AD Test-Drives the All-Electric BMW iX SUV, the Latest Tesla Fighter

BMW iX Tesla

First shown to the world as a concept car in 2018, the German automakers radical new car jumps from 0 to 60 m.p.h. in less than 4.5 seconds

The BMW iX xDrive50 is a concept car come to life. Based very closely on the Bavarian brand’s radical Vision iNext electric SUV mockup—which was first showed to us back in 2018—it features a big battery pack, a polarizing-but-futuristic exterior shape, and an outsize iteration of the marque’s signature “double kidney” grille. It also features one of the most original and compelling contemporary automotive interiors we have had the pleasure of sitting in (and we drive at least 100 new sport and luxury cars every year, so that is saying something).



With 516 hp routed through a pair of motors, one up front and one in the rear for all-wheel-drive stability and capability, it also provides excellent acceleration. The iX xDrive50 whooshes from 0 to 60 miles per hour in fewer than 4.5 seconds on its way to a limited top speed of 125 mph. We know this terminal velocity to be accurate because we were able to legally experience it on the German autobahn as we capped off an epic road trip that took us from Milan to Munich.

More than that, with excellent sound insulation and the noiseless action of electric power, it reaches these speeds with consummate silence. That is, save for the Hans Zimmer-composed soundtrack that played on startup and rumbled along in the stereo as we were underway. We easily drowned it out via our inputs on the (optional) 30-speaker Bowers & Wilkins audio unit, which—with its trendy “four-dimensional” sound—places the occupants at the immersive center of the noise with bass that vibrates through the seat and tweeters integrated into the headrests. Our recent favorites from Native Soul, Jessie Ware, and Darkside never sounded (or felt) so good.

Some of this good feeling can be credited to the aforementioned cabin. Though many of us are currently spending less time in our luxury cars—as we work from home in response to the pandemic—we still demand more of our vehicles, asking them to act not just as transport, but as mobile office, concert hall, cocoon, and even living room. And as with our domestic interiors, we are demanding that these spaces respond to our need to feel special and pampered, and also to maintain a commitment to sustainable production methods. High-end automakers are responding to these requirements, and BMW may be doing the best job out of the recent crop.



To this end iX’s interior is a cascade of delight and intrigue. The turquoise suede microfiber seats in our tester (leather and pleather are also available) coddled us in a way that recalled the plush tufted velour Cadillacs and Oldsmobiles of our Malaise Era ’70s childhood, but with far more support, as well as massaging and heating elements. The natural wood veneer center console—with backlit, haptic controls for the curved, center-mounted, iDrive touch-screen infotainment system—felt like an intimate, warm, and smudge-proof response to two decades of wiping greasy fingerprints from shiny black plastic. And the glass crystal seat controls, shift lever, volume slider, and rheostatic controller for the iDrive apparatus had the heft and occasion of Baccarat crystal rock glasses. We have not found such joy in utilizing the secondary controls in a car since the levitating knobs and rotating ventilation grilles of the Jaguars from the aughties.

Driving through the sinuously craggy and verdant landscape of Italy, Switzerland, Austria, and Germany in the iX was equally pleasant. The airy cabin lacked the hermetic feeling of some sportier, lower-roof competitors, aided in part by a glass roof that can be made more or less transparent through the use of LCD crystals.

This is a cushy SUV, built for comfort, and thus lacks some of the “Ultimate Driving Machine” tactility on which BMW founded its reputation (and which it still bakes into its sportier gas-powered M-series SUVs). Even equipped with the optional adjustable air suspension and rear-steering system, we found ourselves wishing for a bit more tactility and grip in the multitude of Alpine switchbacks and a bit less feeling of sliding through the curves like a curling stone in the 1982 Silver Broom world championships (which were, incidentally, held in the German resort town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen that we passed through on our voyage). Perhaps we will be more satisfied by the forthcoming, up-powered version of the iX—the nearly $100,000 xDrive60. This version is purported to pack over 600 hp and correlative enhancements in the roadholding and performance capabilities that the Germans so charmingly call “dynamism.”



A myriad of fully-electric SUVs from luxe stalwarts like Mercedes Benz, Audi, and Cadillac, as well as upstarts like Genesis and Rivian, are soon poised to join standard SUV battery-bearers like the Tesla Model X and Model Y. For now, the nearly $85,000 (base price) iX xDrive50 is one of our favorites of the bunch, not just for its stats and capabilities, but for its categorical emphasis on joy. No one needs a luxury car. But with its current strategy, this new BMW has become something that we definitely want and has us excited for our electric future.

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