Move over Tesla, BMW is launching an electric vehicle offensive.
Fully electric or plug-in hybrid versions of the 3 Series, 5 Series, 7 Series, X2, X3, X5 and more are either on sale or due soon.
At the forefront of these is BMW’s flagship electric vehicle the iX. A huge 2.5 tonne SUV with a luxurious cabin, strong range and devastating straight line speed, it’s BMW’s most important new car in years.
New model makes a statement
I travelled south to spend a day driving the iX in the Hampshire countryside. It is an imposing beast. Its looks won’t be to everyone’s taste – particularly the enormous grille – but it certainly makes a statement.
Prices start at £69,905, rising to almost £95,000 for top spec models. The entry level iX40 model (facts below are for this version) comes with a 71kWh battery.
Meanwhile the iX50 has a whopping 105kWh battery but you’ll need at least £91,905 to buy one.
If the exterior of the iX will divide opinion, most people will agree the interior is sumptuous. It’s a technological feast, anchored by a gigantic touchscreen that sweeps across the central console.
Spacious with extensive equipment
While Audi has abandoned its rotary controller, BMW has kept its excellent iDrive system. Touchscreens are fine when you’re stationary but tricky to use when you’re driving.
The iDrive dial is by far the easiest way to operate the controls without taking your eyes off the road.
Unlike a petrol or diesel car there’s no transmission tunnel so all three rear passengers have excellent leg and head room. At 500 litres the boot is a good size too.
Standard equipment is extensive, with full LED headlights, four-zone air conditioning, wireless phone charging and a 12-speaker sound system among the many goodies.
I spent two hours in the iX40 followed by the same length of time in the iX50.
With 322bhp, the iX40 is no slouch.
It zips from 0-62mph in a very rapid 6.1 seconds and has an official range of 257 miles.
You’ll certainly get that in summertime, but on cold, dark, wet days you’re looking at 180-200 miles between charges.
That’s more than adequate for most people, however. Meanwhile, the iX50 has a whopping 516bhp and gets from 0-62mph in just 4.6 seconds.
Its bigger battery gives it an impressive 380 miles of range, meaning even on the coldest day it should still be capable of covering 275-300 miles on a full battery.
Both models accept 150kW chargers and can be topped up from 10-80% in just over half an hour.
The iX50 supports up to 200kW chargers, so will be capable of being charged even more speedily once the infrastructure catches up (at present most chargers are 50kW).
Sharp handling and refinement
A 600bhp iX M60 is set to join the range later, and should provide astonishing performance.
The iX handles sharply for an electric vehicle, though its 2.5 tonne weight means it’s never going to feel truly nimble.
Where it excels is refinement. Ride quality is up there with the best of them, particularly in the iX50 which benefits from air suspension.
High levels of sound insulation and the lack of an internal combustion engine make the cabin a very serene place indeed. Even at 70mph it was as quiet as my living room. In fact, it’s one of the quietest cars I’ve ever driven.
Four-wheel drive is standard across the iX range, making it a good choice for Scottish buyers who have to deal with harsher winters.
The BMW iX is a hugely impressive car. It handles well. It’s packed with technology. It offers outstanding comfort and refinement.
And if you can stretch to the iX50 you also get one of the longest ranges of any electric vehicle on sale today.
Model: BMW iX40
0-62mph: 6.1 seconds
Top speed: 124mph
Economy: 257 miles
CO2 emissions: 0 g/km