The All-Electric BMW iX SUV Will Change The Way You Think About Electric Cars

The shift to all-electric has been an opportunity for manufactures to not only debut new platforms, but also pioneer new ways of thinking as well. It is especially pronounced in the BMW iX, a mid-sized electric SUV crossover that is currently one of four all-electric offerings from the Munich powerhouse that are available in Malaysia. Unlike those other offerings – the iX3, the i4 and the i7 – the iX is built on a completely new platform.

And it shows. There are numerous elements of the iX that scream ‘new and different’ – and in some cases, ‘just because we can’. The front seats, for example, are sleek, one-piece affairs without a separate headrest that would not be out of place on a spaceship set. The doors open from the inside via a button press; manual levers exist, but they are hidden away and are not meant to be used outside of power failure. The panoramic sunroof is of the electrochromic variety, which darkens or lightens with a switch. It is never entirely opaque and nor does it open, but it is seamless, quick and has none of the inelegance of whirring mechanical action. Are any of these strictly necessary? No. But they are very cool, and they are examples of the overall design philosophy of the iX – ushering in the future in a way usually confined to concept cars, and that of streamlined, effortless response.

This can also be said of its propulsion. The top-tier xDrive50 Sport variant (RM546,800) is capable of a whopping 523bhp from its electric motors – one at each axle – which is good for 0-100km/h in 4.6 seconds. With torque that hits 765Nm, it has that fierce, conversation-stopping take-off that only electrics can achieve. Its range is boosted significantly compared to other variants, rated at up to 630km, which goes a long way towards alleviating inter-city range anxiety.

In terms of handling, it follows the BMW SUV formula quite closely – comfortable, but with an athletic and responsive edge especially given the vehicle’s size. The pedal has a particularly precise feel – a cold feel, combustion enthusiasts will claim – while the suspension walks the tightrope between comfort and response, staying mostly flat and taking advantage of the 50/50 balance. Combined with the constant monitoring and adjustments of the all-wheel drive system, the iX feels confident in all reasonable settings. The default ‘light’ setting for regenerative braking is surprisingly organic and feels fairly close to the engine braking of old; an intriguing alternative is the ‘adaptive’ setting, which adjusts the amount of braking depending on road and traffic conditions. It ends up being halfway towards guided cruise control, using the same cameras and sensors, and means that long stretches of driving can be done with the foot never leaving the accelerator pedal – just ease up on the thrust, and the iX will slow itself appropriately.

Inside, the iX has a high-ceilinged lounge-like feel with accents that are streamlined and soothing rather than bold. The iX has a running theme of angles and rounded corners, exemplified by the steering wheel and fascia. There is ample space, especially for the front seats because the centre console is disconnected from the dashboard, as there is no bulky transmission to work around. This results in greater freedom for the driver’s left knee, and is the perfect space to stash a briefcase or laptop bag. There is a wireless charger in this space as well, with the useful trick of being able to warn the driver that their phone is still there when the iX is turned off and the door opened. The curved twin displays are vivid, clear and are quite expansive in nature: 14.9 inches in the centre and 12.3 inches in front of the driver. The operating system has a smartphone feel to it, which means that tech-savvy users will find it immediately comfortable. The instrument cluster display is quite powerful, and is able to display a surprising amount of information – its design intent is another clue as to the nature of the iX. There is nothing skeuomorphic about it, as the screen’s speed and power readouts are animated and legible while making no reference to the analogue meters it replaces. It is, just like the rest of the iX, moving on from the old.

BMW Malaysia

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