We Drive the Electric 2022 BMW iX, and It's So Good That You Can Forgive That Grille

We Drive the Electric 2022 BMW iX, and It's So Good That You Can Forgive That Grille

A very promising start for BMW's new electric SUV

  • BMW's first electric SUV
  • Comparable to the X5 in size
  • 516 horsepower and 300 miles of range
  • Uses BMW's newest iDrive infotainment system
  • Launches the first iX generation for 2022

What is the iX?

While BMW had experimented with the MiniE and ActiveE electric vehicles a few years prior, it was the introduction of the i3 hatchback and i8 sports car for the 2014 model year that illustrated the automaker's plans for an electrified future. Since that debut, BMW's EV plans may have appeared to languish, with no new vehicles introduced. But in reality BMW was hard at work developing its next generation of EVs. Now the first model is here, the 2022 BMW iX all-electric midsize SUV.   

There are elements of the iX's exterior that are quite striking. The narrow head- and taillight enclosures look quite futuristic, while the blue highlights and floating roof effect provide a visual link to the i3. Unfortunately, the iX also sports the oversized kidney grille of modern BMWs that seems even more superfluous here, as the openings do not provide air to the battery pack. They instead conceal the electronics required for the car's advanced driving systems to work. As unappealing as the grille may be to some, we suggest you drive the iX before casting judgment. To put it bluntly, the iX is accomplished enough to outrun its looks.

How does the iX drive?

For now, at least, the iX comes in only one flavor, which BMW calls the xDrive50. Two electric motors — one at each axle — combine to produce 516 horsepower and 564 lb-ft of torque. BMW says the prodigious output can accelerate the iX from zero to 62 mph in just 4.6 seconds. If that somehow isn't quick enough, an M60 is coming in the future and will develop 619 hp.

The battery pack offers a robust 105.2 kWh of usable capacity, which, combined with BMW's low consumption aims, gives the iX a maximum range somewhere around 300 miles. BMW says it can draw up to 200 kilowatts using a DC fast-charging system capable of delivering that much electricity. The iX can't pull as much as a Porsche Taycan (270 kW) or Lucid Air (300 kW), but filling up the battery pack on a road trip should be a quick affair. According to BMW, DC fast charging can add up to 93 miles of range in 10 minutes and charge the battery from 10% to 80% in 35 minutes. Since using a DC fast-charging station is relatively expensive, BMW is offering iX buyers and lessees a $100 credit when plugged into the EVgo charging network. Using a Level 2 charger at home will take about 11 hours to fully charge the iX from empty.

Acceleration is potent and immediate, which is on par with almost any electric vehicle nowadays. It won't pin you to the seat like a Tesla Model X or Model Y Performance, but there's no doubt that it will far exceed the expectations of most drivers.

The brakes are computer-controlled in order to maximize the amount of regenerative braking and battery replenishment. As a result, braking can feel a bit like braking in a driving video game due to the pedal's lack of feedback. But it functions just as it should: with linear precision. You really only feel the transition from regenerative braking to the physical brake pads under heavy braking. Then again, if you select the B drive mode instead of the default D, you'll activate the single pedal mode that can decelerate the iX to a full stop without ever touching the brake pedal.

On a tight and curvy road, the iX proves itself worthy of BMW's "Ultimate Driving Machine" tagline. With the heavy batteries integrated into the floor, it has a much lower center of gravity than the conventionally powered BMW X5. As a result, the iX instills confidence and encourages spirited drivers to attack the curves as though they were in a smaller, sportier vehicle. We were struck by the notion of guilt-free performance throughout the drive.

How comfortable is the iX?

Normally, such sharp handling in an SUV results in a compromised ride quality, but that's not the case with the iX. Even on rutted roads, the ride remains as pleasantly smooth as a BMW X5's. The iX is also wonderfully composed at high speed without even a hint of float to cause you to second-guess your rapid pace.

Despite the impressive power, the iX remains eerily quiet — quieter than other EVs, actually. The liberal use of sound-insulating foam and solid construction allows the iX to silently float over rougher pavement and the low-frequency "boomy-ness" of other electric SUVs are blissfully absent. Interior squeaks are also nonexistent.

You have the option to add some auditory theater in the form of a synthetic growl piped-in through the speakers. We haven't been fans of fake engine sounds in the past, but the futuristic hum (engineered by Academy Award-winning film composer Hans Zimmer) is surprisingly appropriate. We're pleased to report that we prefer driving with the sound on.

The front seats also deserve praise for their optimal use of cushioning for long-distance comfort, but we're not so pleased with the fixed headrests that seem just a bit too far forward. Melon-headed drivers will likely find them excessive and probably a deal-breaker. Thankfully, the fabric seats breathe quite well, and the available ventilated seats will keep you refreshed on hotter days.

How's the iX's interior?

Like the i3 before it, the iX plays host to a selection of delightfully weird interior materials. The blue-and-black color scheme shown on some of the photos above is part of the Loft package, which treats the interior to textile and faux suede materials arranged in unusual, clashing patterns. BMW's imitation leather and real leather are also available. The latter is quilted and treated with olive leaf extract rather than traditional tanning chemicals — another sustainable process pioneered by the i3.

The interior is quite roomy, as BMW equates the iX's dimensions with those of the current X5. The absence of a center transmission tunnel translates to a spacious back seat even with an occupant in the middle.

Interesting features abound in the iX's cabin. The panoramic sunroof is electrochromatic, allowing it to switch from transparent to opaque at the press of a button, eliminating the need for a sunshade and thus increasing the amount of headroom compared to a traditional sunroof. Besides typical features including a heated steering wheel and a heated center armrest, the iX also adds heating elements to the glove compartment and door panels. On cold winter nights, front passengers will be able to slow-roast themselves from all angles.

As attractive as the optional faceted crystal infotainment and seat controls may be, we would pass on adding them to our preorder. In some lighting conditions, the sun can cause distracting and annoying reflections that tend to sear blinding streaks into your retina. Otherwise, the cabin is a model of funky futuristic mixed with refined luxury.

How's the iX's tech?

The front passenger compartment features a pair of screens joined in a single enclosure. Both the 12.3-inch digital instrument panel and the 14.9-inch central display screen are angled toward the driver in what BMW calls the Curved Display — the first implementation of dual integrated displays in a BMW. The central display is controlled via touchscreen or BMW's traditional iDrive controller mounted on a panel between the front seats. The iDrive wheel surround features capacitive controls rather than traditional buttons, and it's finished in gloss black, with open-pore walnut available as an option.

The iX is the first BMW to receive the latest version of its iDrive infotainment system. In many ways, it represents a logical evolution of features and usability while also taking some inspiration from Mercedes' competing MBUX system. Visually, the broad glass displays are certainly similar and both offer multiple options for control, whether it's by touchscreen, center console controller or natural voice commands. There are also augmented reality overlays on top of live forward video to help you navigate unfamiliar cities. BMW's iDrive does allow you to select the voice control trigger word, so you're not stuck with, "Hey, BMW." Yes, Marvel fans can finally name their system Jarvis. Otherwise, MBUX and iDrive function very similarly and that's a very good thing.

As for the many advanced safety and driver assist functions that justify the wince-inducing grille, they all work as they should. The adaptive cruise control smoothly maintains the gap between you and the car ahead without any untoward lurches from the accelerator or brake. The lane keeping assist has the right amount of resistance through the wheel so you don't feel as though you need to wrest it free from the computer. False alarms are also pleasantly rare.

Over-the-air software updates will keep the iX up-to-date with all of the latest improvements and fixes and allow for the addition of other features. One future feature is an automated parking function that records how you pull your car into a tricky spot. Once done, the iX can replay the program to park itself. You can engage this feature whether you're in the driver's seat or, if the parking spot is super tight, outside and walking close behind the vehicle. You will not, however, be able to summon the car from a distance.

Edmunds says

Although we've yet to fully test the iX, our early impressions are quite positive. This could very well be the best midsize electric luxury SUV out for 2022, offering a more refined and luxurious driving experience than the Tesla Model X and sportier performance than the Audi e-tron. It's also as good as or better than any gasoline-powered midsize SUV, including BMW's own praiseworthy X5. The next few years will see the class grow, but for now, the iX is our odds-on favorite.



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