BMW iX xDrive40 Sport Launch Edition Review: As Strange As It Looks, It’s Anything But
Let’s be honest here. Did we ever consider the BMW iX a beautiful car? That elongated kidney grille has found its ultimate expression in the iX, while squinty front headlights and a slab-sided profile does nothing to ease the eyes. The rear is perhaps the most conventional-looking part of the car, but it’s still a shock, a bigger one than even the transition to the Bangle-era in the early 2000s.
But really behind the wheel it actually feels far more familiar - and conventional - than the car would have you believe. We found this to be the case in our teaser drive of the BMW iX at the BMW Group’s Electrified Drive last December, and it was confirmed again when we had an extended test drive shortly after.
Despite the long names of the car, the line-up is pretty recognisable in typical BMW style too, except now you’d notice there is, of course, no more ‘i’ behind the numerics which used to denote ‘injection’ in an internal combustion engine (or ‘d’ for diesel, which feels so far removed now). The range kicks off with the iX xDrive40, followed later by the iX xDrive50 and the BMW iX M60. The xDrive40 is currently also available in Sport and/or Launch Edition trims, and the test drive vehicle had both. Sport simply adds larger 22-inch wheels (standard is 21-inch) and an exterior sport package. The Launch Edition further adds a olive leaf-tanned natural leather upholstery, blue seat belts (because why not) and a panoramic sunroof with an electrochromatic sunshade. Fully decked-out, it feels very premium, but I can’t help but notice the glaring omission of ventilated seats.
Your comfort otherwise would definitely be taken care of by the interior, which is vastly more appealing than the exterior. You’d quickly notice the absence of a centre tunnel, which creates extra legroom and more importantly makes one feel like it’s a living room. In fact, the main comment from passengers was that it felt like a mobile ‘lounge’. You’d never have guessed that the car came with FSC-certified wood and floor coverings/mats made from recycled fishing nets; it feels as well-made and luxurious as a conventional high-end BMW.
The front dash is dominated by the BMW Curved Display which is formed by 12.3-inch and 14.9 inch displays. It is beautiful to look at but quite a fair bit more complicated to operate versus the last iDrive system. The iX now uses iDrive OS8, which dials up the minimalist looks but unfortunately reduces some ease of use.
Thankfully, the drive is reassuringly what we are all used to. With a high-tech aluminium spaceframe construction and the Carbon Cage’s use of carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) in the roof, the iX holds much promise, especially when you catch hints of the carbon whenever you open the doors or the boot.
With the high-voltage battery located low down in the car’s underbody, there is an assured sense of stability but the iX feels heavy, lumbering into corners rather than gracefully arriving. The electronic variable steering controlled via a square-shaped wheel is light to pilot with not much feel. The double-wishbone front axle and five-link rear axle deliver a beautiful ride (even without the optional air suspension), but there is significant squat and lean with spirited driving. On a rainy day where traction is wanting, the electric AWD system with wheel slip limitation technology reacts quickly but also slightly unnaturally, as if being too digital for its own good. I got the sense that if the system miscalculated, it would really lose it - remember that it’s now wholly non-mechanical in nature.
Adaptive recuperation, which is the default setting in D, in theory will automatically adjust regeneration based on driving conditions. It sounds clever, but in practice, B mode which selects the highest recuperation setting seems to feel the most natural and predictable. ‘B’ gives the closest sensation to a ‘one-pedal’ feel, but even then, is still not as finely calibrated as the best EVs out there. However, it’s still better than second-guessing the recuperation level in D, as it means the driver has to constantly toggle his/her driving style to it, too.
Otherwise, the car feels decently quick, if not rapid. With an electrically excited synchronous motor, where the excitation of the rotor is induced by the feed-in of electrical energy rather than fixed permanent magnets, acceleration on move-off seems duller but in-gear pull is strong.
On a cruise, the car is really quiet thanks to a drag coefficient of just 0.25, save for some sounds that do get in from neighbouring cars probably due to the frameless windows. On a whole it much prefers to be wafting about at 50-60% of its true capabilities and in that state it is an excellent car for the daily beat. Otherwise, don’t expect sports car inspired agility, it’s nowhere close. The smaller and lighter iX3 is far better in that respect.
Oddly, despite a claimed range of 425 km (WLTP), I was struggling to achieve 250 km even though I started with a 96% charge. I ended my drive travelling 158.4 km having 93 km of range left. BMW claims that the varied driving styles of undoubtedly eager journalists would affect the range estimate significantly, but this still seemed to be an error too large. To be fair, I did not face this problem on the iX3 so it could be a one-off issue. Charging on DC power can take the state of charge from 10 to 80 per cent in around 31 minutes in the xDrive 40.
The iX is a product that has been in the making for quite some time now and it can feel like it at times, as if it was born too late. However, that doesn’t detract from its merits in breaking new ground for BMW i yet again like what the i3 did. Certainly, it looks very different from anything before and has an interior concept that is refreshing. For early adopters the iX feels like it would definitely stand out, but I am looking forward to future product enhancements where the BMW DNA is dialled up.
Credits: Text by James Wong; Photos by Horizon Drivers' Club