It is getting increasingly more difficult to make an impact on the rapidly burgeoning electric vehicle (EV) car market, but BMW is determined to stand and be counted

It has been eight years since BMW gave us a tantalising glimpse of future transportation with their carbon-fibre i3 electric vehicle. Though the concept and design of the i3 was undoubtedly clever, BMW needed a wider spread of EV cars to ensure the successful transition to a fully electrified model range, and a solitary EV model would not do.

Earlier in the year, we were introduced to the BMW iX3 which is the fully electric version of their X3 SUV. We found that rather than attempt to set speed records, the iX3 showed us exactly what a well-executed electric version of their much-respected X3 SUV is like. BMW did not try to reinvent the wheel, it just exploited the advantage of the electric drive, namely the immediacy of power delivery and the efficiency of the electrified system.

Most recently, at the end of last year, we were treated to the launch of BMW’s iX Electric SUV.  This newcomer is a step-up in terms of size compared to the iX3 and is closer in size and stature to the X5. While the recent BMW iX3 is a part of the current X3 range, the latest BMW iX Electric does not seem to relate to any range by name and appears to be another standalone model, like the i3. Its remit is to extend the boundaries of luxury.

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Currently, for the local market, we only have the 326 hp iX Electric xDrive40 with the 76.6 kWh battery, and the more powerful xDrive50 will be announced at a later date. Its styling is distinctive and imposing. The outstanding styling feature is the large front grille which features a self-healing paint coating that can heal or repair small scratches or stone chips which is a useful thing given the size of the double kidney grille. 

The iX seems to have broader shoulders and stands closer to the road than most SUVs giving it a more hunkered down, purposeful look. The optimised aerodynamic properties that contribute to the car’s drag coefficient of just 0.25 also have a positive impact on efficiency and range. Also, BMW has pointed out the high proportion of recycled materials incorporated in its manufacture, especially the aluminium and plastics that are used throughout the iX xDrive40, making a positive impact on its green credentials.

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Befitting the upmarket status of the iX, the interior is decidedly larger and plusher than the iX3, especially the seats, which provide far more comfort than you would expect. It certainly is a contrast from the usual BMW interior as the stylists are trying to meld the stark high-tech display screens from the computer world with the traditional BMW interior architecture. BMW offers less switches but more functionality.

There is a 12.3-inch information display for the main drive functions and a 14.9-inch control display that is angled toward the driver. BMW’s latest Operating System 8 iDrive incorporates voice commands via the digital assistant to reduce having switchgear or even having to use the touchscreen.

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There are numerous new material choices for the interior that are a departure from the usual BMW fare like the optional crystal cut switchgear and some wood veneers that would not be out of place in a Rolls-Royce. This appears to be a determined attempt to change the entire feel or ambience of the cabin to better reflect the electrified nature of the iX, requiring some acclimatisation by traditional BMW clientele.

The comfort of the cabin is augmented by an astonishingly sturdy chassis. This extremely stiff carbon fibre reinforced aluminium spaceframe called the Carbon Cage, shrugs off any road harshness with disdain. This allows the iX to deliver a remarkably comfortable and soothing ride despite being shod with the optional 22-inch wheels and the ultra low-profile, run-flat tyres which have noise reduction tech. The iX xDrive40 is one of the best riding SUVs I have driven, even without the benefit of the air-suspension that will be standard in the iX xDrive50.

Performance-wise, the BMW iX xDrive40 with its twin-motor, all-wheel-drive system accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.1 seconds, just a little quicker than the rear-drive iX3. It is not blisteringly quick but with electric motors it is not really necessary to have supercar performance, because it is the immediate delivery of acceleration that matters, delivering instant overtaking response. If one needs more performance, wait for the iX xDrive50 which has a 0-100 km/h time of 4.6 seconds and a superb range of 630 km.

The iX xDrive40 delivers a respectable range of 435 km and charging can be achieved with a home wall box charger, or via public charging points with a Shell Recharge 3-year/10,000 kWh subscription. To allay range anxiety, BMW has designed the car’s battery system to accept 150 kW DC rapid charging. This can bring the battery’s charge state up from 10 per cent to 80 per cent in just 31 minutes, or viewed another way, in just ten minutes it can add 95 km to the battery’s range.

The BMW iX xDrive40 is almost as radical as the i3 in design and execution. It is more practical in terms of production being closer to the BMWs we are familiar with, but it also charts its own path into the future. Surprisingly, its best facet is its refinement and ride comfort but even as an all electric vehicle it still feels like a BMW.

Car: BMW iX xDrive40

Price: From SG$391,888 without COE before options

Engine: Dual electric motors, all-wheel drive

Power: 326 hp

Torque: 630 Nm

0-100 km/h: 6.1 seconds

Top Speed: 200 km/h (restricted)

Fuel Consumption: 25.1 kWh/100 km (WLTP)

Driving Range: 372-425 km (WLTP)

Agent: Performance Motors Ltd.

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