Long-term tests

BMW iX xDrive50 long-term test: not a looker, but great in every other way

Second report: the BMW iX has the looks to suit the leader of the Galactic Empire

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

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Verdict

I’ve been super-impressed by the iX, which is proof that you should never judge a book by its cover. Other than its style, I’m enjoying the calming and enjoyable drive, while the tech on board and on the app is contributing to the overall sense of well-being that running an iX gives you.

  • Mileage: 8,600
  • Efficiency: 2.7 miles/kWh

According to a recent survey, one in three of us give our cars names – there’s even a National Name Your Car Day (2 October, if you really want to know). I’m usually in the two thirds who don’t bother, but I reckon there’s a certain resemblance between our BMW iX and one of the movie world’s greatest villains, so say hello to Darth.

Being likened to a Sith Lord in Star Wars doesn’t sound hugely complimentary towards the iX, especially because it’s a car that I’ve grown to really admire – although I have to be honest and say that admiration doesn’t extend to the looks which, apologies to Darth Vader, aren’t exactly beautiful.

That’s where my criticism of the iX ends, though, because this is a model that’s a real showcase for electric cars, and BMW’s electric line-up in particular.

As I always tell people considering a switch to electric driving, owning an EV requires a mind shift and more planning than it does with an ICE car. The biggest downside of an EV is always the charging – or more precisely, public networks.

In the nearly six months I’ve been running the iX, I’ve only needed to rely on the public charging network a couple of times – once on an overnight trip to Manchester, the other on another overnight stay in Coventry.

In the Midlands, my hotel had charging, so I topped up overnight – no problem at all. In Manchester, I spotted that the Q-Park Piazza had 12 EV charging points, so headed there to plug-in. But this was on a busy Friday night and the car park was rammed, with non-EV drivers deciding to park in the charging bays, along with a couple of EVs not bothering to plug in – infuriating, but sadly par for the EV course.

I found an on-street fast charger the next morning, but that turned out to be more expensive than expected, too. I hadn’t checked the parking arrangements – making the assumption that Manchester City Council wouldn’t charge you if you were, er, charging – and returned to the car to find a parking ticket slapped on my windscreen. My fault, I should have checked, but it doesn’t exactly encourage EV usage in Manchester.

The rest of the time, I’ve relied on my 7kW Hypervolt charger at home, some careful planning and the benefit of a realistic 300-mile-plus range from the iX.

As I write this, having charged a couple of days ago, the temperature’s just below 10 degrees and the car’s showing 98 per cent of battery charge left with a range of 304 miles. That’s some way short of the official full figure of 379 miles, but I have got close to that in warmer weather when I’ve been driving in mostly stop-start town traffic, when an EV is always at its most efficient.

Having the brilliant BMW app on my phone also helps to keep tabs on things and provides some great information. For example, in the month of December I made 51 trips covering 503 miles with an average trip duration of 23 minutes. That meant 20 hours behind the wheel, the same as 34 per cent of iX xDrive50 owners. Energy usage is currently averaging 2.7 miles/kWh although the app tells me my most efficient trip netted a return of 3.5 miles/kWh.

The app also lets me pre-heat the cabin – a real favourite with my wife – and will even get the car out of a tight parking space remotely, check my tyre pressures and give me a view from the car’s cameras. It’s one of the very best car apps I’ve used.

I’m also really enjoying the drive of the iX, whatever mood I’m in. When just pootling around, the silence – interspersed with an appealing synthetic crescendo when I’m accelerating – and comfortable ride really impress, as does the handling when I feel like a bit of fun; it’s a BMW after all.

Similarly, on the motorway, I activate the adaptive cruise, sit back and enjoy the ride, only occasionally being interrupted by the system checking I’m still paying attention with flashing lights on the steering wheel.

I also trust the system enough in stop-start traffic on the A40 when commuting into London (benefitting from no congestion charge in an EV), so I arrive stress-free and pay less than I would have done on the train.

BMW iX xDrive50: first report

All the tech is key to enjoying our new electric BMW iX long termer

  • Mileage: 6,650
  • Efficiency: 2.8 miles/kWh

As Auto Express’s resident geek, I love my tech. Yet even I will admit that some car makers seem to go overboard on gadgets that will either never be used or are so distracting that they verge on dangerous.

For me, BMW has always managed to strike the perfect balance between exciting tech and usability; its iDrive system has been the best since day one. And now, with the company’s flashy iX on my driveway, it’s proving that BMW is still way ahead when it comes to useful tech.

I may be overplaying it slightly, but BMW’s Digital Key has changed my life. For all that BMW does right, its car keys are so wrong – huge, lumpy and uncomfortable. So allowing me to use my phone (which is always with me) as the key is simply genius.

As I approach the car, the lights greet me and then, as I get closer, the doors unlock. The system uses ultra-wideband technology for added security, but I’m sold on the sheer convenience. And it’s quite cool, too.

BMW’s use of AI has also proven useful. It means the car can sense that I’m searching for a parking space and offer to guide me in (in such a polite voice). The iX has also realised that when I’m leaving my driveway, I tend to lower the driver-side front window to listen for traffic or people, and offers to do that for me whenever it knows I’m there. With a mind on the British weather, I declined the latter.

I’m not the only one wowed by the tech. Passengers and passers-by have commented on the curved screen that combines a 12.3-inch driver display with a 14.9-inch infotainment panel – all perched on top of the dashboard, pointed towards the driver and behind a beautiful glass screen.

The quality of the display is superb and the menus are pretty intuitive, too. Plus BMW’s iDrive scroll wheel is still present and correct, so you don’t always have to reach forward to the screen to control it or input details. You can also use two types of voice control: BMW’s to work the car’s functions, or Siri with seamless wireless connection to my iPhone’s Apple CarPlay features.

One minor complaint I have so far is that occasionally my iPhone seems to connect without the display showing. Disconnecting and reconnecting usually sorts it out, but I’ll check if the car’s software needs updating.

Oh, and when it comes to the phone, there’s actually a couple of places to put it: just at the front of the centre console (makes a change from in a cup-holder) or on the wireless charging pad a bit lower down.

Aside from all the tech, the iX is still very much a BMW, so it’s great to drive. For me, comfort is as important as agility and this big SUV combines both brilliantly. There’s decent space for the entire Fowler Five, although whoever draws the short straw and gets the middle seat lasts about an hour before complaining. Legroom is impressive, while the flat floor helps. And Sky the Goldendoodle fits into the boot – just. If she could speak, she’d tell me she preferred the Range Rover I used to run, but the BMW’s lower boot lip means she can jump in easily.

I’m loving being back at the wheel of an EV, too -– that instant zip of acceleration is intoxicating, while the silence is a joy, too.

The BMW’s big 105kWh (usable) battery means I’m glad I upgraded my home charger to a new 7kW unit from Hypervolt (which is just as cool to use as the car itself), so I stand a chance of a full top-up overnight. And so far, in six weeks with the car, I’ve only had to use public charging once – a top-up when staying at a hotel.

Average efficiency isn’t too bad either at 2.8 miles/kWh, meaning a 300-mile range is within reach, too, although that’s some way shy of BMW’s 380-mile claim.

Model:BMW iX xDrive50 M Sport Edition
On fleet since:September 2023
Price new:£106,400
Powertrain:105kWh battery, 2x e-motors, 516bhp
CO2/tax:0g/km/2%
Options:22-inch Individual 1021 Style Aero Alloy Wheels (£1,485), Interior Design Suite – Amido (£3,250), Laserlights (£2,000), Parking Assistant Pro (£300), Black Sapphire metallic paint (£795)
Insurance*:Group: 50/Quote: £3,822
Mileage:8,600
Efficiency:2.7 miles/kWh
Any problems?None so far

*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.

Editor-in-chief

Steve Fowler has been editor-in-chief of Auto Express since 2011 and is responsible for all editorial content across the website and magazine. He has previously edited What Car?, Autocar and What Hi-Fi? and has been writing about cars for the best part of 30 years. 

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