BMW has unveiled the iX, the brand’s next big frontier into the future of electrification and the “new age in mobility”, and well – it’s quite… something. Based on the Vision iNEXT concept, BMW says that the iX is a new interpretation of design, sustainability, driving pleasure, versatility and luxury.
We’ll start with what’s underneath it, because frankly, that might be the easiest thing to do here. BMW says that this reveal is only the “design world premiere”, so a large chunk of the technical details were still kept hidden until the car’s eventual launch in late 2021.
However, we do know that it is built on a new modular and scalable chassis, consisting of an aluminium spaceframe and a carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) inner structure. It will be powered by BMW’s fifth-generation eDrive powertrain, featuring two electric motors to make at least 500 hp, which will result in a 0-100 km/h time of under five seconds.
The battery pack will have a capacity of over 100 kWh (at least on the range-topping variant), which should translate to a range of over 600 km based on the WLTP cycle, or a power consumption figure of 21 kWh per 100 km. Charging the battery from 10 to 80% capacity will take only 40 minutes – or 120 km range in about 10 minutes – using a 200 kW DC fast charging, while a complete charge using a standard 11 kW AC wallbox takes 11 hours.
Now with that out of the way, let’s dive straight into the design, because there’s a lot to take in here. The BMW iX being the production version of the Vision iNEXT concept, its design has obviously been toned down to make it more street friendly.
However, the key distinguishing features are all still here, including the controversial large kidney grille – now divided down the middle by a black plastic separator, the slim headlights and taillights design, squared off fender bulges, as well as the general dimensions and proportions.
Speaking of dimensions, BMW says the iX is similar in size to the X5, with the height of an X6, and a wheel house size of an X7. Compared to its fuel-chugging siblings, the A-pillars on the iX have been pushed forward, shortening the front end to provide more cabin space – BMW says the interior size is comparable to the range-topping BMW X7.
On the front, the LED headlights – standard on the model but upgradeable to BMW LaserLights – loses the iconic corona ring lights for an eyebrow-style daytime-running lights. The grilles are also shut off with a piece of acrylic-like material featuring a triangular mesh design, and coated with a layer of self-healing polyurethane to deal with stray rocks.
Due to the reduced requirement of cooling in an EV, the solid “grille” now hides the cameras and sensors for the autonomous driving features, as well as the heaters and washers to keep them clear. BMW calls these “shy tech”, concealing its useful functionalities almost in plain sight.
The clamshell-style bonnet is also completely closed off, as BMW says there is no need to access that space. As a result, the windshield washer reservoir is hidden under the BMW emblem above the grille for the owner’s access.
The largely unadorned sides with no obvious creases or character lines, minimised shutlines all round, minimal air ducting within the front bumper, flat underbody panelling, integrated door handles, and the tapered glasshouse, all contribute to the aerodynamic performance of the iX – BMW says the fully-electric SUV has a drag coefficient of 0.25.
The wheels are also optimised aerodynamically, measuring up to 22-inches in diameter to fill the X7-sized wheel houses. Buyers will also be able to order the iX in both standard and M Sport styling – the latter with a more exaggerated bumper design all round.
Inside the cabin, the iX is again unlike any BMW we’ve seen before, with a focus on minimalism to create a sense of space in the lounge-like interior. The instrumentation is now replaced by a large sheet of curved glass panel, suspended by hollow structures to give it a floating effect.
The glass panel is split into two, one side for the 12.3-inch instrument cluster, and the other a 14.9-inch touchscreen infotainment display – all tied into BMW’s next generation operating system. There’s no traditional centre console right underneath the dashboard, which frees up space for more leg room and storage options.
Adding to the spacious atmosphere is the large panoramic sunroof, which spans the entire length of the cabin with no supporting struts in between – the largest single glass surface ever fitted on a BMW – and can be optionally specified with electrochromic shading – a first in the industry.
Shy tech is also used within the cabin, as seen on the speakers integrated out of sight, heated surfaces, and the head-up display projected integrated seamlessly into the surface of the instrument panel. Most physical touch controls have also been replaced by haptic touch panels, though the iDrive controller has been retained, and is placed at the end of the centre armrest.
The BMW iX also features a hexagonal steering wheel, a first in a series-produced vehicle made by the company. The company says that the “track-inspired” contour helps with ingress and egress, while also giving the driver a better view at the instrument panels.
BMW says that the iX will feature an extensive list of advanced driver assistance and autonomous driving features – though as mentioned above, no information has been provided on what that actually consists of. For now, we know that the iX will be equipped with a “new technology toolkit” including super quick processors, powerful sensors, and 5G capabilities to enable these advanced features.
There’s still at least about a year or so until the car will be seen on the roads, which gives us a little more time to perhaps get used to how it looks. But barring that, the BMW iX sounds like a significant advancement in the company’s electrification efforts, and will be a big deal in the company’s plans moving into the future. What do you think?