What Car? says...
The BMW iX is unquestionably the most radical and technologically advanced BMW electric car since the i3 was revealed 10 years ago.
The i3 – with its lightweight carbon-fibre construction and fancy rear-hinged back doors – showed that electric cars were more than just white goods, they could be lusted after too. It was ahead of its time, but not the big sales hit many expected. In fact, it was possibly too far ahead of its time.
BMW picked a better moment to launch the iX. It's now generally accepted that electric vehicles (EVs) are the future, and car buyers are generally becoming more and more accepting of them.
The iX has been constructed using a generous dose of aluminium, high-strength steel and plastic reinforced with carbon-fibre (as was the smaller BMW i3). Power comes from a 74kWh battery in the ‘entry-level’ iX xDrive 40 or a huge 108kWh one in the xDrive50 and range-topping M60. All versions have four-wheel drive, with an electric motor on each axle.
As well as using clever materials, BMW says the iX offers a new level of connectivity, which includes 5G and cloud technology. A future software update will allow the car to steer, accelerate and brake for itself in certain situations (you'll need to keep your hands on the wheel, though).
The BMW iX doesn't have the luxury electric SUV market all to itself, of course. Its main rivals are the Audi Q8 e-tron and the Jaguar I-Pace but it will also appeal to buyers looking to move away from fossil-fuelled luxury SUVs such as the Audi Q7, the Mercedes G-Class and the Range Rover.
We've driven all those models, and over the next few pages of this review, we’ll let you know how the iX compares with its rivals. We'll also rate it for performance and driving manners, interior quality, running costs and more.
When you've finished reading, remember that we could help you save thousands of pounds on your next new car if you use our free What Car? New Car Buying pages. They list lots of the best new electric car deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The BMW iX is the result of some complex engineering, but the model line-up is refreshingly simple, and kicks off with the 321bhp xDrive40. Even this version is quick: in our own tests it managed 0-60mph in 5.7 seconds. Mind you, we previously timed the Jaguar I-Pace taking just 4.8sec.
It’s not just speed where the xDrive40 falls behind the curve, either, because its battery performance is rather disappointing for a cutting-edge electric SUV. With an official range of up to 264 miles from its 74kWh battery, the efficiency of our test car (admittedly on a chilly November day), equated to a real-world range of just 178 miles. In similar conditions, the I-Pace fared better, with more than 200 miles.
In other words, if you’re considering an iX as a luxury SUV to cover big miles in, the xDrive40 doesn't quite cut the mustard. You’ll want to step up to the xDrive50, with its larger 108kWh battery and real-world range of 273-284 miles; further than the 233 miles from the Audi Q8 e-tron 55 and its bigger battery on the same day.
That model offers 516bhp and a whopping 564lb ft of torque channelled through a four-wheel drive system, so even a small flex of your right foot is enough to fire you towards the horizon very quickly.
The xDrive50 managed an impressive 0-60mph time of 4.4sec in our tests, (one second quicker than the Q8 e-tron 55), but even that isn’t the fastest iX. That honour goes to the M60 version with 610bhp on tap and the ability to hurtle to 62mph in 3.8sec, although it doesn’t feel significantly faster than the regular xDrive50.
Despite an impressive turn of pace, the iX is not an SUV that particularly enjoys being hustled down a tight and twisty B-road. You’ll feel its top-heavy weight when you turn into a corner at speed and the steering is lighter than in many BMWs.
The Q8 e-tron is a little tidier in the corners and has meatier steering, but if you want a more nimble electric SUV, the smaller BMW iX3 and the I-Pace are better bets. The iX does compare well with some fossil-fuelled luxury SUVs, though. Its relatively low centre of gravity makes it far more composed in bends than the Mercedes G-Class and the Range Rover for example.
The iX performs brilliantly against rivals for comfort, especially in xDrive50 and range-topping M60 form. These versions get air suspension, which helps it deal with lumps and bumps on the road better than the I-Pace and the Mercedes EQC. It’s roughly on a par with the Q8 e-tron’s slightly firmer setup, bringing a more settled feel at higher speeds.
The xDrive40 does without air suspension and its ride is a little more unsettled as a result. Overall, the iX's ride is firmer than in the Range Rover, but the trade-off is that body control over undulating roads is far more controlled.
The iX is seriously quiet too – there's hardly any motor whine (unlike in the Q8 e-tron and the I-Pace), while wind and road noise is very well muted. In fact, it's one of the quietest cars we’ve ever tested.
The regenerative braking is mightily impressive too. It can be set to an automatic mode, or you can choose high (which is strong enough to bring the car to a stop), medium or low settings. In auto mode, the iX uses data from the sat-nav and onboard sensors to judge when to ramp up the effect. If you need to use the brake pedal to slow down, you'll find it easy to judge how much pressure to apply to slow smoothly. That's not always the case in the I-Pace.
In case you plan to head off the beaten track with the iX, xDrive50 and M60 versions can rise (slightly) above obstacles using their air-suspension, although not to the same extent as more off-road biased rivals like the G-Class or Range Rover. A G-Class or Range Rover will grip much better on rougher terrain too. The iX’s 400mm wading depth trails the Range Rover’s 900mm by a considerable margin.
Strengths Punchy performance; cosseting ride comfort on higher-spec versions; hushed road manners
Weaknesses Not the most agile; pricier models have longer battery range
The interior layout, fit and finish
There’s no mistaking the BMW iX for anything other than a luxury car because upmarket materials have been used throughout, including sustainably sourced wood, microfibre fabrics and pleasingly robust-feeling recycled plastics.
It all comes together to combine the visual appeal you get in the Mercedes EQC with the build quality of the Audi Q8 e-tron. Some of the buttons can even be swapped for classier crystal glass ones as part of an option pack. For an even plusher interior, you'll want to look at traditional luxury SUVs, such as the Mercedes G-Class and the Range Rover. They make an even more concerted effort to cover the interior’s surfaces with soft leather and attractive finishers.
The iX is fitted with the latest (and greatest) iDrive infotainment system. It combines a huge curved display featuring a 14.9in infotainment touchscreen right next to a 12.3in digital instrument panel behind the steering wheel. The system has logically laid out menus, pin-sharp graphics and lightning-quick responses, plus the added convenience of wireless Apple CarPlay so you can run your phone apps through the screen.
We’re thrilled that BMW has decided to shun the trend for touchscreen-only infotainment systems. You can control it by touch when parked up, but there's also a rotary controller between the front seats, which is a far less distracting method when you're driving. There's also a natural speech voice control function, which works well most of the time.
It’s not all good news, though. There are no physical buttons for the climate control, so to adjust the interior temperature you need to either use the touchscreen or voice control function.
Getting comfortable in the iX is easy. The steering wheel and driver’s seat offer plenty of adjustment and the fundamental driving position is superb. It’s annoying that you have to go into the infotainment screen to adjust lumbar, and anyone expecting to sit up as high as a BMW X7 is going to be disappointed.
The window line is low, though, giving you great visibility ahead and to the sides. Full LED headlights come as standard, but you’ll have to fork out for the ultra-bright Laserlights in order for them to adapt their beams to minimise glare towards other road users.
Rear visibility is more restricted due to the chunky rear pillars, but you get a rear-view camera and parking sensors all round as standard. A 360-degree view camera is part of the Parking Assistant Plus Pack.
BMW offers a number of optional packs that include everything from an electrochromic glass panoramic roof that can turn opaque at the touch of a button to an interior camera that can capture road-trip memories. The Design Loft Pack lines the interior with grey fabric that lifts the ambience and is worth considering.
Strengths Good driving position; options available to add lift the ambience; easy to use iDrive infotainment system
Weaknesses Traditional luxury cars are even more plush; fiddly air-con controls buried in the touchscreen
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
That, combined with a recessed centre console (between the driver and passenger) and a dashboard that 'floats' on a deeply scalloped base, means there's loads of legroom in the front. There’s no problem with head room either, because of the high roofline.
You also get an impressive amount of storage dotted around the interior. That includes a large glovebox and partitioned door bins, and the centre console has a wireless phone-charging pad, two USB-C sockets, a 12V socket, two big cupholders, a small cubby for keys and a larger cubby for other essentials.
The flat floor means the iX has plenty of leg room in the rear for all three passengers, and they each have loads of head and shoulder room, too – even more than you get in the cavernous Audi Q8 e-tron. The only minor downside is the lack of foot room under the front seats to let occupants really stretch out. The tall side windows and optional panoramic roof help give the iX a really airy feel in the back.
You can adjust the angle of the rear seatbacks but, like the Q8 e-tron and the Jaguar I-Pace, the iX isn't available as a seven-seater. If you need to carry more than four passengers, you'll need to look at the pricier Mercedes EQS SUV or consider traditional luxury SUVs, such as the BMW X7 or the long wheelbase version of the Range Rover.
Boot space is rather disappointing at 500 litres below the parcel shelf – less than you get in all of the rivals we've mentioned. The rakish tailgate reduces the effective length of the load bay and doesn’t open as high as we'd like. If you're tall, you'll need to duck to access the boot when the car is backed up against a kerb.
The boot floor is at least a useful square shape and we managed to fit a respectable eight carry-on suitcases below the tonneau cover – one more than we could squeeze in the I-Pace and the same tally as the Q8 e-tron and the Mercedes EQC.
The rear seats can be dropped in a convenient 40/20/40 configuration by pressing buttons on the wall of the boot, which is much more effortless than using the levers in the Q8 e-tron’s boot. However, unlike in the Q8-e tron and the I-Pace, there isn’t a storage area under the bonnet.
Strengths Spacious for all occupants; reclining rear backrest boosts comfort; useful boot capacity
Weaknesses Nothing major, but rear foot space under the front seats is a bit tight
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The entry-level BMW iX xDrive40 is priced broadly in line with the Audi Q8 e-tron 50, the Jaguar I-Pace EV400 and the Mercedes EQC 400. The xDrive50 M Sport is slightly more pricey than the most expensive Q8 e-tron 55. Meanwhile, the range-topping M60 is priced more in line with sports SUVs such as the Audi RS Q8.
An electric SUV makes a huge amount of sense as a company car because of the enormous tax savings they offer. For private buyers buying one outright, the iX’s resale values are strong when compared with electric rivals. However, they are predicted to be much weaker than fossil-fuelled luxury SUVs over three years. As a result, the cost of ownership during that time is similar to the Mercedes G-Class or a diesel Range Rover.
If you plan to buy your car using PCP finance, you might find that the iX will cost more per month than a Range Rover, at more than £1700 per month on a three-year contract with a 10,000 mile annual limit and an £11,000 initial deposit. Compared with electric rivals, the Q8 e-tron will cost similar per month, while an I-Pace will be much cheaper.
The 74kWh battery in the xDrive40 can’t charge at the same fast rate as the 108kWh battery of the xDrive50 and M60 (up to 150kW, compared with 195kW). Both can be charged from 10-80% in just over half an hour, assuming you can find a public CCS charger that can deliver enough power. For reference, the Q8 e-tron 55 can charge up to 170kW, while the I-Pace lags behind at 100kW.
The iX is available in two trim levels: Sport and M Sport. Sport gives you plenty of luxuries, including 21in aerodynamic alloys, heated front seats, a heat pump, a 12-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, four-zone climate control, wireless phone-charging, a leather-look upholstery called SensaTec and the 14.9in infotainment display.
M Sport gets sportier-looking bumpers and 21in wheels, bronze exterior highlights and blue seatbelts, while the M60 gets larger 22in aero wheels, M Sport brakes with blue calipers, and ventilated front seats with a massage function.
We’d recommend the reasonably priced Comfort Pack. It adds keyless entry, adjustable lumbar support, a massage function for the front seats and a heated steering wheel.
Independent testing by Euro NCAP revealed the iX to be one of the safest premium electric cars and it scored the full five-star rating. It beat the Q8 e-tron and the I-Pace for child occupant protection.
It’s too early to be sure how reliable the iX will be, but BMW as a brand finished in 16th place out of 32 manufacturers in our 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey. That’s above all the other brands mentioned in this review. A three-year, unlimited mileage warranty is provided as standard, and the battery pack gets a separate warranty for eight years or 100,000 miles.
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Strengths Well-equipped; strong charging rate
Weaknesses Lots of options that can quickly drive up the price; weak residuals compared with non-electric luxury cars; best versions cost more
The iX is a little longer but a touch narrower than the BMW X5. Both seat five people, but the X5 (in regular petrol or diesel form) has a larger boot.
When we pitched an xDrive40 M Sport iX against a BMW iX3 we found that the cheaper iX3 outshone the iX with an easier-to-use interior, a better ride and a longer range. The xDrive50 iX fixes the second two issues but costs a lot more.
|RRP price range
|£70,985 - £124,605
|Number of trims (see all)
|Number of engines (see all)
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)
|Available doors options
|3 years / No mileage cap
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)
|£142 / £249
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)
|£284 / £498