Science fiction buffs are sure to love BMW’s latest all-electric SUV offering. From its future-is-now technology to its styling from another dimension, and even its bizarre sound track, the BMW iX is not only a bold look toward the brand’s future, but it stands to reset the perceptions of what a high-performance luxury SUV could be. And hey, if Hollywood needs a new troop carrier for an upcoming intergalactic voyage, the iX might just fit the role.
In range-topping M60 trim, the iX is about as close as one can get to a extraterrestrial escape pod, except instead of launching you and your family away from a doomed space station overrun with hostile aliens, it’s perfect for an escape to the cottage or perhaps taking a few business partners to a fancy lunch meeting, especially if there’s some urgency to get there.
The iX M60 has the sort of thrust that could convince passengers it could actually take off if given a pair of wings. With Sport mode engaged, the commander, err.. driver applies the brakes with the left foot while mashing the throttle with the right foot. Launch control is automatically engaged and as soon as the brake is released the iX rockets forward at a dizzying rate. No fuss, no muss, no wheel spin, just an utterly effortless blast-off to 100 km/h in a claimed 3.8 seconds (though we wouldn’t be surprised if that’s a conservative rating). It’s a pace that ties the X5 M Competition in terms of forward momentum, but without all that machine’s V8 ruckus.
When launch control is engaged, there’s 811 lb-ft of torque on tap, surely enough to cause wrinkles in the time-space continuum. Coupled with 610 hp, it makes the iX almost supercar quick, continuing on to a top speed of 250 km/h. Most of the time, the iX M60 makes do with “only” 532 hp and 749 lb-ft of torque, but that’s still enough to send the sport ute to warp drive whenever desired.
Fair warning to prospective iX buyers: the M60 is sneaky fast. The ferocious acceleration is so easy and drama-free that even a modest jab of the throttle will often have the SUV gaining on traffic ahead much quicker than expected, plus its smoothness and silence mean that the cruising speed is often shocking.
Amusingly, the mind-melting acceleration runs are accompanied by a series of drive mode-dependent, digitally recreated sound effects composed by movie music guy, Hans Zimmer. If you’ve ever wondered what it must sound like when George Jetson’s in a hurry to get to one of his kids’ recitals, that’s Expressive mode. Sport mode is what you’d hear riding shotgun with the Mandalorian when he’s late for a meeting. Or it could be one of those plastic whirly tubes we played with as kids.
Driving Feel: 8/10
At over 2,600 kg, the iX is expectedly heavy given the size of its 112-kWh battery pack and its mid-sized stature. Despite generous use of carbon fibre construction (visible within the door jams), the M60 always feels like a bulky SUV when being driven quickly through twists and turns. The recently-driven (and admittedly smaller) X3M Competition offers an immediacy to its responses that’s lacking in the iX even with its active four-wheel steering. Still, the M60’s meaty Pirelli tires cling to the pavement with impressive authority, and the adaptive suspension mitigates body roll when hustled, but the obviously digitized sounds combine with the fuzzy, numb steering to reinforce that sci-fi sensation.
The brakes do a good job of hauling the iX’s mass down to a stop, but with regenerative braking active during the test week, one-pedal driving was all that was needed most of the time. BMW employs a flexible regen system that, at highway speeds, coasts more than it does at lower speeds, making one-pedal driving smoother once the driver gets the hang of it.
Fuel Economy: 9/10
At 450 kilometres, the iX M60’s quickness comes at the cost of range compared to the iX xDrive50 that’s rated for 521 km. During a test week with plenty of day trips across the Greater Toronto Area, the reduced range was never an issue with the iX leaving the Level 2 home charger fully juiced any time a longer trip was planned, and even then, nothing lower than 35 per cent charge was ever witnessed. Had it been required, a properly-functioning DC fast charger with 150 kW capacity can add at least 100 km of range within nine minutes, suggesting that a driver would rarely need more than a lunch stop top-up to cover great distances each day.
Despite more than half the test week’s driving at highway speeds (with the rest mixed between stop-and-go traffic and terrorizing passengers with acceleration blasts), and with air conditioning fighting the blazing late summer weather, the iX was regularly on track to exceed its official range.
BMW’s recent trend toward a gargantuan, vertical twin-kidney grille has been met with mixed reviews on other models, and the iX’s solid plastic piece with a printed-on motif is the most controversial yet. Normally, such thin headlights would contribute a sense of width and stability, but the iX’s tall visage just looks like a squinting face with chubby cheeks.
The profile is fairly generic with a few boxy elements added to the fenders, looking like a 5/8 scale X7, and the rear end resembles the handsome X5’s. It was four years ago we first saw BMW’s Vision iNext concept and like it or not, this iX is a close manifestation of that design exercise, both inside and out.
There’s very little to distinguish the M60 from lesser iX models, short of the all-black M badging. The test car was spec’ed with 22-inch wheels and trim accented in a titanium bronze treatment that nicely complemented the grey and black paint.
The cabin departs from BMW’s typical interiors by doing away with most of the traditional buttons that we’ve celebrated in other models (including the i4), allowing instead for a clean and simplified layout that leans heavily on touchscreen and capacitive interaction. The glass switches for the iDrive controller, volume switch, drive selector and seat controls are a fancy flourish, but otherwise, the look is certainly derivative of the Vision iNext, right down to the odd squared-off steering wheel.
BMW’s Comfort Seats found in several other models have earned acclaim for coddling occupants and their ability to keep them in place during spirited driving. Those seats mustn’t look futuristic enough for the iX, which is fitted with plain-looking, perforated chairs with integrated head rests. While the driver’s seat does offer a massaging function (the passenger’s doesn’t), and there’s decent adjustability, it falls short of the luxurious comfort found in other BMW models. Worse, front seat passengers 5-feet tall or shorter will suffer repeated, painful contact between their noggin and the hard plastic square in the seatback, in a woeful example of form over function.
The air-ride adaptive suspension does a good job of coping with poor Ontario pavement while maintaining a solid composure needed for handling. More impressive is the sound suppression employed in the iX, with road and wind noise not even registering in the cabin, making this one of the quietest cars in memory.
Beyond the single massaging seat, the iX M60 offers four-zone climate control, a heated steering wheel, and a slick panoramic glass roof that can electronically adjust its opacity. There are soft-close doors, ventilated front seats, the glass controls, and, of course, the Hans Zimmer soundtrack, but all of it is optional and adds to the cost. The Bowers and Wilkins surround sound system is grouped into a $7,400 package that’s well worth the investment for its exceptional tonal quality, especially in such a quiet cabin. The on-board navigation provides augmented reality directions, superimposing graphic arrows atop live-view displays captured from the front-facing camera.
User Friendliness: 7.5/10
Designing a sci-fi machine that looks futuristic but maintains functionality can’t be easy. BMW has followed the current EV trend of extreme minimalism for interior design, which ends up burying a number of controls in the car’s 14.9-inch touchscreen. Where the current iDrive in most BMWs is refreshingly intuitive, the iX’s system is burdened somewhat by integrated climate and seat controls, plus various functions adjusting features like the level of immersive digitized sound that occupants experience. As with most modern luxury cars, the feature count is so extensive that a considerable amount of time is required to set the car to a buyer’s tastes, but once done, most of those details won’t need to be modified again.
In fairness, BMW still offers the iDrive controller on the console, but the accompanying buttons for key functions are embedded into the walnut trim, and not as easily located by touch as they are in older versions with physical switches. The optional gesture control occasionally skipped music tracks or adjusted volume unexpectedly when I was engaged in discussion with my passengers. Captain Kirk wannabes can bark orders at the car for voice control commands.
The myBMW App is handy for monitoring charge levels and can enable the driver to take a photograph inside the car, or a 3D shot using the outside cameras at any time remotely to help ensure the condition of the car as it’s parked.
The tall, two-box format of the iX ensures excellent outward sightlines for the driver, and an airy, open-feeling cabin for occupants in general. It will accommodate five passengers and three can sit with reasonable comfort in the back thanks to the flat floor, as long as they’re not too broad-shouldered.
Cargo capacity is rated at 1,005 L with the rear seat up and a generous 2,205 L when the split-folding rear seat is down. The combination of a usable interior and all-wheel drive should make the iX M60 a practical daily shuttle for most buyers.
BMW is using the iX as a rolling showcase of its technological abilities, and that includes safety. The litany of sensors and monitors stay vigilant for other cars, pets, pedestrians, cyclists, and likely passing comets, too. The optional Driving Assistant Professional system does much of the driver’s job of steering, stopping, and going, even in traffic, and there’s automated active parking available.
Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have crash tested the iX yet, however, the European New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) has and awarded it a top five-star rating.
Starting at $121,750, the iX M60 is significantly costlier than the entry point for the iX xDrive50 and xDrive40 variants, however it comes with more standard equipment. Still, needing to add costly options, either a la carte or in packages to equip the M60 with several key features that buyers reasonably expect in a six-figure car quickly jacks the cost north of $140,000 like our tester. Although an impressive performer, parts of the M60’s interior, like the rather plain seats and vast expanse of hard plastic on the floor between the two front seats, make this model feel less luxurious than other BMWs costing less.
Still, there aren’t many fully electric mid-sized premium SUVs on the market yet, and a Tesla Model X starts at $150,000 with prices rising significantly from there. Comparatively, the iX M60 is a decent value.
Dynamically, the iX M60 is sensational. The acceleration alone is breathtaking, but its handling is competent, too, as expected from BMW. With the tech-laden switchgear permeating other models like the refreshed X7, the iX may mark the final transition point from BMW’s previous levels of high driver engagement to futuristic mobile pods. Buyers looking for a better value and better-built alternative to a Tesla Model X will find a solid choice with the M60. And if they’re science fiction fans, too, so much the better.
|Engine Displacement||397 kW motor|
|Engine Cylinders||Dual motor EV, 111.5 kWh battery|
|Peak Horsepower||532 hp (610 hp in Sport mode launch)|
|Peak Torque||749 lb-ft (811 lb-ft in Sport mode launch)|
|Fuel Economy||3.1 / 2.9 / 3.0 Le/100 km, 27.3 / 26.0 / 26.7 kWh/100 km cty/hwy/cmb; est. range 441 km (22” wheels)|
|Cargo Space||1,005 / 2,205 L seats up/down|
|Model Tested||2023 BMW iX M60|
|Price as Tested||$142,930|
$18,600 – Premium Enhanced Package, $7,400; Storm Bay Metallic paint, $1,450; Inteior Design Suite, Amido, $2,250; 22” bi-colour wheels, $1,500; Driving Assistant Professional, $2,000; Glass Controls with Walnut Console, $850; Ventilated Front Seats, $900; Titanium Bronze Exterior Trim, $500; BMW Laserlight headlights, $1,500; Gesture Control, $250