Cars and Trucks

TEST DRIVE: 2022 BMW iX xDrive50 – Power and Minimalism

For old-school fans of BMW, the shock gets even bigger the moment you step inside. That’s because there’s nothing familiar welcoming you inside the iX. Everything is new and, staying true to its trailblazer name, lots of the iX’s design features will be adopted by future BMW models: From the simplified layout of the dashboard, to the screens, hexagonal steering wheel and sustainable materials.

It may take you a while to get used to the new layout but one thing’s for certain: the interior of the iX feels like it’s coming from a completely different era. Minimalism has been adopted on a wide scale, like the trend in the industry seems to dictate, and a lot of buttons have disappeared in the process.

All that’s left in that regard is to be found in the area around the rotary iDrive controller, now made entirely of crystal. The buttons themselves are touch-sensitive and use a sensor hidden beneath the wood veneer. Crystal is also used for other buttons on the center console, like the volume knob, start button and drive selector. The same goes for the buttons that allow you to adjust your seat which have been moved on the door panel and look incredibly luxurious.

In a nutshell, the entire cabin of the BMW iX has a luxurious feel, with high-quality finishes and materials. Even though the upholstery in this car wasn’t leather (that’s still an option) I couldn’t say the textile material didn’t feel premium enough. One wonder I do have though is how this material, that feels a lot like Alcantara, will hold up over the years. That remains to be seen.

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The screens appear to float when viewed from the driver’s perspective. The passenger gets to see the feet holding them up, but from behind the wheel you could be fooled. It’s a similar solution to the one introduced on the i3. The two separate screens are melted together in a single, curved display, that’s one of the biggest you can find in a production car today. And yet, they don’t feel overwhelming.

Both the instrument cluster and the iDrive screen feature high resolution, smooth animations and completely new designs. The BMW iX comes with three driving modes, two being fixed in terms of design while the third, Personal, allows you to configure just about anything about the screens and interior lighting. The instrument cluster has three different layouts to display various information. The one I found most useful displayed the range based on your current driving style. That window also showed you the maximum and minimum range you could expect, adjusted according to your state of charge.

Right in front of the instrument cluster, you’ll find the new hexagonal steering wheel, a bold and yet very interesting choice from BMW. I found it to be the perfect size but I wasn’t too happy with the fact that there’s no on-board computer button on the left-hand stalk. Its role has been replaced by a button positioned on the right-hand spoke of the steering wheel. Once again, a perfectly good button was eliminated in the quest to adhere to the minimalist trend we’re all witnessing today.

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And there are other areas where the ergonomics are suffering because of it. Remember those fancy crystal seat-adjusting buttons? Well, whereas in the past you could adjust just about any direction on your seat using those buttons alone, now you have to press a shortcut on the door panel in order to access a ‘seat menu’ in the iDrive screen and from there you can make the necessary adjustments. You need to take several extra steps in order to adjust a simple thing like lumbar support, for example. And don’t get me even started on the climate control menu. What used to be a very simple and intuitive panel is now an overly complicated menu shown on the center display. Luckily, the car has a very efficient “Auto Mode” that does everything for you so you’ll only have to adjust the temperature.

Furthermore, you could use the new Intelligent Personal Assistant that’s better than ever. Since most buttons simply vanished and since the AI system understands more free speech, I ended up using it a lot more.

Lots Of Cabin Space

There’s also ample room inside the iX, thanks to the unique platform it rides on. At its core, the BMW iX uses a bespoke architecture. There’s no transmission tunnel which frees up a lot of room in the back where you could easily sit three adults. If the exterior dimensions of the car would make it comparable to the X5, there’s a lot more room inside. The boot is a bit problematic though, as it only has 500 liters of space, 160 less than on the main rival this car has, the Audi E-tron.

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One final complaint would be the front seats. For a flagship, they are nowhere near as configurable and adjustable as they should be. There’s no extendable thigh support for those with longer legs, no adjustable headrest and you have a plastic opening in them that houses a speaker. Sure, it helps with the quality of the sound provided by Bowers & WiIlkins but, you might want to make sure you have a tall enough passenger. That’s because, under hard acceleration, they might be taken by surprise and hit their head rather hard on that piece of plastic, something that was oddly overlooked.

Insane Performance

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