric motors, one at each axle. The front motor makes 268 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque while the rear has a healthier 335 hp and 295 lb-ft. Of course, you can’t just add the two numbers together to get the iX’s combined output (EV math is weird). The official figures are 516 hp and 564 lb-ft — plenty, for sure.

No final curb weight figure is available just yet, but the big battery pack means the iX will be heavy, despite its lightweight architecture. Still, BMW quotes a 0-to-62-mph time of 4.6 seconds for the iX xDrive50 — exactly as quick as a V8-powered X5 xDrive50i. It’s no Tesla Model X Plaid, I know, but instant electric torque is a thrill no matter the launch time, and BMW says its batteries should be able to deliver reliable, repeatable acceleration performance.

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

When it does come time to plug in, the iX can accept DC fast-charging at speeds up to 195 kW, meaning you can go from a 10% state of charge to 80% in just under 40 minutes. Hooked up to an 11-kW Level 2 charger, going from 0% to 100% takes 11 hours. Official EPA range estimates are TBD, but BMW estimates the number should come in right around 300 miles. That’s more than enough for the majority of EV buyers.

The iX’s key mission in life is to move you and yours silently and efficiently, so don’t expect sports car-like antics. That said, this EV is hardly a dud, with a nicely controlled ride quality and very little in the way of body roll while cornering. The iX uses the same lift-related dampers that BMW introduced on the G20-generation 3 Series, where the shocks have extra hydraulic damping built in for smoother rebound over bumps. A self-leveling air suspension is optional for an even more supple ride, and even on 22-inch wheels, the iX glides across miles and miles of German autobahn without even the smallest hiccup.

Disappointingly, like a lot of new BMWs, the iX’s steering is pretty lifeless, though the wheel — actually, I guess it’s more of a squircle — has immediate response and good weight to its action. Spec the $1,600 Dynamic Handling Package and you’ll get rear axle steering, which helps scoot the iX’s frumpy butt around corners, making it rather surprisingly agile while pointing up twisty Alpine roads in the Bavarian countryside.

Given the dual-motor setup, the iX xDrive50 has what’s known as through-the-road all-wheel drive, though the front motor can be turned off when power isn’t needed so the whole drivetrain runs more efficiently. No, you can’t force the iX into a purely rear-wheel-drive setting during sporty driving — this isn’t an M5, you guys — but the AWD system’s fully variable torque distribution should definitely make the iX a good friend for foul weather. Throw on some winter tires and you’re good to go.

Fans of regenerative braking will be happy to learn the iX offers four different settings. The high, medium and low modes work as advertised, the former providing a proper one-pedal experience with the latter pretty much coasting when you lift off the throttle. The fourth mode? Adaptive recuperation, the iX’s standard operating procedure. Lift your right foot and the iX will coast until the SUV’s sensors detect a car ahead of you, at which point it will dial in energy recuperation to slow down. Beyond that, the iX can use navigation data and automatically increase the regen as you’re approaching an intersection or tight bend in the road. It’s like a speed-sensitive adaptive cruise control system that’s on all the time, and I’ll be honest, it takes some getting used to. Personally, I’d rather just override the adaptive braking and do the one-pedal thing. But hey, you do you.

Standard driver-assistance systems include the usual adaptive cruise control, parking sensors, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, forward-collision warning, etc. For $1,900, you can add the Driving Assistance Professional Package, which includes the appropriately named Active Driving Assistant Pro, where adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist are combined to make your highway commutes a whole lot easier. Checking this option pack also snags you an always-helpful surround-view camera system.

I’d also be remiss not to mention the funky (and standard) BMW Iconic Sounds. Academy Award-winning composer Hans Zimmer helped BMW create a soundtrack for the driving experience that’s piped in through the iX’s speakers, and it changes based on your driving mode. Floor it in Sport mode and you’ll get all sorts of loud whirry future sounds to accompany the drive. It’s neat, but — buzzkill alert — my favorite thing about this feature is that you can turn it off. It’s just a little hokey for my tastes.

This is only the tip of the proverbial tech iceberg. The iX is the first BMW to roll out with iDrive 8, the automaker’s newest multimedia platform and one of the first to run 5G connectivity. In the iX, iDrive 8 lives on a curved display with non-reflective glass, seamlessly incorporating a 14.9-inch digital gauge cluster and 12.3-inch infotainment screen. Despite being angled slightly toward the driver, the curved display is totally readable from the passenger seat. I’ll need a longer stint with iDrive 8 to really get into the nitty gritty, but the big takeaway is that it’s crisp, colorful, super responsive and pretty easy to learn.

The gauge cluster has a modern aesthetic dominated by blue, bronze and gray tones. The screen is totally reconfigurable with different widgets for multimedia or vehicle data, and you can pull up big gauges, a minimalist display or have it focus largely on a navigation map brought over from the central infotainment screen. On that note, if you’re using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, the map data from those smartphone-mirroring apps is now integrated into the gauge cluster, so you can see third-party map data the same way you would through BMW’s embedded navigation software. But if you want to make use of the cool augmented reality overlays — like what Mercedes-Benz has in its MBUX software — you’ll need to use BMW’s native system.

Everything in the gauge cluster is managed by controls on the right side of the steering wheel, but drivers can interact with the actual central iDrive screen in a number of ways. Natural-language voice commands are here, and BMW says they’re better than before, but I continue to have maybe a 50% success rate. Saying things like, “Hey, BMW, I’m cold” will adjust the climate control, and you can easily rattle off addresses for the navigation system. You can also say, “Hey, BMW, take a selfie,” and the interior monitoring camera will come on so you and your passengers can smile for a snapshot and then share it right from the center screen.

I prefer to work iDrive just by touching the screen, especially given the faster processing power that allows for immediate responses to taps and swipes. iDrive 8 has a fresher take on the widget design you might remember from iDrive 6, where you can swipe horizontally through different tiles for navigation, media, driver profiles and more. New for iDrive 8 is a favorites menu, accessed by swiping down from the top of the screen, where you can save shortcuts to the most frequently used pages or even radio presets.

If you’d rather kick it old school, you can use the large rotary iDrive controller on the center console. Add the $1,150 Luxury Package and that dial is made of glass, with absolutely beautiful detailing and solid tactile feedback. In addition to the iDrive knob, the Luxury Package makes it so the volume wheel, gear selector and even the seat adjustment controls on the doors are all done up in glass. Especially against the walnut open-pore wood on the center console — another Luxury Package add-on — the glass looks so, so, so good. That the walnut trim is backlit with hard buttons for iDrive menus is another awesome bit of design.

And indeed, the iX’s interior is all about design. I’ve truly saved the best for last here: The cabin is the single greatest thing about the new iX. Spacious, airy, full of light and handsomely laid out, this is the best BMW interior I’ve ever sat in, and it’s totally different than what you’ll see in other luxury cars. I love how the dashboard slopes behind the curved display, finishing at the bottom with a thin row of air vents. The two-tier center console looks great, and the fact that it’s not connected to the dash really adds to the fresh, open feeling. The lower shelf has a place to charge your smartphone, and the overall console design is one of the main reasons why the iX reminds me so much of the i3.

The other big link between i3 and iX is the exquisite use of materials and the different colors on offer. I am extremely sad to report that US-spec cars cannot be had with the blue-and-gray suede interior pictured here, because it’s absolutely incredible. Instead, we’ll get a choice of several leather options or a combination of gray microfiber and wool for an extra $500.

Other nice details? The glass roof is electrochromic, quickly tinting via a slider near the dome lights. Rear-seat passengers have a flat floor for lots of legroom, and there are two USB-C ports in the back of each front seat. The cargo compartment is big enough for a few suitcases, and the rear 40/20/40 seats fold flat to accommodate larger loads. There’s a nice little storage space for the iX’s charging cord below the luggage floor, too.

Set to hit dealers in the coming months, the 2022 iX is priced from $84,195 (including $995 for destination but excluding any federal or local tax incentives). Stem to stern, the iX is extremely impressive, and truly a flag-bearer for the next generation of BMW’s EVs. Unlike the i3 and i8, which sort of felt like design exercises and science experiments at the time, the iX is a fully realized concept designed for mass consumption, and it’s proof positive that BMW’s budding electric sub-brand absolutely deserves your attention.

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