2021 BMW iX electric SUV first impressions: Styling, interiors, features and range
BMW is the latest to be smitten by the electric bug — it has planned as many as 25 new products by 2023. Heralding them all is the brand’s global electric and technological flagship, the 2021 BMW iX. It is the first model based on a new EV-specific modular platform that’s said to underpin future EVs of the BMW Group, of which the BMW i4 and the Mini Cooper EV will be launched in India in the next six months. The iX offers a refreshing approach to sustainability, one that involves strict compliance throughout the production process of the vehicle. Which means majority of the raw materials used are completely natural, no rare Earths are used in it’s construction, the electricity used to manufacture the iX is generated from renewable sources ONLY and a high proportion of materials used are made of recycled stuff.
Yep, even we couldn’t have imagined talking about how ‘green’ a newly launched BMW is but with their new-found commitment towards a greener planet, its hard not to glance over ways in which the brand is tackling current challenges to put together a car that’s committed towards climate protection. And for the conscious one out there; for the customers who buy electric-vehicles to make a statement, this could very well be a huge drawing point.
2021 BMW iX exteriors and styling
Just when you thought BMW couldn't get any more controversial, here comes a really controversial BMW with a grille that now extends all the way to the floor of the face. Approach it in person and it's actually less offensive than what the pictures would suggest. Quite interesting perhaps, because it is not pretending to be that impossible thing, a sports-SUV. The nose no doubt grabs your attention (and not necessarily in a good way), but here’s my take on it — don’t think of it as a grille, because it isn’t. Think of it as a decorative panel, one that’s tasked to cleverly mask the sensors that sit behind. In fact, it’s got a few tricks up its sleeves — this panel is self-healing, which means minor scratches and road chips would automatically disappear off it’s surface within 24 hours of natural light, and it’s also capable of heating itself, just in case you’ve got some snow stuck on the face of it.
Spend a few minutes around the BMW iX and you immediately realise how the slate has been kept minimal and clutter free. No strong creases, no prominent character lines and no pretentious vents — it’s all been toned down to lend it a very flowy look. The headlamps and the taillamps are the sleekest to be installed on a BMW and they look like slits drawn onto sheet metal. Interestingly, the bonnet cannot be opened (so no frunk!) and the only thing that pops on the front is the BMW logo, for you to pour in the washer fluid. I absolutely drooled over the ‘Iron Man’ (not the official name, but it’s straight plucked from the sci-fi movie!) color scheme on the iX that was displayed to us, especially the bits where the subtle gold wrapped the window lines and door handles. The rear too, like the rest of the design, remains void of any shouty lines and I quite like it this way. Styling is a subjective matter, but I’m sure many would agree that the iX does cut a really good shape for itself, especially with its wide track and not-so-dramatic sloping roofline. Also, the 22-inch wheels looked rather attractive, however I’m guessing these would be optional extras, and 21-inches would be offered as a standard size.
To give you a little perspective of it’s dimensions, it’s similar to the BMW X5 in terms of its width and length, and similar to the BMW X6 in terms of its height. Here’s how the iX stacks up against its rivals in terms of dimensions.
2021 BMW iX Interiors
Just like the radical exteriors, the interiors on the BMW iX takes on a whole new style, and it’s a refreshing new addition given how overly-used the earlier design was. This new theme focuses on space and openness, combining sustainability with a new-age yet minimalist design theme. It all starts with the steering wheel, which is no longer a wheel but a hexagonal motorsport-derived control unit. I can’t wait to steer the iX with it!
Ahead of you is the sweeping two-part blended display. It stands proud of the dash on elegant metal brackets that should be holding up bookshelves in a modernist house. One part is a 12.3-inch instrument pod and the other is a 14.9-inch infotainment system, both of which feature new interactive animations. The touchscreen is big enough that you can reasonably have several windows open to show both entertainment and map, or map and energy use. It’s all very new-age and fluidic, but will require at least a day to explore every bit and corner.
That’s largely due to the brand new BMW Operating System 8 which now packs a lot of functions from within the screen. As a result of which, many physical buttons have been given a miss. Fortunately the iDrive controller remains, and is a great way to navigate through the menus. It's made of clear glass now, yet it retains a top surface that's sensitive tough, so you can to you draw letters with your finger like an old PDA. And just like the rotary knob, a lot of materials used in the cabin are pretty wild — more buttons are made of glass, and the wood is open-pore with backlit switch icons shining through.
Cleverly, several of the remaining switches have three horizontal bars in their icons. With these, a long-press will summon a relevant menu on the screen. So press the map light button and it switches on as per the function. But long-press it and the full screen menu for interior lighting pops up, giving you the option to set the ambient light, dimmers, and more
Just like the rest of the cabin, the sunroof is a technological marvel. This single pane glass roof is the largest ever fitted to a BMW model, and it makes use of electrochromic technology. It stacks three layers of films and with a push of a button, you can shut off voltage to the middle film layer that causes liquid crystals to scatter into a disorderly pattern that creates the effect of shade. So, no more waiting for the cloth to roll the length of the sunroof, and no more of those annoying motors eating into the quiet of the cabin. It’s instant, it’s impressive.
In terms of the cabin space, there is no centre tunnel which adds to the open, airy feel while also allowing extra legroom in the front and rear of the cabin. The front seats are newly designed and integrate the headrests within their construction, offering a spacecraft-like seating experience but with all the more comfort and support. In the back, the couch-like unsegmented bench is wide (and comfortable) enough for three fit abreast, and the 500-litre boot seems sufficient. The legroom is available in abundance, and it is as lavish as the BMW X7 Since there is no frunk, your charging cable has to be fit in the boot itself. Not so clever, but what will impress you is the intentionally exposed carbonfibre that’s used in the construction of the cabin’s frame.
2021 BMW iX Powertrain, charging
Although offered in two variants internationally, we will only be offered the xDrive 40 variant in India. This variant is powered by two electric motors, one placed on each axle, sending power across to all four wheels. It produces 321.8bhp and 630Nm of torque, and receives a 71kWh battery with a claimed range of 372 to 425km on the WLTP test cycle.
In terms of charging, the xDrive 40 supports 150kW of DC fast charging, with a 10-80 per cent charge taking up to a claimed 31 minutes. These super-fast charging times are yet to be realised in India as the most common DC fast chargers are capped at 50/60kW. In addition to the standard charging cable, BMW will offer complimentary wallbox chargers which, I have to admit, look as cool as the SUV itself. With these 11kW AC wallbox chargers, which can be installed for free at your residence or office parking, your iX should take up to 8 hours for a 0-100 per cent charge.
2021 BMW iX launch, price and competition
The BMW iX is here to compete against other luxury EV SUVs like the Mercedes-Benz EQC, the Audi e-tron SUV and the Jaguar I-Pace. India will only have the one xDrive 40 variant in one-fully specced trim level, at least for now. Launched at a price of Rs 1.16 crore (ex-showroom, India), if you’re as impressed by the iX as I am, you will be able to book yours already via BMW’s retail network or online portal, deliveries of which should begin by April 2022.
It's hyped as the company's technology flagship, and it lives up to that claim every bit. With the kind of technology that it packs, the richness it adds to the cabin and the sustainable approach that it takes throughout it’s manufacturing cycle, it feels far superior to any of its competitors. It’s a high-tech showcase of everything BMW can do, and we can’t wait to put it to test on Indian roads. Until then, the internet can continue to wage wars on the way the iX looks. Personally, if you spec yours with the right colors and wheels, you can make one look pretty rad.