Doctor on the Road: BMW iX 50 Sport
Our motoring correspondent Dr Tony Rimmer considers the German car-maker’s latest offering as a real alternative to the Tesla Model X – with better build quality and better driving dynamics.
We have become used to progressive change in the technology used to aid our medical practice.
The quality of available scanning, for instance, has improved dramatically over the last decade and, for the future, we have robotic surgical techniques being developed to help over a wide range of specialties.
Keeping up to date with the speed of advancements can sometimes feel challenging.
It is a similar story regarding the electric car revolution. I have been very impressed with the latest releases from the big manufacturers, but it does not seem to take very long before a new model comes along to challenge the top spot as ‘best EV on sale’.
The latest contender comes in the form of a large SUV: the BMW iX.
BMW is no stranger to EV technology and it released the quirky i3 model in 2013. However, since that time, it has not launched another model on a dedicated ‘ground-up design’ all-electric platform.
The recent released iX3 SUV uses the chassis from the petrol X3 and the impressive i4 hatchback uses that from the 3-series. The brand is, of course, recognised for producing cars that are high-quality and, most importantly, good to drive.
Have they achieved this with the iX? I set out to find out with a long-range model, the iX 50.
There are two main power and battery options. The X-drive 40 has 332bhp, a 77kWh battery and a claimed range of 249 miles. The X-drive 50 has 516bhp, a huge 105 kWh battery and a claimed range of 373 miles.
You pay a significant extra £24k for the 50 model. Trim is Sport or M-Sport but both give comprehensive equipment as standard. There will be a performance M60 model available soon with a massive 619bhp to compete with the top Teslas, but it will come with a hefty starting price of £111k.
So, the first thing to mention about the iX is the elephant in the room – the divisive frontal appearance. A huge plastic kidney-grille dominates the look and, if nothing else, it gets the car noticed.
Although it reminds me of the 1960s’ Rover 3-litre, I quickly got used to it and indeed have warmed to it. It makes a design statement which I think all EVs should. The rest of the car has pretty standard SUV styling with some nice modern touches such as the slim lights front and rear.
The interior has a clean, fresh design. A large digital instrument and infotainment screen sweeps across the dashboard in front of the driver, but fortunately BMW has retained its excellent iDrive controller between the seats to control many functions.
There is an airy, spacious feel about the cabin which extends to the rear, where passengers are treated to fantastic head- and legroom – a common feature among electric cars with a dedicated platform.
The boot is good but not as roomy as in the Audi e-tron, but at least there is room under the floor for the charging cables.
From behind the squared off steering wheel and seated in a commanding position, I set off to see if the iX drives like a BMW should. Well, this X-drive 50 model certainly has more than enough straight-line performance.
Acceleration is sportscar fast and completely linear, just an uninterrupted wave of power as one would expect from 516bhp fed through all four wheels.
However, like all electric cars, it is how it corners with all that extra weight from the batteries that is its greatest challenge.
But the iX really does rather well. For a 2.5ton car, the body control is impressive and the steering is sharp and accurate, albeit without much feedback from the road surface.
Having said that, probably the most impressive aspect of how this BMW drives is the refinement. An almost total lack of wind noise allied to a limousine-smooth ride makes any journey a completely relaxing experience.
Passengers will appreciate this as much as the driver and long-distance travel is stress free for all. Indeed, despite this being an all-electric car, long distance travel is definitely possible – the claimed range of 373 miles from a full charge is a realistic 300 miles.
This makes the iX a serious single family car contender, although charging at home from a 7.4kW wall-box still takes 16hrs to charge from 0 to 100%.
Faster charging is available at dedicated fast-chargers on the road network, but these are still rare and it does become pricey.
In summary, the iX is an impressive piece of kit. As a demonstration of BMW’s commitment to future electric car development, it reassuringly retains the Munich brand’s DNA.
It would work well as a family SUV for any private practitioner who only needs one car. However, it is expensive, although the cheaper £69,905 X-drive 40 model does everything just as well if you can live with a reduced 200-mile real-world range.
Consider it as a real alternative to the Tesla Model X with better build quality and better driving dynamics.
Dr Tony Rimmer (right) is a former NHS GP practising in Guildford, Surrey