We had hoped that the shift to electrification would shrink the world a bit by allowing different parts of the globe to share the same models, especially electric vehicles based on existing combustion cars. Still, although BMW is selling petrol versions of the new X1 in the US, there are no plans to take the all-electric iX1 across the Atlantic.
Not so long ago, BMW seemed to be at the forefront of the electric revolution. The adorable carbon-bodied i3 sedan and the three-cylinder PHEV i8 sports car were both trailblazers. But in recent years the company has shifted to a more timid approach, one where, apart from the electric-only iX, BMW has introduced a new range of “i” branded cars which are EV versions of existing models. Like the iX3, i4 and i7, the new iX1 is one of them, fitting an all-electric powertrain to the third-generation X1, which has just gone on sale in Europe.
The iX1 is introduced in twin-motor all-wheel-drive form, branded xDrive30 (BMW hints it will later launch a less powerful two-wheel-drive version). The motors turning each axle are identical but for a slightly lower gear ratio for single-speed reduction at the rear. Maximum combined power is 308 horsepower and 364 pound-feet of torque. Power comes from a 64.7kWh underfloor battery that offers a range of 266 miles under Europe’s flattering WLTP test protocol, likely less than 240 miles under the EPA’s more rigorous procedure. The battery supports DC fast charging up to 130kW, which can boost it from 10% to 80% in 29 minutes. The water-cooled pack will also adjust its temperature to an optimal 77 degrees Fahrenheit when approaching a fast charger programmed into the navigation system.
The interior of the iX1 is well finished and incredibly spacious for a car just over 177 inches long. Normal-sized adults will be able to sit in the front and back without complaining, and there’s a roomy 24 cubic feet of cargo space – virtues that will remain for the US-bound gas-powered X1 xDrive28i, which actually gets a bit more cargo space at 25.7 cubic feet.
The iX1 comes standard with a 10.3-inch digital instrument display, as well as a 10.7-inch curved touchscreen, both running the new BMW 8 operating system. It looks good and works fast, but that means the disappearance of the physical heating controls and the useful row of customizable function keys that BMW previously offered. Swiping down at the top of the screen brings up a rendered version of the function keys, but requires eyes to be taken out of the way. Likewise, although a My Modes button on the center console survived the elimination of conventional switches, pressing it simply brings up options on the screen, with further input then required to select one. .
The performance of this EV is punchy and delivered with minimal drama. The iX1’s throttle pedal is a bit loaded in its responses, especially in Sport mode, where the aggressive mapping makes it difficult to get a smooth takeoff. BMW claims a zero-to-62-mph time of 5.7 seconds. Full thrust is reserved for Boost mode, which is activated for 10 seconds by pulling a paddle behind the steering wheel, but we didn’t notice any noticeable difference compared to just pressing the accelerator. There’s also a one-pedal mode, accessed by pulling the chunky gear selector to “B”.
The iX1 also comes with a switchable soundtrack, with the so-called IconicSounds Electric option creating a futuristic, vaguely engine-like hum in the cabin that varies with throttle position. It felt less contrived than some rival offerings, but we still preferred silence with this one turned off.
That’s because the refinement is impressive. The cabin is well insulated both in town and on the motorway, and despite weighing a hefty 4600 pounds – over 800 pounds heavier than the X1 xDrive28i – ride quality remained good even on bumpy British roads where we drove the car. The iX1 rides on passive dampers, but, like those on the G20 generation 3-Series, they can hydraulically vary effort under large suspension travel.
What’s missing, unfortunately, as in several other recent BMWs, is the sense of dynamic connection that was previously standard with all of the company’s products. The iX1’s steering is completely devoid of low-speed feedback, and its forward-facing handling balance is easily propelled into understeer. The retired i3 was smaller and slower, but was also sharper and easier to drive.
The priorities of driving enthusiasts don’t seem to be very high on the iX1 attribute list. The point is made by three new switchable modes that have joined the familiar Personal, Sport and Efficient settings: Expressive, Relax and Digital Art. Selecting Expressive changes the dashboard display and triggers the driver’s seat massage function; switching to another mode did not disable kneading, which had to be done through a tour of different menus. Relax started playing an ambient soundtrack. And Digital Art gave the two display screens another overhaul. Frankly, everything looked like gimmicks.
However, should we feel aggrieved to be denied the iX1? Certainly, given its combination of relatively solid performance, cute design and competitive pricing, at least in Europe. In Germany, the pre-tax price translates to just over $45,000, which means it costs almost exactly the same as the entry-level Kia EV6 and undercuts the Mercedes EQA350 4Matic. Better news for us is that the rest of this X1 is vastly improved over the outgoing model, which bodes well for the petrol version that’s coming here.
2023 BMX iX1 xDrive30
Vehicle Type: Front and Rear Engine, All-Wheel Drive, 5 Passenger, 4-Door Station Wagon
Base: $46,000 – equivalent in German USD, will not be sold in North America
Front motor: AC synchronous current excited, 188 hp, 182 lb-ft
Rear motor: synchronous AC excited, 188 hp, 182 lb-ft
Combined power: 308 hp
Combined torque: 364 lb-ft
Battery: Liquid-cooled lithium-ion, 64.7 kWh
On-board charger: 11.0 kW
Peak DC fast charge rate: 130kW
Transmissions, front/rear: direct drive/direct drive
Passenger volume: 101 feet3
Cargo volume: 24 feet3
Unloaded weight (CD east): 4600 lbs.
PERFORMANCE (CD IS)
100 km/h: 5.5 sec
1/4 mile: 13.7 sec
Maximum speed: 180 km/h
EPA FUEL ECONOMY (CD IS)
Combined/City/Highway: 97/99/96 MPGe
Range: 230 miles
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