UPDATE, December 10, 2020: Online pre-orders have opened for the BMW iX in Australia, ahead of a local launch slated for the fourth quarter of 2021.
Buyers interested in the upcoming electric SUV can place a $500 deposit via the BMW Shop from 1pm AEDT today, with the customer's preferred interior and exterior specification to be confirmed with their preferred dealer once full pricing and equipment details are announced in mid-2021.
While final pricing has not yet been revealed, the SUV is expected to compete with the Audi E-Tron 55 Quattro and Tesla Model X Long Range, which start from $146,100 and $160,011 plus on-road costs respectively.
See our full story below for full details of the BMW iX's powertrain, interior, technology and more.
UPDATE, November 16, 2020: BMW has taken to social media to respond to criticism of its 2021 BMW iX electric SUV in the comments of its big reveal video on YouTube. Never read the comments, BMW! See our update at the bottom of this story for details.
November 11, 2020: BMW has revealed its new iX electric SUV, the heavily-anticipated production version of the German car maker’s earlier Vision iNext concept.
Set to see Australian delivery during the fourth quarter of 2021, the new five-seater will offer up to 370kW from two electric motors, full-time four-wheel drive, and a 0-100km/h below 5.0 seconds.
Also expected is a WLTP-tested driving range of “over 600km” between recharging in range-topping guise, according to preliminary data revealed by BMW’s head of R&D, Frank Weber.
The new crossover-cum-SUV is BMW’s second dedicated full-electric production model after the seven-year-old i3, and its third overall, following the recent launch of the smaller, rear-wheel drive, X3-based iX3.
The iX name was chosen, says Weber, to signify the new model’s positioning at the head of the company’s i line-up, where it will compete against the e-tron quattro and EQC 4Matic of established rivals Audi and Mercedes-Benz – as well as the Model S and the ES8 of Tesla and Chinese electric car start-up, Nio, among others.
“Outside, it is the size of the latest X5. Inside, it offers accommodation and load-carrying space comparable to the X7,” he says of the new model that benefits from the expertise BMW has gained in carbon-fibre-reinforced-plastic (CFRP) construction over recent years with models like the i3 and recently discontinued i8 plug-in hybrid sports car.
The iX, which goes under the internal codename i20, represents a sharp detour in BMW’s previously announced plan to base its future electric models around the same platforms as its existing petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid models, premiering a new aluminium space frame that supports an inner CFRP, including sill elements, and a body made out of a combination of aluminium, composite plastic and CFRP.
The advanced platform is described by Weber as a “totally new development” that has no relationship to the LifeDrive structure originally developed for the i3.
However, the 54-year-old German says the architecture is highly compatible with the chassis used by the 3 Series through to the 8 Series, as well as the X3 through to the X7, hinting key elements of its engineering will be used by other new BMW i sub-brand models in the future.
This sharing of chassis components is key to allowing BMW to produce the iX alongside the 5, 6, 7 and 8 Series models at its Dingolfing factory in Germany.
Stylistically, the new BMW draws on the design lineage initially established with Vision iNext concept in 2018, with a large blanked-off grille intersected by the licence plate, heavily chamfered wheel arches, largely unadorned flanks, frameless doors, fixed B-pillars, prominent rear hunches, a tapered glasshouse featuring an uncharacteristic-for-BMW C-pillar treatment and an Audi-style clamshell tailgate that wraps around the edges at the rear.
The composite plastic of the grille uses what BMW describes as a “nanoscale vacuum-based coating” that, it says, provides the iX with “self healing” properties; surface scratches can be repaired within 24 hours at room temperature or through a five minute supply of warm air, BMW claims.
For the first time in a modern-day BMW model, the iX will feature a fixed clamshell style bonnet.
“Without a traditional engine or frunk (front trunk), there is no need for customers to open the bonnet,” says BMW design boss, Domagoj Dukec. The windscreen washer bottle is accessed via the BMW emblem situated above the grille.
BMW’s traditional (but increasingly rare) corona light graphic has been replaced by a quartet of light bands in the upper part of the slim headlamp assemblies. Full LED main beams are standard, though buyers will also be able to specify BMW’s Laser lights as an option. At the rear, the iX’s narrow tail lamps receive LED functionality as standard.
A series of aerodynamic developments, including the blanked-off grille, minimal air ducting within the front bumper, flat underbody panelling, integrated door handles with an electronic opening mechanism and the tapered glasshouse, contribute to a claimed drag coefficient of 0.25.
Buyers will be able to order the iX in both standard and sport styling – the latter with a more heavily structured front bumper. There is also a choice between standard blue and optional BMW Individual bronze exterior elements.
With wheel houses similar in size to the X7, it will also come with a range of differing wheel and tyres sizes, including 22-inch aerodynamic optimised rims and 275/40 profile rubber.
BMW is yet to reveal details to the various iX model variants it has planned, preferring to showcase the four-wheel-drive, dual-electric-motor version that will head the line-up when it launches in Australian in little over a year from now.
The fifth-generation drivetrain features two BMW-produced electric motors developing “more than 370kW”. The individual outputs of the two electric motors, which are claimed to retain full power up to their peak revs, remains under wraps for now, though Weber indicates the rear unit will be the more powerful of the two.
“We’ve engineered the drivetrain to support between 90 kW and 300 kW per axle, front and rear,” he says.
As a point of reference, the dual electric motor Audi e-tron quattro 55 and Mercedes-Benz EQC400 both deliver maximum power of 300kW.
The fourth model from BMW’s i sub-brand channels its power to all four wheels via a single-speed gearbox. No specifics to the nominal drive split between the front and rear axles have been divulged, though it is expected to feature a BMW-typical rear-wheel drive bias.
BMW says the iX is yet to be fully certified, though its own tests reveal a 0-100km/h of “less than 5.0sec”. Top speed is above 200km/h.
As with the power output of its electric motor motors, BMW says the iX will be offered with a number of different battery options ranging to a “100kWh-plus” unit fitted to the range topping model.
With a claimed average power consumption of 21.0-kWh per 100km, the new BMW i model is claimed to achieve a range of “over 600km” on the WLTP test procedure.
The e-tron quattro 55 and EQC, by way of comparison, offer respective WLTP ranges of 440km and 417km.
Despite the extensive use of aluminium and carbon-fibre in its structure, the decision to use such a large battery means the iX tips the scales at what Weber describes “as a good 2.5 tonnes”.
Pictured above: the author
The new charging system employed by the iX enables optional DC fast charging at up to 200kW, allowing the battery to be charged from 10 to 80 per cent of its capacity in under 40 minutes or, put another way, a 120km range in 10 mins.
The standard charger, however, operates at just 11kW, which provides the same 10 to 80 per cent charge in a significantly longer 11 hours on a wallbox.
Underpinning the new BMW is an aluminium-intensive chassis featuring a double-wishbone (front) and multi-link (rear) suspension. Aiding agility is BMW’s active rear steering.
BMW is readying a comprehensive range of connectivity and sensor functions for its new i model. “The iX has more than 20 times the computing power for data processing than the newest models in our current line-up,” says Weber.
Included is over-the-air functionality via a 5G system and Level 3 autonomous driving technology.
The onboard computer used by the new model is claimed to be able to process up to 30 gigabytes of data per second, and there are over 30 different lidar, ultrasonic and radar sensors as well as antennae used to arm its long list of driver assistance systems.
The iX features a spacious interior with a flat floor and natural materials such as open-pore wood that BMW says will provide it with lounge-like qualities. It also receives a comprehensive range of recycled plastics, including a new microfibre fabric for the seats.
Up front, there’s a hexagonal-shaped multi-function steering wheel, while the instruments and infotainment functions are grouped together in a lightly curved digital display panel connected to the dashboard on a plastic mount and within a newly designed head-up display.
There is no centre console. Instead, the controls, including a rocker to select the drive and a newly designed version of the BMW iDrive rotary controller, are set within the forward section of a high mounted armrest. Other controls are set within the upper part of the door trims, including a Mercedes-Benz style seat adjuster, which like other selected controls can be ordered in glass.
The centre console also houses two cup holders, a smartphone tray with inductive charging, a 12V power connection and two USB-C ports.
“It’s not switchless but has less switches [than current BMW models]. You still need a haptic experience,” says Dukic, who assumed responsibility for BMW brand design operations in April 2019.
As with the exterior, the interior shuns chrome elements for galvanized plastic. Among the options is a full-length glass roof with electrochromic shading and a bespoke 655-watt Harman Kardon Surround Sound system equipped with a seven-band equalizer and 18-speakers – four of which are incorporated into the rear headrests.
The front seats, positioned at a height described as similar to those of the X5, feature integral headrests, while the rear bench is set quite low in comparison to maximize headroom.
There is no third-row seat option, as with the existing X5 and X7; BMW claims the less than three per cent take-up rate for the third-row seat on its current X5 was key in this decision, though it also admits clinics revealed potential iX customers placed greater emphasis on range than the option of seven seats.
A wheelbase of over three metres provides excellent rear-seat legroom, on par with the five-seat version of the X7.
Boot capacity, while described as similar to the 650 litres offered by the X5, is yet to be officially revealed.
Despite basing the new iX on a dedicated aluminium space frame and carbon-fibre structure, Weber says the company is holding firm to plans to use both its FAAR (front architecture) and CLAR (cluster architecture) platforms for other upcoming electric powered models – the latter of which will underpin next year’s i4, which is based around the upcoming second-generation 4-series Gran Coupe.
Watch for more on the iX to become clear as it nears its global sales launch, and stay tuned for a CarAdvice first-drive review in the future.
– Greg Kable
UPDATE, November 16, 2020:
Mike Stevens • BMW, no. Never read the comments!
In a move sure to backfire, BMW has taken to social media to respond to criticism of the iX SUV's design.
Speaking in the comments section of its German-language YouTube channel, an unimpressed viewer said simply "go back to making BMWs".
The tweet moved popular satire page Sniff Petrol to respond: "The problem with this is not so much its needlessly chippy tone but that it's trying to frame a simple bit of bad design as radical and brave. The i3 was radical and brave. It was also a very professional piece of design. The iX is amateurishy bad and crude posturing won't fix it".
What do you think of the iX SUV's design? Tell us in the comments below.