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BMW iX xDrive50
Click to view picture gallery“Not so long ago, letting the train
  take the strain
was a good way to
  travel. Now, zero-emissions EVs like
  BMW
s latest iX SUV are vying to be
  your
ticket to ride...”


IT'S BEEN A WHILE since I travelled on a TGV train in France. Maybe as a teenager on an interrail trip to Luxembourg yes, life really was that exotic back in those good old days! But I do have a distinct memory of how the train à grande vitesse went: like a train, obviously; and, in particular, how it sounded.

It's the exact same sound I'm hearing now: a concerto of electric coils in a relentlessly rising, purring crescendo. Except I'm not aboard a TGV but instead sitting behind the wheel of BMW's new iX all-electric SUV.

If you'll indulge me I'll continue with the train analogies… 'It goes like a train' is one of the great clichés of motoring journalism but I'll use it because that's precisely the feeling I'm getting in the iX. Just like a TGV (the French high-speed trains that regularly cruise at speeds of up to 168mph and have a top speed of more than 235mph), the xDrive50's acceleration is instantaneous and seemingly never-ending.

To be specific, I'm driving the mighty iX xDrive50, which at £91,905 costs fully £22K more than the entry-level xDrive40. Justifying this hefty step up is a whole raft of upgrades, chief among them being power which, courtesy of a beefy 105kWh battery pack, ramps up from 326 to 523bhp.

523bhp makes the
xDrive50 one very quick
machine: it sprints
from zero to 62mph
in 4.6 seconds.
And because the iX
itself makes pretty much
no actual noise,
BMW pipes sound into
the cabin to simulate
rising speed...”
And that makes the xDrive50 one very quick machine: it sprints from zero to 62mph in 4.6 seconds. And because the iX itself makes pretty much no actual noise, BMW pipes sound into the cabin to simulate rising speed.

Sticking with my 'train of thought', this big Beemer even has the demeanour of a train: big, bulky, and burly. The design has been the subject of much discussion, especially the outsized front grille, which to my mind gives it the face of a gigantic chipmunk. Pretty? No. Imposing? You betcha!

And does the old 'corners on rails' adage work for the iX? Almost. With so much of the car's weight dispersed low down in the underfloor battery pack, the centre of gravity is a lot lower than you'd expect for a big SUV. And there's no doubting the all-wheel drive system's secure traction. Plus the xDrive50's air suspension performs brilliantly in terms of ride comfort.

However, this enormous beast is no corner-on-rails sports car; physics eventually intervene to overwhelm grip. Another downer is the light, slightly disconnected feel to the steering — most uncharacteristic for a BMW — and even with rear-wheel steering (standard on the xDrive50) it doesn't feel exactly agile.

The xDrive50 has a claimed range of 380 miles. Even when you factor in that real-world range is always less than that claimed, the iX is in the forefront of the range race, and genuinely capable of being considered as an everyday car with almost zero 'range anxiety' (or 'range rage' as more and more EV drivers fight over the scarce number of charging stations). However, if you can find a fast-charging station, you should be able to charge your xDrive50 from 10-80% in about thirty minutes. At home, expect it to be an overnight job.

Naturally there's a strong regenerative braking effect whenever you slow down as the battery recovers energy — something you can adjust to high, medium or low settings, or just leave in its automatic mode.

In the real-world,
range is often less than
that stated but its
claimed range of 380
miles puts the xDrive50
at the forefront of the
range race, making it
an everyday car with
almost zero range
anxiety...”
I've never sat at the 'wheel' of a train but the BMW's cabin feels more like a spaceship than any form of public transport. On the dashboard sits a gigantic digital screen — in fact, there are two: a 12.3-inch instrument display directly ahead of you plus a 14.9-inch main touchscreen immediately to its left. Unlike many touch-only rivals, you can choose to navigate through the xDrive50's many menus using a rotary controller, which is a lot less distracting.

With its fully flat floor, there's loads of space in the iX, both front and rear, a comment that applies equally to legroom and headroom. Less impressive is the boot: at 500 litres it's a tad smaller than those found in most of its rivals.

Speaking of which, the iX's main competition comes from Audi's e-Tron, the Jaguar i-Pace, Mercedes EQC 400, and Tesla Model X. Of these I reckon the BMW feels the nicest to sit in. Yes, it is very pricey, and yes you'll have to live with those looks, but as far as electric futures go, the iX looks pretty inviting to me. ~ Chris Rees
.
BMW iX xDrive50 | £91,905
Maximum speed: 124mph | 0-62mph: 4.6 seconds | Range: 380 miles
Power: 523bhp | Torque: 564lb ft | CO2: 0g/km

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