Last week, I gushed wildly about the Tesla Model 3 and how it has reinvented the car and hauled the whole car-to-driver interface into the smartphone age. The reality is that while Elon Musk was drifting off to the dulcet tones of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, an all-electric BMW was gliding alongside marathon runners at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, dishing out bottles of water.
The 1602 Elektro-Antrieb boasted a range of 30 to 60 km and only two were ever made before the engineers patted themselves on the back and shelved electrical power for the next four decades.
The latest EV from BMW is a very, very different beast.
For a start, it has a range of 425 km, but there are still plenty of water bottles on board, chiefly because Mum will be at the wheel, taking Xavier, Charlotte and Oliver to soccer practice.
The new iX is a big and bold five-seat SUV, and to make sure everyone knows you love your children very much and only want the best for them, the gaping kidney grille at the front is filled in and there are blue halos around all of the badges. With so many clues, your passengers – and neighbours – will soon guess it’s electric.
This particular ‘Sophisto Grey’ model from Canberra BMW in Phillip already has an interested buyer, so I’m limited to a 100 km round test run. But that’s fine. Phillip has everything a posh SUV driver could possibly come up against. There are shops, kerbs, other people’s children, and a great big muddy car park in the middle.
But first, the days are over when you simply jumped into a car and took off. There are settings to be adjusted, phones to connect, and a consultation with a BMW Genius to be had.
The Tesla might have impressed with a touchscreen that would pass for a Costco TV, but in the iX, you are immediately presented with a screen that curves halfway around the width of the cabin.
You can adjust your seat’s lumbar support and side bolsters by pinching and zooming on a picture of a seat. You can select what sort of back massage you want. Waving at the screen with various gestures will change the music volume or radio station. The satellite navigation appears to project arrows onto the road ahead so you can’t possibly miss a turn. It can park itself. There are three drive modes, and an optional ‘Iconic Noise’ setting that makes the car sound like a washing machine powering up.
Now that that’s sorted, I shift the very physical crystal lever into ‘D’ with a delicate move and set off.
While fossil fuels might be at their best on the highway, EVs are more than content with the stop-start traffic around town. The regenerative braking has a chance to do its thing, as unpredictable and jerky as it can be at times. Everything else is remarkably smooth, comfortable, quiet and relaxing. Although – full disclosure – the small of my back is still being thumbed by a little German within the quilted seat (massage seats are standard, by the way).
There are airbags all around and phone charge points in the back seats. The boot also boasts 500 litres of space, or enough for 833 average-sized water bottles (theoretically). And after getting the tyres a bit dirty around the edges in the muddy car park behind the Lennock dealership, I can say it’s plenty well-equipped for the soggy car park by the soccer oval.
Job done. The BMW iX starts at $135,900, including a complimentary five-year, unlimited subscription to Chargefox’s electric charging network in Australia.
But it isn’t job done, because it’s dad’s turn now and he wants a back-road blast.
BMW claims the chassis, made from a blend of aluminium and carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic, manages to pull off a double act of increasing strength and reducing weight. That’s important in an EV that not only has a slab of batteries between the wheels but can also make Earth spin the other way whenever it takes off.
Make no mistake, however, this big BMW has an equally big BMI.
In the tight and twisting corners of Cotter Road, it’s like riding a tiger that got into the catnip. You can feel the ‘X-Drive’ four-wheel-drive system and cushy suspension struggling to keep the ponderous weight in line. The light and airy steering wheel that was such a joy to spin around in Phillip rises to the occasion as a fine and precise instrument, but I also keep wanting more weight to it.
A pesky little 2005 BMW 1-Series hatchback behind me confirms all this by easily keeping up. The iX isn’t designed to be a hill racer, but it’s a thrill just the same. Back to mum then.
2022 BMW iX 40
- From $135,900
- Dual electric motors, 240 kW / 630 Nm
- 0-100 km/h in 6.1 seconds
- 425 km estimated range.
This vehicle was provided for testing by Canberra BMW. Region Media has no commercial arrangement with Canberra BMW.