Yep, the kidney grilles. They’re back, but this time they’re on the face of BMW’s pre-production iX, the just-announced EV that’s been developed off the back of the 2018 iNEXT concept. The finished production car will find its way to market at the end of 2021 as an all-electric SUV (which means those grilles are fake; BMW even says they’re “blanked off”), built on a new platform featuring BMW’s fifth-gen electric tech, high-level autonomous features and the very latest in cabin architecture. Predictable, but also far reaching in a technical sense.
The design obviously isn’t going to be to everyone’s taste, but at least the hardware packed into the iX is notable. This is a blank-sheet Carbon Cage-based development with a high-voltage battery and a 500hp powertrain. We’re told the production car should be good for a five second 0-62mph time, although you won’t need us to tell you this is not a sporting model to replace the X5 M.
It is very much an EV for the (well-heeled) masses, a near X5-sized car to be sold in volume across BMW’s current and emerging key markets. As such, the most important stats relate to its efficiency. BMW quotes 21kWh per 62 miles of average energy use or a gross energy content of 100kWh that ‘should’ enable a range of “over” 373 miles. Not bad. There’s potential for more, too, because the numbers are based “on the car’s current stage of development”.
As for charging, BMW quotes 75 miles of extra range in ten minutes at the plug. New port technology enables DC fast charging at up to 200kW (70kW behind than the Taycan), so it’s future-proofed for a few years while the charging infrastructure catches up. With a 200kW plug, the battery can be charged from 10 to 80 per cent in “under 40 minutes”. With an 11kW wallbox, it takes less than eleven hours to go from 0-100 per cent. That sounds like a lot, but BMW is obviously expecting that to happen overnight.
BMW states that the iX batteries “are designed as part of a long-term resource cycle and enable an exceptionally high recycling rate” and claims that the power used to produce the cells “comes exclusively from renewable sources”. In a best-case scenario, a customer would then charge their car from a port that gets its energy from renewables, too – not something wholly realised in the UK yet, of course, although somewhere like the Nordic region is already drawing two-thirds of its power from sources not fossil fuel based.
As you’d expect, the iX comes with plenty of cabin tech, including a higher power data processor and more powerful sensor technology than the very latest BMW machines. The car is 5G connected, so driving assistance and parking functions are said to be next-level compared to what we’re used to now. It’s helped by the fact an electric powertrain is actually easier to control and manage in an autonomous sense, because of fewer variables in the driving controls and power source. But expect the manufacturer to work hard on achieving familiar BMW handling characteristics; our money’s on a rear biased mode of some sort, given the latest Bavarian approach to xDrive tech.
Moreover, BMW’s aerodynamicists are said to have worked from the earliest stages of the iX’s Carbon Cage development to ensure the structure would marry to the car's final shape. Apparently the body and flat floor are much slipperier than they look, with a quoted drag coefficient of just 0.25. Wind noise is said to be very low as a result. Certainly, that’ll matter a lot in a car expected to handle motorway use as well as city driving. When it launches next year, the iX will be a significant part of the EV mix; let's just hope for BMW's sake that its rivals haven't taken the prospective range even further down the road by then.
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