The 2022 BMW iX electric midsize SUV wasn’t exempt from the typical normalizing effects that occur when transforming a vehicle from concept to production-ready. Developed from the BMW Vision iNext concept, few observers expected the gimmicky rear-hinged back doors (also known as suicide doors) to survive–and they were right.
What remains is a sustainable midsized SUV with some very modern design touches with good performance and impressive range.
There’s no word yet on pricing, though BMWBlog speculated it could “jump over” the $100,000 mark. BMWs are never cheap and the base 2020 X5 midsize SUV starts at $60,395. Upgrading to the M50i with the V8 engine kicks it up to $83,795. Also unclear is the level of self-driving tech that will be included. Current BMWs drive themselves on limited-access highways as long as the driver has hands on the wheel; BMW promised “highly autonomous driving” for the production version of the iNext concept.
Long range is becoming a non-negotiable demand considering the competition, particularly from the Tesla Model X Long Range Plus fastback-look SUV that costs $79,990 and is rated to travel 371 miles on a single charge. Fortunately, the iX is predicted to achieve 300 miles in EPA testing. And with electric motors (totaling more than 500 horsepower) on both axles for all-wheel drive and a more than 100-kilowatt-hour battery (built without so-called rare earth metals such as lithium, cobalt and manganese, BMW says), it will reach 62 mph in less than five seconds. The compact i3–BMW’s only battery-only car in the U.S. market until now–struggled with range (153 miles), and BMW Group’s electric Mini Cooper SE still does (110 miles). Even in REx form with the gasoline range extender, the i3 only reached 200 miles per charge.
Another decent number is 200-kilowatt DC fast charging, which will re-charge a battery from 10% to 80% in less than 40 minutes. In 10 minutes at the fast-charge pump, it gains 75 miles of range.
BMW is calling the iX a “sport activity vehicle,” but that’s just to make it more attractive to on-the-go younger buyers. For practical purposes, it’s an SUV. The iX is based on the company’s new modular and scalable architecture “on which the future of the BMW Group [and presumably other new electrified models] will be built.” It also will continue to use the lightweight carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic construction pioneered on the i3 and plug-in hybrid i8 sports car, with an aluminum space frame of struts and braces underneath the skin of the car.
The basic iX shape, on a 118-inch wheelbase, retains some cues from the i3. But the eye zeroes in on what the company calls its “intelligent kidney grille.” BMW suggests the size is not to be courant with Lexus, Cadillac and others, but serves to hide cameras, radars and sensors as well as the latter’s heating and cooling elements. Looked at another way, it’s a big nose, echoing the unfortunate Edsel, a now defunct brand from Ford Motor Co. that sold in the late 1950s. Distinctive, yes, but inspiring memes and not altogether happy.
The big grille has shown up in various forms on cars as diverse as the 4- and 7-Series. Other than that, the car is fairly smoothly styled, with a neat tail. Thin-band LED headlights and taillights are a unifying design feature. Its form following function, because the car doesn’t appear obviously aerodynamic but does boast a low 0.25 coefficient of drag. Highlights include frameless door windows, door handles that pop out to meet the driver and an optional panoramic glass roof with switchable shading. Standard wheels are 20-inch light alloys, but 21- and 22-inch Air Performance wheels are optional and said to reduce drag.
The best design feature of the upright i3 is its tasteful interior, and that continues on the iX. The Tesla-ization of the automotive world continues apace, and many functions on the iX are controlled from its curved, free-floating 14.9-inch touchscreen. That complements a 12.3-inch digital dash screen.
During the online presentation, Adrian van Hooydonk, senior vice president at BMW Group Design, said the cues came from modern architecture, with the car like “a loft on wheels.” Switchgear is minimized. A panel houses the start-stop button, the shifter and BMW’s ubiquitous dial controller, which is sheathed in wood.
BMW says the iX offers X5 dimensions (it’s actually almost an inch longer, about 195 inches overall), the sportiness of the X6, and the interior versatility of the X7 three-row SUV.
The iX will be built at a BMW Plant Dingolfing in Germany, 60 miles northeast of the company’s home base in Munich, alongside a range of other models. More than 376,000 BMWs were built there in 2017. BMW showed an online video (in German) featuring actor Christoph Waltz encountering the iX. Waltz won a best supporting actor Oscar for Django Unchained, but performance for the automaker was much more restrained. He’s seen driving past a row of classic BMWs. The company obviously believes the iX will earn its place in that row.
The iX will go on sale in the second half of 2021 or 2022 in the U.S.