This is the BMW iX - the marque's brand new, all-electric luxury SUV that promises to spearhead the best in technology, electrification and innovation. This is the brand's technological flagship, after all.
This is the future, boldly wrought present. Bold, no doubt. But, just how exciting is it? Can BMW deliver all that it has promised?
The iX embraces the future like few others. That's immediately clear from the way it looks, with its slim lights, bold front 'grille', sharp boxy lines and a rear end that looks a little like a robot. It's quite a busy-looking exterior, and it isn't what anyone would call pretty, but it's certainly distinctive.
There's some nifty features, like the hidden door handles, or the material used to cover the blanked out front grille - it's a kind of self-healing polyurethane, which means that if there's a small ding, you leave it alone for 24 hours and it will repair itself. Cool.
The interior is a revelation. This is the first car that features BMW's new Operating System 8, run on a huge Curved Display with two screens integrated into it.
Beyond just looking quite bling and flashy (like one of those huge curved monitors that you see your slightly poseur colleague using), as well as offering a ginormous amount of screen real estate, the new OS 8 is actually really, really good. It feels faster and more responsive, and is also packed full of features as well.
The Intelligent Assistant is improved, and responds to natural speech better than before. The interface is neatly organised between key functions, and navigating it is simple and straightforward.
You can also set and save specific settings for different driver profiles. There's also a new head-up display (which is huge), and displays plenty of useful information such that you can conceivably never have to look down on to the dashboard.
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It's all very smart, very high tech, and very impressive.
The rest of the cabin continues to impress. The newly developed seats are extremely comfortable and feel very plush and luxurious. Space is aplenty - the EV-packaging frees up plenty of usable space for all aboard.
You also get a huge sunroof with electrochromic shading. Press a button and the glass roof immediately turns opaque, shielding you from the sun. It will also automatically turn opaque once the iX is parked. Smart.
Powering the iX is the fifth generation eDrive technology. In this xDrive40 variant, two motors produce a combined output of 240kW and 630Nm of torque. It's plenty of power, easily able to haul the iX along with effortless pace.
Ride quality is generally quite good. It is a heavy car, so the suspension obviously has to work a lot harder to negotiate the weight of the car, but I think it does a relatively good job. And, despite the car being really quite long, it's surprisingly easy to drive. Steering is accurate and well-weighted, and the car drives smaller than it is.
The hexagonal steering wheel is initially quite unnerving, especially the first time you move your hands around it to make a turn. However, once you spend some time with it, it becomes less weird (also because you can do a fair amount of driving without having to steer much at all).
The car is also heavy, and you feel this especially when braking - you're obliged to depress the brake pedal a little bit harder to shed the car's forward inertia.
Of course, technology can (and will) make the driving experience even easier. The on-board toolkit of sensors and cameras means that the car can accelerate, brake steer, and even change lanes for you.
I particularly enjoy the fact that on the dashboard, the car can actually identify and show cars, motorbikes or heavy vehicles that are around you. That really gives you the confidence that, yes, the car can 'see' and really knows what it is doing.
In addition, if you set a navigation route, clear, detailed and precise instructions are displayed. There's even an Augmented Reality Video, which displays a live video feed that indicates the relevant directions such as which lane to be in, and which junction you should turn.
I also like that on the map, you can zoom in close enough to see individual lanes, and the system can also indicate which specific lane is congested.
As far as range goes, BMW says that the iX xDrive40, with its 71kWh battery, will do 425km, which is a pretty decent figure. With the onboard charger, the car can be charged at up to 150kW, which is able to put 95km of range into the battery in just 10 minutes. We'll have to wait for a longer drive with the car to put these numbers to the test.
Heading the pack
The new BMW iX is an interesting and exciting electric car. It feels functionally futuristic, while still delivering requisite BMW luxury and class. And yet, it still remains practically sensible and usable. The technology here does not overwhelm.
The whole approach with the new iX is all about sustainability. You obviously have the electric drivetrain, as well as sustainable materials and sustainable building methods. And no doubt, the iX ticks all those green boxes.
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But beyond that, the iX feels rich - a mix of lavish extravagance with high-tech accessibility. It immediately tells you, "This is the future. Now".
Compared to other premium electric SUVs like the Audi e-tron, Jaguar I-PACE or Mercedes EQC, not only is the iX bigger, but also feels much more lavish and special. It delivers a level of technological excitement that feels like a big step forward for the brand, emboldened by the promise of electrification. The iX has that wow factor.
Most notably, the bold innovations and technological advancements witnessed in the iX feel remarkable because once you get out of the car, going back into any other car (even another 2021 model) just feels like a step backwards.
And it is this firm grasp of the future that is the iX's greatest feat. Yes, BMW can and has delivered as promised. I can't wait to see these technologies in more BMW cars in the future.
This article was first published in sgCarMart.