Although the iX is designed as a pure e-car, its underpinnings do not form a new architecture for future purely electric BMWs. From 2025, this will be taken over by a completely new architecture, which will not only be designed for electric drive, although it will clearly shift the focus to electric and virtually reverse the principle of the previous Cluster Architecture (CLAR): While the latter was designed for internal combustion engines, but could also integrate plug-in hybrids and electric drives, the new one is primarily designed for electric drive, but should also be able to carry internal combustion engines, which BMW believes will still play an important role in the second half of the decade, at least in some markets.
Autonomous driving initially only after Level 2
The iX platform, on the other hand, will remain a solitaire, while its components will be used in many new models (including those based on the new architecture). These include high-voltage storage and electric drive (in the case of the iX, two related, scalable motors and axles) as well as the entire technology toolbox of sensors and electronics, which should eventually enable the iX to drive autonomously according to Level 3.
The interior features few buttons, but a large curved display
Contrary to BMW’s original promises, the electric SUV will not be able to do this at the start of production at the end of 2021, but only later. Over-the-air updates could enable it to do so, because the complex 5G-capable hardware with extreme computing power for data processing and radar and lidar sensors as well as cameras should be on board from the start. Much of it sits behind the huge enclosed kidney. Its cover is elaborately painted in several layers in such a way that it is transparent for the sensor technology but not for the viewer from the outside.
Bavarian engine plant
Even if BMW has to row back on autonomous capabilities – it manages quite a leap when it comes to the e-drive: the iX is said to have a battery of more than 100 kWh (gross) and to need less than 21 kWh per 100 kilometers according to WLTP. And that’s despite the fact that the two e-motors will produce more than 500 hp (370 kW) of power and should accelerate the iX, which weighs around 2.5 tons, to 100 km/h in less than five seconds. The range is expected to be more than 600 kilometers (600 miles) according to WLTP, and more than 300 miles (483 kilometers) according to the demanding EPA standard.
The scalable electric motors of the fifth generation (by BMW’s count) could deliver up to 300 kW per axle. Compared to the i3’s engine, they have increased power density by 30 percent, and the narrower width helps the degrees of freedom in the chassis. Installation space is also saved by integrating the inverter and the transmission with dry sump lubrication. The drives are a whopping 28 dB quieter than those of the i3.
On a small center console between the front seats, a rocker switch for selecting the drive levels and an iDrive controller sit directly on a wooden surface that also bears marked, touch-sensitive areas to replace buttons. On top of the microfiber-covered dashboard, which slopes sharply toward the driver, is a large curved display that extends from the far left to the center. The display areas of the 12.3-inch display of the (former) instruments and the Control Touch display with a screen diagonal of 14.9 inches merge on it. In conjunction with the next generation of the BMW Operating System, the Curved Display in the BMW iX is also designed to take operation to a new level: “There is no user interface in the industry that can be operated as easily and confidently as ours,” says BMW’s Chief Development Officer Frank Weber.
Lounge in the rear
There’s room for three in the rear. Like the newly developed front seats, the outer seats have integrated headrests. In the middle seat, the headrest can be folded down to improve rearward visibility. The elimination of the center tunnel also gives passengers in the second row of seats plenty of legroom. The interior designers have pulled the bench seat far into the door area so that it is more comfortable to face the neighboring occupant.
Those who don’t want to can look at their personal tablet. This can be hooked into a Travel & Comfort system integrated into the front seat, which is also suitable for attaching coat hooks. Two USB-C ports are also integrated into the headrests of the front seats. Optional rear seat heating and integrated speakers are also available. The rear seat backrest can be split 40:20:40 and folded down to increase the estimated 500-liter trunk. There is a very spacious, deep compartment under its load floor, which would not have to capitulate to stowing even very long charging cables.
Speaking of which, the iX is said to be able to charge at up to 200 kW and recharge power for 120 kilometers in ten minutes. To charge the battery from ten to 80 percent, 40 minutes should be enough. Those who use green electricity for this purpose may also be pleased to know that a natural extract from olive tree leaves is used for the surface treatment of the leather of the seats and instrument panel, and that FSC-certified wood and a high proportion of recycled plastics are used in the surfaces of the door trim, seats, center console and floor trim.
Market launch and price of the BMW iX
The iX is scheduled to drive to the first customers in November 2021. BMW did not yet want to reveal whether there will be versions with a smaller battery or without all-wheel drive, i.e. only with rear-wheel drive. There are also only rumors about the prices: There is talk of 100,000 euros, which sounds realistic at least for the version with more than 500 hp and a battery of more than 100 kWh and would match the price of just under 70,000 euros for the considerably smaller iX3 with 286 hp and rear-wheel drive.
There should still be room for price increases even for the most powerful version: The sports package, large wheels and all kinds of interior features will cost a lot more. This electric SUV from BMW remains true to the brand tradition.
Even if BMW does not yet want to say when the iX will be able to drive autonomously after Level 3: The Munich-based company’s first SUV designed specifically for electric drive shows what they can get up to in the field. Maybe the battery cells aren’t the best yet, but how ambitiously the motors are developed does the brand name credit. BMW has also put a lot of effort into the body, and the expertise of the chassis developers will also have made a lot out of the favorable conditions of the e-drive. The expected suspension comfort will meet excellent noise comfort and could make the iX palatable to many customers, even if they may be estranged with the design despite a considerable toning down compared to the concept car.