New BMW iX vs Audi E-tron: interiors

BMW has finally joined the luxury electric SUV party with the radical iX. To be counted as a success, it must beat the likes of the Audi E-tron...

New BMW iX dashboard

Behind the wheel

Driving position, visibility, build quality

When we first tested the Audi E-tron back in 2019, we confidently stated that it had the finest interior of any electric vehicle we’d ever tested, thanks to its soft-touch plastics, beautifully damped buttons and lashings of leather and Alcantara. And three years on, it’s still a deeply impressive design – but it’s no longer the class leader.

That’s because the BMW iX has reset the bar for interior design in the electric SUV class by blending the build quality you find in the E-tron with the visual wow factor of Mercedes’ EQC. Everywhere you look, the materials are top-notch, including sustainably sourced wood and robust-feeling recycled plastics, while an enormous screen appears to stretch more than halfway across the dashboard.

Audi E-tron dashboard

This screen, is, in fact, two panels sitting side by side. The 14.9in one in the middle of the dashboard controls the infotainment system, while the 12.3in instrument panel ahead of the driver can be configured to display a variety of information, including your speed and remaining range. The E-tron also benefits from a slick touchscreen infotainment system and highly configurable digital instruments (called Virtual Cockpit), but it’s rather frustrating that neither contender has physical air-con buttons, which would be easier to use than the touchscreen-based controls they come with.

This is a fairly minor gripe, though; ergonomically, both cars are pretty impressive. They have comfortable driving positions that place you high enough to know that you’re sitting in a full-sized SUV – something that can’t be said for the low-slung I-Pace – and while both cars have limited rear visibility due to their thick rear pillars, both get parking sensors (front and rear) and a rear-view camera as standard.

The E-tron also comes with the option of ‘virtual’ door mirrors, which replace the conventional mirrors with cameras, but we wouldn’t bother to add them. They display images on small screens that are positioned too low down on the insides of the doors to ever feel natural to use, and they cost a punchy £1250.



New BMW iX infotainment

With multi-layered menus, this latest iDrive system isn’t quite as intuitive as those of other BMWs, but it’s still the best here. The 14.9in touchscreen has lightning-quick responses and pin-sharp graphics, while the physical rotary controller makes the system a breeze to use on the move. If you’re an audiophile, you can upgrade the sound system to a 1615-watt, 30-speaker Bowers & Wilkins system as part of the £5000 Technology Plus Pack.

Audi E-tron

Audi E-tron infotainment

Audi’s latest system certainly looks the part, thanks to crisp graphics and a dual-screen set-up: the upper one controls the sat-nav and other media functions, while the lower screen is reserved for the climate controls. The 10.1in upper screen responds quickly to prods and the menus are user-friendly, but it’s still more distracting to use while driving than the dial-based interface you get in the iX or the Mercedes-Benz EQC’s touchpad.

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