BMW unveils iNext electric SUV

by Greg Kable, Autocar UK 12 Nov 2020


BMW’s bold new electric iX SUV, revealed today in near-production form, will serve as the firm’s “technology flagship” when it goes on sale late next year.

The five-seat SUV, which was previewed by the Vision iNext concept, will offer up to 500bhp from two electric motors that drive all four wheels. According to BMW’s R&D boss, Frank Weber, it will have a 0-100kph time of less than five seconds and a range of more than 600km.

The iX is BMW’s second dedicated fully-electric production model after the seven-year-old i3. Weber said the iX nameplate was chosen to signify the new model’s position at the top of the electric i line-up and its role in showcasing technology: it uses the new fifth-generation version of BMW’s electric drive system, and also offers high levels of autonomous and connected technology. The iX will take on the likes of the Audi e-tron quattro and Mercedes-Benz EQC, as well as offerings from EV-only firms such as the Tesla Model S and Nio ES8.

Weber said that, while broadly similar in size to the X5 externally, the interior of the iX “offers accommodation and load-carrying space comparable to the X7”, thanks to the electric platform, which makes extensive use of carbon fibre in its construction.

The iX, developed under the internal codename i20, is a departure from BMW’s previously announced plan to base future electric models on the same platforms as its existing petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid cars. It uses a new aluminium spaceframe that supports an inner carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) structure, and a body made out of a combination of aluminium, composite plastic and CFRP.

BMW is yet to reveal details of the variants it has planned beyond the range-topping four-wheel-drive twin motor version. The individual outputs of the two electric motors, which retain full power up to their peak revs, remain under wraps for now, though Weber indicated the rear will be the more powerful of the two: “We’ve engineered the drivetrain to support between 90kW (121bhp) and 300kW (402bhp) per axle, front and rear.”

The iX sends power to all four wheels; while the drive split hasn’t been specified it is expected to feature a typical rear bias. Top speed is above 200kph. The iX will be offered with different battery options with a “100kWh plus” unit fitted to the range-topping model. With a claimed average power consumption of 21.0kWh per 100km, that model will offer a range of more than 600km, compared to 460km offered by the iX3’s lithium-ion battery. Despite the extensive use of aluminium and carbon fibre, the large battery means the iX weighs what Weber described “as a good 2.5 tons”.

The new charging system employed by the iX enables optional DC fast charging at up to 200kW, allowing the battery to be charged from 10 to 80 percent in under 40 minutes. The standard charger operates at 11kW, which provides the same 10 to 80 percent charge in 11 hours on a wallbox feed.

Underpinning the new BMW is an aluminium-intensive chassis featuring a double-wishbone (front) and multi-link (rear) suspension, offering active rear-wheel steering.

BMW is readying a comprehensive range of connectivity and sensor functions. “The iX has more computing power for data processing than the newest models in our current line-up,” said Weber. Included is over-the-air functionality via 5G and Level 3 autonomous driving technology.