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If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Just bigger.
Nearly a decade after BMW launched its first purpose-built electric car, the i3 subcompact hatchback, it’s back with the 2022 iX midsize SUV.
The i3 was one of the first all-electric cars to hit the road in the early years of the modern EV era, but never caught on. With a range of less than 130 miles per charge, U.S. sales peaked at 11,024 in 2015 and that includes versions with an optional range-extending gasoline motor. Just 1,476 were sold last year.
The iX xDrive50 is aimed at a more popular luxury segment and about the same size as a BMW X5, but entirely different from it.
It’s built on a new battery-powered platform that will spawn a lineup of future models, but is launching on the iX with a standard 516 hp all-wheel-drive system that makes it one of BMW’s most powerful models. A higher performance iX M60 is also available with a 610 hp powertrain.
The iX xDrvie50 starts at $84,195 and qualifies for the $7,500 federal tax credit that brings that down to $76,695. That’s close to the similar Audi e-tron S and substantially cheaper than the slightly larger Tesla Model X, which recently had its price raised to $120,990 and doesn’t get the credit.
The iX has a lower stance than the X5 to improve its aerodynamics in an effort to stretch its driving range, which is officially rated at a maximum of 324 miles. Wheel and tire choices can negatively affect that, with a 22-inch performance tire package dropping it to 315 miles and 21-inch option with softer all-season rubber to 305 miles.
Flush door handles, slim headlights and distinctive trim give the iX a futuristic concept car look that incorporates a unique take on BMW’s new oversized dual kidney grille.
It’s not really a grille, though, because electric cars don’t typically have large radiators up front. Instead, it’s been repurposed as a housing for some of the sensors used by the vehicle’s electronic driver aids.
Its laser-applied 3D design is protected by a self-healing polyurethane coating that can fix small scratches and dings by itself. Applying heat, or even leaving it out in the sun for a while, can make them nearly, though not always entirely disappear.
The interior was named one of the best by WardsAuto. It features a relatively minimalist style with a simple dashboard wrap and a widescreen display that incorporates both the gauge cluster and touchscreen infotainment system interface. A knob on the center console and voice recognition offer optional ways to control it, and you can change the volume and accomplish a few other tasks by waving your hand in the air. Unfortunately, many systems rely heavily on it, which can make it cumbersome to adjust a variety of things ranging from the temperature to the adaptive cruise control’s following distance. The almost polygonal steering wheel doesn’t take long to get used to.
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Legroom is ample for both front and rear passengers and a full panoramic sunroof brightens things up. Unless you don’t want it to. The glass has an electrochromatic layer that allows you to digitally fog it up, essentially turning the sunroof into an overcast-sky-roof.
A Dynamic Handling Package brings a computer-controlled air suspension to the mix along with a four-wheel-steering system that turns the rear wheels opposite the fronts at low speeds to make the iX more maneuverable in tight spaces and while parking.
Additional packages add a self-parking feature and a 360-degree camera with a virtual 3D view that can be accessed via a smartphone app if you want to check on the vehicle. There’s also an in-cabin camera that can record images for evidence if the alarm is set off and alert you to the incursion via the app.
You’ll need to watch yourself if you don’t want to violate any laws while driving it, because it is one quick SUV. It’ll accelerate to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and slam your head into the seat as it does it, especially when you have it set to Sport mode. Shorter people might not enjoy this as the high back front seats have plastic holes right where their heads are.
As with many electric cars, and some internal combustion ones, the iX pumps a synthetic motor noise it calls Iconic Sounds into the cabin to make up for the silence of the electric motors. The tones differ depending on the drive mode, and are some of the best I’ve encountered, but can be turned off if you’re not into that kind of thing.
The iX has as firm, but smooth ride as the air suspension goes to work on even rough city streets. On a freshly paved surface it’s bliss and handles as well as a nearly three-ton SUV can be expected to.
Only under hard braking do you get a sense of how heavy it is, but the low center of gravity gives it the sort of planted feel in curves that you expect from a BMW. The power delivery is seamless and without any of the disconnected quirks some EVs exhibit.
My real-world testing in a 21-inch wheel model came up a bit short of the 305-mile projection, but its efficiency was in the ballpark across a mix of city and highway driving. One way to stretch it in cold weather is to order the Radiant Heat Package, which adds electrically heated panels to the dashboard and armrests you can use with the heated seats and steering wheel to draw less energy from the battery than the cabin heater would.
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The iX can be equipped with BMW’s Active Driving Assistant Pro, which provides lane-centering adaptive cruise control at high speeds and in stop-and-go traffic. It can also check for traffic and execute a lane change when you tap the turn signal stalk, but does require you to keep a hand touching the wheel to operate.
Overall, the iX feels like the product of a company that’s been making EVs for a long time, even if it only had the one. It does sell an electric version of the 4-Series Gran Coupe now, but it’s not an optimized EV like the iX.
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One last innovation can be found up front, where the BMW roundel logo pops open to allow you to fill the windshield washer fluid since the hood doesn’t open.
It’s a sign of things to come at BMW.
2022 BMW iX xDrive50
Base price: $84,195
As tested: $96,070
Type: 5-passenger, 4-door, all-wheel-drive SUV
Drive: Dual-motor electric
Power: 516 hp, 564 lb-ft
Transmission: Single-speed automatic
Range: 315 miles
MPGe: 83 combined