BMW’s new flagship electric SUV, the iX, has enough technology to satisfy the most rabid techno nerd, is very fast and enjoyable to drive and has a state-of-the-art cabin which makes previous BMW interiors look as though they belong in an antiques shop.
However, there is an elephant in the room. Its looks. From the rear and the side all is fine. But at the front its deep front grille (which isn’t a grille at all because it’s electric) makes it look like a giant beaver in need of urgent dental treatment. To many people’s eyes – mine included – it is jaw-droppingly, lose-your-lunch ugly.
“BMW is no stranger to shocking us with its styling”
This is a real shame, because BMW has in many ways pushed the boat out with this one. My test car was an iX 40 M Sport, which packs 326hp and rockets you from rest to 62mph in 6.1 seconds – no mean feat for a car weighing 2,365kg – and has a claimed range of 257 miles. Mind you, even that looks a bit puny compared with the more powerful iX 50, which has 523hp, accelerates to 62mph in 4.6 seconds and has a claimed range of up to 380 miles.
One of the impressive things about the iX is the manner of its performance. Many electric vehicles (EVs) can get a bit raucous when piling on the power, but this BMW remains remarkably silent even when it is being given the beans.
The cockpit is dominated by a huge curved information screen which takes up about two thirds of the car’s width. It is angled towards the driver and a 12.3-inch screen provides information and a 14.9-inch screen contains the touch controls. This results in about 50 per cent fewer physical buttons than on more conventional models. There is also a voice command system and gesture control which further reduces the button count.
Of the buttons that remain, many are finished in cut glass, including the iDrive controller, sitting on a central panel finished in matt wood, which somehow looks slightly at odds with the rest of the interior. The rather fussy-looking steering wheel is hexagonal, which combines with the minimalist looks of the dashboard to make the interior look both overstyled and understyled at the same time.
As you would expect in a car of this quality and price, the list of standard equipment is epic. It has four-zone air con, front-seat heating, automatic parking, head-up display, wireless charging and, being an M Sport model, it also features special alloy wheels, front and side aprons, air curtain, darkened taillight glass and an anthracite roof lining. The 40 gets steel suspension but the 50 is upgraded to air suspension.
The boot capacity was a bit disappointing, being smaller than that of a 5 Series, but BMW claims it can take 500 litres of cargo, or 1,700 with the rear seats lowered.
Going back to the iX’s looks, the front and rear lights are attractively slim, the doors are frameless and the car is slightly bigger than an X5. The bonnet doesn’t open and you fill the screenwash reservoir via the BMW bonnet badge.
BMW is no stranger to shocking us with its styling. Twenty years ago Chris Bangle’s so-called flame surfacing designs for the company raised many an eyebrow at first, but as we got used to them they ceased to seem so eccentric.
The iX is a very good car, and as we get used to it, it might not seem such an ugly duckling.