The transition towards electric vehicles (EVs) has shaken the status quo of the automotive industry. We love EVs like the new and revolutionary Kia EV6 with its radical good looks, vehicle-to-load (V2L) capabilities, and 800-volt architecture that allows for fast charging for half the price of the car we’re reviewing today. For BMW, their EV frontrunner is the iX. Riding on a bespoke EV architecture that isn’t shared with the brand’s internal combustion engine (ICE) models, the 2023 BMW iX xDrive40 we’re driving today serves as a peek at the German automaker’s EV future.
Unfortunately, if looks were to be the basis of the brand’s future, then we’re off to a quite controversial start. There’s no denying that the main point of contention here would be its huge not-a-grille–and a self-healing one at that thanks to a built-in heating element. The “grille” exists because that’s where the sensors for the advanced driver-assistance tech are hidden. Okay, so it’s fun to critique BMW’s questionable design choices, but for me, I’ve grown to appreciate its looks.
On the upside, you’re sure to stand out wherever you go. While the grille is definitely controversial, the rest of the body looks universally great. The clean lines and broad shoulders give this electric crossover SUV a very meaty appearance. It’s not a small boy, by the way. It’s dimensionally the same size as a midsize X5, and combined with the long wheelbase and packaging advantages of its bespoke EV architecture, this leads to tons of interior room.
Speaking of the interior, this is where we’re probably all going to be on the same page. It looks stunning from all angles. Whether you’re seated at the front or back, the lounge-like interior is a delight to the senses. Every ounce of soft-touch plastic and leather–the latter of which was dyed using sustainable methods, feels premium and luxurious. The bronze highlights and crystal rotary controller for the new iDrive 8 infotainment are also a treat to the touch.
As for that iDrive 8 infotainment system, this 2023 BMW iX xDrive40 is the first model to debut this system, and it has now carried over to the recently-updated 2 Series and 3 Series. The twin screens housed in a single curved glass look stunning, and the operating system itself also looks colorful and gorgeous.
Features and Infotainment
iDrive has always been my infotainment benchmark, but for iDrive 8, I have mixed feelings about it. While the response times and menu structure are still perfectly fine, the app menu structure is overwhelmingly scattered. My biggest gripe, however, is that BMW has joined the bandwagon of removing physical climate controls in favor of putting every single setting on the touch screen. Okay, so you can control all functions via the easy-to-use voice assistant, but what’s wrong with being able to tap a button for two seconds just to turn the recirculation off and vice versa? Come on, BMW! This ergonomic decision is a step backward.
On the upside, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto look gorgeous on the widescreen display. The multi-color ambient LED lighting looks stunning, but even more impressive is its Harman Kardon surround sound system, which is the best OEM implementation of the sound system by far. And speaking of sounds, standard in the iX is the so-called Iconic Sounds, which are synthesized EV driving sounds that were created by award-winning composer Hans Zimmer. I usually find synthesized EV noises to be a gimmick, but BMW’s take was something I enjoyed and never turned off.
Space and Practicality
Finally, when it comes to space, this is where the iX’s bespoke EV platform shines. Since its carbon fiber and aluminum-intensive platform weren’t designed to accommodate an ICE, BMW’s engineers were able to squeeze out as much space as possible. With the wheels pushed as far out as possible and having no mechanical driveshaft to deal with (the dual electric motors are electronically-linked), the floor is incredibly flat, and the interior space is tall.
However, moving toward the trunk, there isn’t much space compared to an equivalent BMW X5. The iX offers exactly 500 liters behind the rear seats, which is 150 less than its ICE counterpart. At least when the seats are folded, this increases to a generous 1,750 liters. However, unlike the Kia EV6 and Hyundai Ioniq 5, the iX doesn’t have a front trunk, which is odd considering its bespoke EV platform.
The 2023 BMW iX xDrive40, as the convoluted naming convention denotes, comes with a dual-motor all-wheel drive (AWD) setup. This gives the iX a potent 326 hp and 630 Nm of instantaneous torque sent to all four wheels. While its 0-100 kph time of 6.1 seconds is fast, its experience, in reality, is much more brutal, not dissimilar to being rear-ended by a truck.
Its throttle pedal is something you should treat with respect if you have no experience with EVs yet. There’s literally no lag between your right foot and the electric motors–especially when in Sport mode. With no downshift to anticipate, this is the best car I’ve ever driven when it comes to overtaking slower vehicles. At the same time, when you behave behind the wheel, the iX’s electric motors behave in a linear fashion, which is always a good thing when you’re dealing with this much instant power.
While it may be fun in a straight line, this is still a BMW, and though the batteries it’s hauling are heavy (the entire car weighs 2,440 kg), they’re located on the car’s floor. As a result, the center of gravity is low, and there’s plenty of grip to explore. The steering doesn’t have the same amount of road feel as in the X5–which already in itself doesn’t offer as much compared to older BMWs, but there’s still precision and response to the steering that makes the iX easy to place on the road when going through twisties. This is a heavy but surprisingly fun SUV to toss around.
Refinement in BMWs is top-notch, but in the iX, it’s taken to a whole new level. Without an engine to deal with, plus the generous amount of sound insulation and acoustic glass around the vehicle, this car is whisper quiet whatever the road condition and speed. The suspension offers a great balance between firmness and suppleness, and because the carbon fiber and aluminum structure is so rigid, there are barely any vibrations even when going through the roughest of roads. The iX feels absolutely rock solid.
Of course, as with EVs, your main concern is going to be range. The 2023 BMW iX xDrive40 comes with a 71 kWh usable (76.6 kWh gross) lithium-ion battery pack that’s good enough for a WLTP-rated range of up to 425 km. In the real world, I was getting around 380-390 km based on the trip computer’s prediction, which is long enough for most Filipinos to consider the iX already as a primary car.
The efficiency of ICE cars is measured in km/l, but in an EV, this is measured using km/kWh. Based on our experience, the iX has an energy consumption of 5.3-5.5 km/kWh, which when doing the math based on its 71 kWh usable battery, its real-world range actually matches the trip computer’s prediction. However, the iX doesn’t have the 800-volt architecture of the more affordable Kia EV6 and Hyundai Ioniq 5, which are able to support up to 350 kW DC fast charging, but the fastest charger in the country (so far) is Shell Mamplasan’s 180 kW DC fast charger, while the iX is capable of up to 150 kW DC.
If you want to know more about what’s it like to live with an EV in the Philippines, as well as the various charging standards, just click this link to know more.
Lastly, the 2023 BMW iX xDrive40 comes with a suite of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) that includes automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, and adaptive matrix LED headlights. It’s still missing adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist, but at least for BMW in the Philippines, this is a good first step in the brand finally offering ADAS to its vehicles.
The 2023 BMW iX xDrive40 brings a lot of firsts for the German luxury automaker in terms of design and how it plans to take on the challenge of adopting EVs. As a brand whose reputation was built upon its excellent ICEs–especially their inline-6 engines, it seems they’ve also nailed the fundamentals of how an excellent EV should drive. While it’s missing the V2L and ultra-fast-charging capabilities of the more affordable Korean EVs, what the iX manages to offer in spades is a sumptuous luxury experience and blisteringly quick performance that should please the most discerning EV buyers. Next to the Audi e-tron SUV it’s mainly competing against, the iX’s bespoke EV platform (the e-tron uses the MLB Evo platform of the gas-fed Q7 and Q8) gives it the range as well as the interior packaging advantage.
Pricing and Rating
Exterior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Design: ★★★★★
Space and Practicality: ★★★★☆
Safety and Driver Assistance: ★★★★☆
Battery and Charging: ★★★★☆
Value For Money: ★★★★☆
Overall: 4.5 out of 5
*Pricing as of April 2022 and before implementation of Executive Order 12 in 2023 that exempts EVs from tariffs.