We are somewhere between ankles and knees in the electric vehicle revolution, but we are still witnessing unique approaches and innovations in emissions-free transport.
BMW is no stranger to electric vehicles. In 1972, the automaker stuffed a bunch of 12-volt batteries into a gutted 1602 for the Munich Olympics. The vehicle could travel only 37 miles and it took a lifetime to reach any usable speed.
Fifty years ago was also the birthday of the German automaker’s motorsport division, which evolved into the M Performance brand, which touches much of the BMW vehicle range. Today, with vehicles like the 2023 BMW iX M60, we are seeing these two long-rooted ideas come together: a performance all-electric car.
We recently had a hilarious test drive of a new car in Germany, which should hit dealerships in the US this year. Here’s what you need to know…
BMW’s New Electric Strategy
Not all electric cars are designed the same. Some vehicles use the same platforms, layout, and components as gasoline-powered vehicles, such as the BMW i4, which is similar in many ways to the 4 Series coupe. One look inside the cabin and you’ll see the resemblance.
This is not the case with the new BMW iX, the brand’s new flagship electric vehicle that looks unique both inside and out. iX uses an exclusive platform leading to a special battery and motor layout. The platform uses an aluminum space frame, carbon fiber frame and carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) in the roof, sides and rear to help reduce weight and increase strength and rigidity.
Power units of the fifth generation
However, all of BMW’s latest EVs will use next-generation electric motors, which are fairly unique in the automotive world. Instead of using a permanent magnet, these devices use a brushed motor design to help reduce the use of rare earth materials. The iX uses two motors, one for the front axle and a more powerful one for the rear axle.
Now, previous experience with brushed motors (eg on a model train) suggests that they will need maintenance at some point in their lives. The automaker says buyers won’t have to worry about it until after 186,000 miles. While the transmission is sealed, the engines appear to be easily accessible for technicians to service as needed.
In true M Performance style, these engines pack more power thanks to a few significant changes. Compared to the more mainstream iX xDrive50, the M60 has a larger rotor and dual inverters that deliver 1,200 amps to the rear motor, rather than the 600 amps of the non-M models. As a result, the electric motors can spin up to 15,400 rpm and produce 532 hp. with. and 749 lb-ft of torque combined. Launch mode temporarily increases power to 610 hp. and 811 lb-ft of torque to deliver 0-60 mph.
Batteries and assortment
iX M60 uses the same size battery like the xDrive50, meaning 111.5 kWh is tucked low and within the wheelbase. However, due to the extra power, the M60 has only 280 miles of range, compared to 324 miles for the xDrive50.
The car uses a few tricks to try and increase range. While most electric vehicles have regenerative braking, the iX has an adaptive setting that uses information from sensors used for adaptive cruise control and data from the navigation system to provide the right amount of braking and energy regeneration.
Speaking of recharging, the iX only supports DC fast charging speeds up to 200kW, not the 350kW of some other new cars. It’s not too bad, and when plugged into the right charger, the iX charges from 10 percent to 80 percent in about 35 minutes.
So we’ve told you about the battery, motor and platform, but what about how it rides? This is an M-branded product, so it must carry the spirit of driving pleasure.
With a 0-60 time of 3.8 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph, the iX M60 is fast enough to make you smile and giggle when the route is straight and clear of traffic. We tested it on the unrestricted highways around Berlin and the iX performed the role of an electric high-speed cruiser with top marks.
But speed and acceleration aren’t the only characteristics of performance cars. That huge 111 kWh battery is quite heavy, bringing the iX to a curb weight of 5,700 pounds. Unfortunately, it is difficult for such a hefty vehicle to dance at high speeds. Plus, it’s a big family crossover that’s not meant to be top-hunting on the track. It features an air suspension system that helps flatten the ride and hide the car’s weight.
BMW fans will tell you that an important part of the M’s recipe is the noise it makes. However, electric cars are notable for their lack of a soundtrack. The silent hum of electric motors or the grinding rumble of tires is not disturbing. So BMW turned to the award-winning composer and musician. Hans Zimmerto create a soundscape that will try to capture the attention of the drivers of his electric vehicles. It’s bassy and cyberpunk, reminding me of the soundtrack of a plug-in hybrid, turbocharged three-cylinder, 2014 BMW i8 sports car that sounded as cool as it looked.
But if all those fake sounds don’t bother you, it’s easy to turn them off using the infotainment system.
Technology, technology and more technology
Besides being cool, there’s an important reason to discuss this car on TechSpot: it’s loaded with tech. This vehicle is equipped with the latest generation of iDrive infotainment system. large curved piece of glass which combines a 12.3-inch instrument cluster and a 14.9-inch touchscreen display. BMW also offers a color head-up display for a real sense of information overload.
This infotainment screen is thought out to the smallest detail, but it can be customized with a few widgets to help you display the information that matters to you, upfront and centered.
There’s also a voice assistant like Google Assistant or Apple Siri for your car. You can bark commands to change the cabin temperature, adjust driving modes, roll down the windows, or even tell you a joke. It can enter data into the navigation or multimedia system while driving.
Speaking of this navigation system, whenever it needs to tell you a new instruction, it plays the video from the car’s front camera and overlays directions and arrows on it, telling you where to go via augmented reality. It may seem distracting, but the screen is large enough for you to quickly and easily see it.
If you don’t like these tricks, you can use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, either wired or wireless. Those with Apple devices can use BMW Digital Key Pluswhich uses the iPhone’s U1 chip and BMW’s ultra-wideband radio (UWB), allowing the mobile device to act as a key fob.
BMW and Apple are partnering with the Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC) to help develop a digital key function standard across the automotive industry. You can even iMessage friends or family with your key and give them access to your machine.
Outside the cabin, the iX offers a million safety and driver assistance systems, including a dynamic cruise control system that can make even heartbreaking traffic enjoyable.
The 2023 BMW iX M60 will hit dealerships this year with an asking price of $105,100 plus $995 in the US. That’s $20,000 more than the more mainstream iX xDrive50 and the similar gas-powered X5 M50. A few minutes in the spacious cabin will allow you to admire the crystal controls and high-quality materials. Combine that with pure performance and technology and you can see why BMW is asking six figures for this fast EV.
With the BMW iX, we can see the German automaker’s approach and dedication to electric vehicles. For now, it’s the only model in the lineup that doesn’t have a true petrol counterpart like the i4 and 4-Series, as well as upcoming i7 and 7-Series. However, all of these electric models feature the same engine technology, while M-branded versions like this M60 will add extra power and tweaks to help convince car enthusiasts who might be hesitant about switching to electrons.
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