IN all those years under the motor show lights there have been few resulting cars that genuinely felt like a vision of the future — something that responds to the “mobility trends” carmakers like to harp on about.
With its new iX electric vehicle (EV) it feels like BMW has made genuine efforts to change the way we think about cars and how we use them.
Just like the ground-breaking i3 hatchback and i8 coupe that launched its pioneering use of electrification and composite exotic materials almost a decade ago, the iX signals something new, something different.
It’s no conventional beauty for a start.
Marketed as a Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV), it straddles MPV and SUV classes but looks like nothing you have seen before. Big hipped, deep-sided and yet featuring crisp lines and a futuristic style.
Up front, the iX’s massive BMW kidney grilles are actually panels concealing the driving aids that will ensure it is at the forefront of BMW’s push towards autonomous driving as the laws allow.
For now, the on-board technology is centred around a vast wraparound dashtop display encompassing the controls for the infotainment system, climate control, battery charging and the driver’s instruments.
The technology combines with the uber-high-quality cabin to ensure that you are left in no doubt what BMW is trying to achieve with the iX. It wants to make travel a comfortable, cosseting, and uplifting experience without the need for a growling engine normally relied on to make a journey memorable.
During my time with the iX its vast cabin display proudly announced that it had a “surprise! each time I entered.
With a prod of the screen, I delighted my kids, neighbours and friends with a 10-second animation depicting famous British landmarks — including Buckingham Palace — in celebration of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee (pictured below).
On the move, with a destination programmed into the sat nav, augmented reality projects arrow onto live footage of the road ahead to ramp-up this sense of delivering next-generation graphics.
Gimmicky it might be but — combined with a practical ability to receive over -the-air system updates from BMW, buy additional services, check the weather, local parking, news or co-ordinate your trip with on-route charge points — it is all part of a package that makes the iX feel like a vehicle ready to deliver the tech-focused experience we have been promised at motor shows for so long.
The awkward (from some angles) scale of the iX results in commodious and luxurious interior accommodation to such a degree that the 500-litre boot feels disappointing.
The quality of the materials on board is also impressive.
To get in, open lightweight doors with frameless windows and step through a threshold which give more than a glimpse of the exotic carbon fibre weave of a platform which fuses F1 technology with an aluminium spaceframe to save weight.
Inside, a textured wood panel sits atop a floating centre console featuring a wireless smartphone charger, while the familiar BMW iDrive infotainment controller is crystal edged, mirroring the see-through trim used to create the rotary gear selector, volume control and electronic seat adjustment controls.
Leather abounds and the two-section quilted leather seats are as comfortable as they look.
As might be expected, BMW is asking a suitably premium price for its flagship EV.
Values start at £69,905, with customers able to pick from the 326PS xDrive40 drivetrain tested here or the 523PS xDrive50.
The former claims a range of 257 miles, the latter 380 miles, if you can shy away from its accelerative performance.
While our xDrive40 M Sport (which came in at £86,020 as tested) was capable of a 6.1 second sprint to 62mph the xDrive50 will take 3.8 seconds.
Both iXs utilise a twin-motor setup, which can operate in rear-wheel-drive to maximise efficiency, switching to all-wheel-drive when greater traction is required.
While the xDrive50 can charge at up to 195kW, the maximum charging capacity of the xDrive40 is 150kW, but both model variants can be charged from 10 to 80 per cent capacity in under 40 minutes.
Already the styling of the iX has divided opinion among many industry commentators.
For me that kind of criticism brings to mind the words of TV property guru Kirstie Allsopp, who regularly attests (and I paraphrase): “It’s the neighbours that have to look at the outside”.
Without doubt, BMW’s iX is an EV technological tour de force.
And as an automotive “location, location, location”, its cabin is one of the best places to travel.