New BMW iX vs Audi E-tron

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 vs Audi E-tron fronts

The contenders 

New BMW iX xDrive40 M Sport

List price £72,905
Target price £72,905

BMW’s most technologically advanced electric car yet undercuts the E-tron on price and has an official range of 256 miles


Audi E-tron 55 quattro S Line

List price £78,260
Target price £78,149

With a plush interior and class-leading refinement, the E-tron has already seen off the likes of the Mercedes-Benz EQC. Its 252-mile official range is nothing special, though


There’s a fine line between being fashionably late and passé, and the all-new BMW iX electric luxury SUV certainly straddles it. It arrives more than half a decade after Tesla launched the Tesla Model X and several years behind the Audi E-tron, Jaguar I-Pace and Mercedes-Benz EQC, but as Porsche has shown with the Porsche Taycan performance car, there’s no harm in biding your time if the end result blows the competition into the weeds. And with the iX, that goal certainly seems achievable.

You see, although the E-tron has always stood out for its beautiful interior, impressive refinement and practicality, it has two significant issues: a high list price and a slightly disappointing range. And on that first point at least, the iX has the E-tron covered, as long as you opt for the entry-level xDrive40 model; the range-topping xDrive50 is a near-six-figure car.

BMW iX 40 2022 rear

And the range? Well, the iX can officially cover 256 miles on a full charge (compared with the E-tron’s 252 miles), despite having a significantly smaller battery (with a usable capacity of 71kWh versus 86.5kWh). How does it manage that, and does it also beat the E-tron in the real world? Read on for the answers.


Driving

Performance, ride, handling, refinement

With a whopping 402bhp, the E-tron 55 quattro we’re testing is significantly more powerful than the 322bhp iX, but there is very little to separate them when it comes to straight-line acceleration. On a rather damp and dreary winter day at our test track, the E-tron was just two-tenths of a second quicker than the iX from 0-60mph (5.5sec versus 5.7sec). That kind of difference is impossible to detect from behind the wheel; both simply feel hot hatch-worryingly quick.

Audi E-tron 55 2022 rear

But why, you might ask, is the E-tron, with its extra 80bhp, not significantly quicker than the iX? Well, there’s a simple answer: weight. Thanks to a lightweight aluminium and carbonfibre-reinforced plastic structure and its smaller battery, the iX weighs a healthy 155kg less than the E-tron.

The weight difference also has an impact on efficiency. With both cars’ batteries charged to 90%, we drove a route that included simulated motorway, country roads and town driving (in convoy so that traffic conditions wouldn’t influence the results) and the iX’s trip computer showed that it had covered 2.5 miles per kilowatt hour (kWh), giving it a theoretical range of 178 miles. The E-tron was significantly less efficient, using 1kWh every 2.1 miles, giving it a theoretical range of 182 miles – an advantage of just four miles despite its much larger battery.

BMW iX 40 2022 nose

We should point out that our test was conducted on a very cold day (with an air temperature of around 3deg C), and batteries don’t perform as well in such conditions as they do when it’s warm. But we don’t know what’s more disappointing: that the E-tron is so inefficient (in the same conditions, a Tesla Model 3 Performance returned 3.1 miles per kWh) or that BMW’s clean-sheet, cutting-edge electric SUV has a shorter range than a rival that has been on sale for more than three years. If you’re looking at either model as your only car, you’d have to seriously consider whether a sub-200-mile real-world winter range is enough for your needs.

The limited range is a real shame, because both cars are wonderfully relaxing to drive. Their ability to isolate occupants from wind and road noise is outstanding, returning some of the lowest decibel readings we’ve ever recorded at a steady 70mph. The most prominent noise you can hear in the E-tron is a faint whine from the electric motors under acceleration, but ultimately the iX is even more refined.

Audi E-tron 55 2022 nose

Both also deliver a beautifully controlled high-speed ride, although the E-tron does a better job of rounding off larger abrasions such as expansion joints or potholes. This is down to the fact that the E-tron comes as standard with air suspension, whereas the iX has to make do with steel springs. It’s by no means uncomfortable around town, but it never feels as settled as the E-tron on all but the smoothest of roads. Rather frustratingly, if you want an iX with air suspension, you have to step up to the range-topping xDrive50; we’ve tested this version and it’s easily as comfortable as the E-tron.

Neither SUV is a barrel of laughs when it comes to handling, but once again it’s the E-tron that just has the edge. Not only is its steering more naturally weighted and linear in its response than the iX’s super-light set-up, but it also suffers from less body lean and has a more confidence-inspiring balance in corners. The E-tron also generates more grip, but you’ll only notice that if you try to corner as though you’re driving a hot hatch.


Next: What are they like inside? >>

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