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BMW Jumps Into Electric SUV Race With 2022 iX

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Twelve years after launching its Project i electrification program with the original Mini E test fleet, BMW is finally bringing to market its second purpose-built electric vehicle, the iX. Unlike the first two i models, the compact i3 urban commuter and the plug-in hybrid i8 sports car, the iX is a much more conventional design in a very popular market segment, the midsize SUV. 

The iX was first previewed as a concept dubbed the iNext that went on an aerial media tour in a Lufthansa Boeing 777 two years ago. While the basic form factor has been retained, some of the wildest features of that concept have been left behind such as the touch sensitive seating surfaces. Nonetheless, the iX represents an evolved design direction for the brand with smoother less sculpted flanks than most other recent production models. BMW design chief Adrian van Hooydonk describes the shape as a smooth stone with facets sliced off. 

While the iX has roughly the same footprint as the existing X5, it has a lower roofline comparable to the fastback X6. The result is a tall wagon shape with proportions more like the Audi e-Tron than a typical SUV. The production model retains the massive, solid twin-kidney grille from the concept but loses details such as the upward notches of body colored metal at the base of the B-pillar that were on the iNext. Unlike the i3 and i8, BMW has moved away from the full carbon-fiber structure for the iX, instead using it selectively to reinforce a primarily aluminum space-frame. 

The lamps at all four corners are slimmer than typical production BMWs and along with the door handles are flush mounted with the surrounding body work, all contributing to the drag coefficient of 0.25. LED lighting is standard and the laser-lighting technology that was an option on the i8 will also be offered. 

Like the i3 before it, the iX goes for a minimalistic interior design that dispenses with most of the physical buttons and switches. A single large curved display area sits behind the steering wheel and spans the center of the dashboard with a 12.3-inch instrument area and a 14.9-inch touchscreen for the infotainment. The compact center console contains some microswitches below the wood veneer surface and a glass surrounded iDrive controller. 

The iX is also planned to be the first product from the brand to feature the new level 3 conditional automated driving system developed along with Intel
INTC
, Mobileye and Fiat Chrysler. The system will feature cameras and radar sensors looking all around the vehicle as well a forward facing lidar sensor from Israeli startup Innoviz. This system is expected to comply with new regulations that allow hands-off and and eyes-off automated driving on highways at speeds up to 37 mph. 

These L3 systems are essentially designed to take full control when operating in stop and go traffic on highways with the driver taking over once speeds increase or the vehicle exits the highway. The iX will be the first model from BMW equipped with 5G connectivity as well as cellular-V2X communication capability. BMW North America confirms that they expect 5G to be included in the iX for this market, but no comment yet on C-V2X.

What distinguishes the iX from all prior BMWs though is the new dedicated electric vehicle architecture. It utilizes the fifth-generation electric propulsion technology that BMW has put into its latest updated plug-in hybrid models but at much higher power levels and devoid of any internal combustion backup. 

Top models will have a dual motor layout with up to 500 hp. BMW hasn’t revealed full details of all iX offerings but there are likely to be lower powered variants as well at some point. The 500-hp variants should deliver 0-60 times under 5 seconds. The motors are manufactured without any use of rare earth metals and the battery has been designed to enable easier recycling at end of life. 

The iX will be the first true long-range electric vehicle from BMW with a claimed range of more than 370 miles on the European WLTP driving cycle and estimate of more than 300 miles on the EPA drive cycle. That’s still not as good the latest offerings from Tesla
TSLA
and Lucid, but if BMW actually delivers this range, it will at least be competitive and far better than what is currently available from VW Group’s premium brands, Audi and Porsche. Details on the battery capacity haven’t been revealed but the iX will support 200-kW charging. That will get the battery to 80% capacity in 40 minutes and add 75 miles of range in 10 minutes. 

Production of the iX will start in the second half of 2021 with U.S. deliveries starting in early 2022. That will put the iX into an increasingly crowded field with Mercedes-Benz expecting to launch an electric SUV sometime in the second half of 2021, Volvo bringing more electric models and the Cadillac Lyriq coming later in 2022. BMW will also be facing off against newcomers such as the Rivian R1s and the Fisker Ocean.

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