The driver still has to look himself

From design and acceleration to range: With the iX, BMW is introducing an electric car that takes getting used to.

A bit unusual from the optical design, but the new BMW iX impresses with its inner values.

Lange, BMW has made a big secret about its new, largely self-driving electric car with the factory name iNext. On Wednesday, the Munich-based automaker finally presented it under a new name. “We want to surprise with the iX,” said CEO Oliver Zipse.

BMW certainly managed the surprise. The design of the iX takes as much getting used to as the slim power pioneer i3 from 2013, which left many fans of the white and blue brand at a loss with its bizarre design. Now the new electric car in the format of the X5 sporty off-road vehicle stands out with an angular double kidney grille on the front, which no longer serves as an air inlet for the combustion engine, but rather hides a flood of sensors for the assistance systems. All the many radars and cameras, “paired with different antennas from Bluetooth to 5G, artificial intelligence and data-driven services” make the new car “a high-performance computer on four wheels,” says the press release. Or, as Zipse put it: “We put everything BMW can do today in one car.”

“The most intelligent vehicle that BMW has ever built”

However, contrary to what BMW once announced, the iX will not offer level 3 autonomous driving, in which the driver is replaced by a robot. BMW speaks of “Level2 plus”, in which the driver can let go of the steering wheel but still has to keep his eyes open. “The iX is the most intelligent vehicle that BMW has ever built,” said chief designer Adrian van Hooydonk, who compared the angular shape of the bulky car with a “smoothly polished stone”.

The technical features of the iX are even more eye-catching than the polarizing design: In addition to all the digital assistance systems, the range of the electric car, which BMW specifies as more than 600 kilometers according to the WLTP driving cycle, should be mentioned here. This would make up for the shortcoming of the previous Stromer i3 and i8, which many customers see more as a second or fun car in everyday use, as the third fully electric vehicle from the Munich-based company. And the performance is also impressive on paper: the iX completes the sprint from 0 to 100 km / h in less than five seconds, despite its high weight. The drive is provided by the fifth generation of the so-called BMW eDrive technology. It includes the two electric motors, the power electronics, the charging technology and the high-voltage storage. With it, the iX has a maximum output of more than 500 hp.

The iX is to be built in Dingolfing, Lower Bavaria, and will be launched on the market in November 2021. The plant, in which the conventional models of the three to eight series usually roll off the assembly line, was upgraded with 500 million euros in order to also be able to build the electric drive trains.

BMW intends to offer a total of 25 electrified models by 2023, more than half of which, like the iX, should be fully electric. “We are assuming that the demand for electrified vehicles will increase sharply,” said Zipse – knowing full well that the electric vehicles currently do not even make up 15 percent of total sales. Because BMW offers the iX without combustion or hybrid versions, the group deliberately foregoes 85 percent of the market.

The competition from Tesla or Audi e-tron, against which the iX competes, is no different. But BMW is looking to the future with this model. And as early as 2025, say the market forecasts from Munich, battery cars will make up a third of the market, and in 2030 it should be half. And that electric cars are not immediately box office hits when they are launched, BMW made this experience seven years ago with the i3. This model is now enjoying great popularity, said Zipse. Because the company has written off the billion-dollar investment and the i3 is running longer than planned, BMW even earns money with its sale.