Tech Wonder : BMW iX drives smooth, comes with olive-flavoured leather [first drive]

By Clifford Chow, 21 December 2021

Singapore - The BMW iX first made an appearance in the recently concluded EV Weekend, Singapore’s first EV showcase. Clifford snags himself a quick first drive in BMW’s new flagship EV SAV, and finds himself paired with a Budget “stringbean” Santa, who is equally impressed by what the car has to offer. The BMW iX, which takes inspiration from the BMW iNEXT concept vehicle, also heralds in a new era for the brand, with its extensive amounts of tech and also more importantly, BMW has adopted new sustainable production methods and materials, to help keep our planet spinning. 

Of late BMW has opted for an upright grille for some of its cars, and the iX is one of these, and we are definitely happy at how it looks. After all, you cannot go wrong with a car which has the face of a capybara. In the flesh, the iX is more visually pleasing than the numerous teasing photos we received over the past months, but this electric BMW is more than just a bold styling exercise, it also sets the tone for BMW vehicles to come.

With the iX, BMW offers an olive branch to the environment, by ensuring that sustainability is a chief priority during its development. The leather interior surfaces are dyed with olive leaf extract, taken from leaves collected annually during the pruning of olive trees around Europe. But it is not just the way leather is tanned, which is more sustainable, but a good portion of BMW’s newest flagship SAV is made from secondary aluminium (up to 50%), and recycled plastic (about 60%). The SAV is also produced on the back of renewable energy sources. Carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) in the roof and at the sides, help to keep the weight down, improving efficiency and performance.

Ok, so back to the fun bit… right after failing to find out how to open the hood that is. The blue and white roundel up front pops open with a push, so that you can fill ‘er up with washer fluid… and the one at the rear slides out to clean the reverse camera. Right before we took to the wheel, Alan Yi, BMW’s product specialist, pointed out to us that the grille is a five-layer affair, that includes a self-healing top surface, which can cure by applying warm air to it… Then a voice from behind us goes “Nope! Don’t do it!” Apparently, BMW officials have gotten wind that someone here would like to give this self-healing grille a go.

The launch vehicle, which is the xDrive40i variant, is driven by two motors, a 190kW unit at the front, while the rear has a more powerful 200kW unit, which delivers a total system output of 240kW. Interestingly, BMW’s has a different approach to their motor design, when compared to other EVs in the market, as there are no permanent magnets. Alan explains that BMW does this to avoid the use of rare-earth materials. Power is taken from a 71kWh lithium-ion battery, giving the iX xDrive40 a maximum range of up to 425km.

The cabin is truly a case of same-same-but-different, where a single curved glass screen which extends past the middle of the dash, feeds all the drive data through a 12,3-inch Information display and everything else to both the driver and the front passenger through 14.9-inch Control Display. The infotainment unit is powered by BMW’s new Operating System 8, which also features a more powerful version of the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant. The new system is capable of identifying if it is the left or right user who is addressing the system. This opens the door for a more personalised experience, like for instance when adjusting the climate control.

BMW’s Shy Tech also debuts in the iX, where assistance technologies remain on standby in the background, and only reveal themselves when called into action. We experienced Shy Tech in action when navigating the busy CBD, where wayfinding is further bolstered with the frontal camera picking up the road ahead, while augmented 3-dimensional arrows appear superimposed over the video feed. This helps greatly in unfamiliar territory, by prompting us when to turn or even change lanes. The system is cloud-based, meaning that the latest updates can be constantly fed over-the-air.

Not to be upstaged by all of this glam-tech, the new glass iDrive controller which sits elegantly atop a tactile open pore wooden console, makes easy work of operating the user interface. There are also buttons embedded within the open pore wooden surface, keeping things neat and tidy.

We put the car through its paces on the highway, while sending Budget Santa on his way to the airport to catch the cheapest next flight to the North Pole. Interestingly there was very little whine coming from both motors, squeeze down on the accelerator pedal, and the 650Nm makes light work of overtaking. What is probably the biggest difference between driving a regular car and this BMW, is that there are plenty of driver aids, including a front-facing radar with a range of 300m, two short range ones, and an 8mpi frontal camera, designed to help the car read various traffic situations. On clearer roads, the iX would choose to glide along to reduce battery usage, while slipping it into a lane, backed up with traffic would activate its regenerative braking system. This would be a step closer to a full autonomous driving system for BMW.

Interestingly the xDrive40 model does not come with an air suspension, but it still does quite a fabulous job of soaking in the bumps, managing roll around the bends, and also dealing with the large shifts in weight, due to the battery. With more drive coming from the rear motor, the iX feels closer to behaving like a rear-driven car.

The few times the suspension did not behave, Budget Santa learnt, was when he did not slow down sufficiently before a hump. The xDrive50 model, which BMW is still exploring the possibility of offering the Singapore market, will get the flying carpet treatment.

Packing Budget Santa off to the airport, we averaged about 19kWh/100km, and we still had a range of over 300km left to go… meaning that we could still go on doing whatever we want for a few good days without charging the car.

Owning the BMW iX

BMW offers the iX with a wallbox, which is ideal if you live in a landed property. Owners will also receive instant access to all stations which are on the Shell Recharge network.

Those who live in high-rise properties will get a 3-year or 10,000wWh subscription package at Shell Recharge Stations, and may even have a Shell Recharge Station installed at the shared car park of their residence if approved.

There is also a five-year warranty for the car, an eight-year warranty for the battery, and six-years of free servicing.

BMW iX and BMW iX3
BMW iX and BMW iX3

The all-new BMW iX takes its place above the iX3, as the brand’s current newest EV.

(Click HERE to read about our drive in the BMW iX3)

Photos Clifford Chow, Yang & BMW Asia

MINI Electric, BMW iX3, BMW iX, BMW i3
MINI Electric, BMW iX3, BMW iX, BMW i3

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