BMW iX xDrive50: Range and assistance systems put to the test

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In our second test, we focused on driver assistance systems and power consumption

BMW iX xDrive50: Range and assistance systems put to the test-xdrive50

I did my first test drive with the BMW iX at the end of June, where I was able to collect my first impressions. On my second trip, I focused on power consumption and the assistance systems – but above all, I was able to speak to experts on the subjects of drive systems and assistance systems.

On the evening of the test day with the iX, BWM Development Board Member Frank Weber noticed the annoyance: he had to explain again and again why BMW has not yet set an end date for the combustion engine. Where almost all other brands have already abandoned fossil fuel technology for a year called something between 2025 (Jaguar) and 2040 (Honda). So why not BMW?

Weber gives no other answer than what BMW is used to: The customer decides and the charging infrastructure of the respective market is also important. But somehow I get the impression that BMW doesn't love electric drives as dearly as the VW Group. Perhaps the electrical skepticism stems from the fact that BMW came too early with the i3? In any case, BMW wants to keep all options open and relies on platforms that are suitable for combustion engines, plug-in hybrid systems and electric drives.

BMW iX xDrive50: Range and assistance systems put to the test-range

The platform: Still a mystery

However, the iX does not really want to fit this strategy. It is not based on the universally usable CLAR platform, but on its own, as project manager Johann Kistler told us when we tested the iX for the first time. A platform only for the BMW iX? So a pure electric car platform? How does that fit in with BMW's "We remain flexible" strategy?

We journalists should break away from platform thinking, the manufacturer says, it comes from the era of the ladder frame. This is about modules, especially the GEN5 electrical components (which were introduced with the iX3) and the new electronics including the BMW OS 8.0. It sounds as if the other elements (such as the body, floor pan, chassis) are more like accessories. Apparently, BMW is not standardized as much as in the VW Group, at least not here. We haven't fully understood the approach yet. But let's leave the platform strategy behind, let's get to the car.

BMW iX xDrive50: Range and assistance systems put to the test-test

Battery chemistry: NCA and NCM

Before I set off to Berchtesgaden with the iX, iX drive expert Andreas Janus answers a few more questions. On battery chemistry, for example. "Nickel-rich chemistry," says Janus. In general, BMW relies on NCA and NCM batteries, so the cathodes consist of nickel-cobalt-aluminum oxides or nickel-cobalt-manganese oxides. If we have understood correctly, NCA chemistry is used for the large batteries, NCM for the small ones.

And how is it that the Audi e-tron maintains its 150 kW charging power for almost the entire charging process, while the charging power at BMW gradually crumbles? Well, Audi has very good thermal management, admits Janus, the Ingolstadt colleagues have focused on 150 kW chargers. BMW, on the other hand, concentrated on being able to refuel as much range as possible with more charging power in a short break of, for example, 30 minutes. That makes sense, because you can even tap 350 kW from the Ionity columns.

BMW iX xDrive50: Range and assistance systems put to the test-range

E-motors: ESM technology for a lot of power at high speeds

As stated several times on this website, the iX (like the iX3 and i4) has electrically excited synchronous motors (ESM). One of the advantages is that no rare earths are required. Even for chemists, these are exotic elements such as scandium, yttrium, cerium and the lanthanoids, which are needed for the production of permanent magnets, and which one could perhaps also call expensive earths.

BMW iX xDrive50: Range and assistance systems put to the test-assistance

Advantage of the ESM motors: The performance does not decrease in the upper speed range (at high speeds)

Second advantage: The performance does not decrease in the upper speed range as with the most commonly used permanent magnet synchronous motors (PSM). According to Janus, the lower power density does not lead to electric motors that are too large – at least in larger cars like the iX, this is apparently not a problem.

A colleague said at the event: The buyer or customer doesn't care about the type of electric motor. I'm not quite sure about that. In any case, the iX xDrive50 does not notice that the forward thrust diminishes at higher speeds. I realized that on my first test drive when I could easily accelerate to the top speed of 200 km / h. Maybe that's a consequence of the performance curve shown above.

Cooling: Extremely thin plates

The most interesting discoveries for me on the short tour through the production hall for the electric drives in the Dingolfing plant were the demo exhibits of a battery module and a cooling plate.

The approximately 14 centimeter high module made of prismatic cells (the size of an old-fashioned video cassette) was so heavy that I could hardly lift it. But the cooling plate (apparently an aluminum plate with "corridors" for the liquid coolant) was only a few millimeters thick. Unfortunately I wasn't allowed to take a picture of the part, but the graphic of the "BMW GEN5: High Voltage Battery" above gives an impression.

How can this work? A 14-centimeter-thick battery layer that is sure to get really hot during charging and discharging, and only a few milliliters of liquid above and below it for cooling? Well, even at such an event with many BMW experts, questions remain unanswered.

Image gallery: BMW iX xDrive50 (2nd test 2021)

BMW iX xDrive50: Range and assistance systems put to the test-xdrive50

Nice location on the asphalt, yet agile

But now finally to the BMW iX. During our test drive in June, we mainly noticed the good roadholding, which is probably due to the high weight, the low center of gravity and the long wheelbase. On winding country roads and at low speeds, the car remains agile and manoeuvrable, which is due to the rear-wheel steering and the smooth steering.

However, for me personally the air suspension (in all modes) is designed too much for comfort. Nevertheless, the iX (at least with the 22-inch models installed here) sometimes seems a bit tough compared to the BMW 7 Series. Project manager Kistler refers to the foam tires: As in Rolls-Royce models, foam pads are integrated into the rim base. However, they cannot fully absorb the bumps.

Cockpit, interior space and trunk

In the cockpit you can see a fairly wide, but not very high display that actually consists of two displays; the slight curvature is barely noticeable from the driver's perspective. Otherwise there is the seat setting on the left, which is clearly reminiscent of Mercedes models.

In the case of the upscale equipment, the element consists of transparent plastic in the look of cut glass. On sunny days (like during our test), the driver can feel a little irritated by the sparkling pseudo-crystal in the left area of ​​the field of vision. The door is opened from the inside with a button so that it is not accidentally opened too early (if a cyclist hisses at from behind):

BMW iX xDrive50: Range and assistance systems put to the test-test

Otherwise there are few buttons and knobs in the cockpit, most of which is controlled via the touchscreen. Since the air conditioning settings are always visible there and the audio volume is simply controlled with the rotary roller in the center console, I am not missing anything here.

There is more than enough space in the rear, as I found out during a seat test. Even the trunk is not very wide, but obviously very usable:

BMW iX xDrive50: Range and assistance systems put to the test-test

The storage volume is 500-1,750 liters. This means that the iX offers noticeably less space than the fossil fuel-powered X5 (650-1,850 liters), which is practically as long, but about as much as the plug-in hybrid version xDrive45e (500-1,720 liters). In terms of transport properties, it should also be mentioned that the iX is currently the electric car with the largest trailer load is: 2.5 tons can be hooked.

Assisted Driving Mode: Pretty cool

In June I drove basic equipment without many assistance systems. This time, however, I was able to test the cruise control and the lane guidance assistant. In the beginning I was in speed limiter mode, which I only realized after a few minutes. After a few curses, I managed to activate the Assisted Driving Mode pretty quickly. The current speed limit is then shown in the head-up display as a black 100 with a red circle around it. When I pressed "Set" on the left-hand spoke of the steering wheel, the current speed limit was adopted.

BMW iX xDrive50: Range and assistance systems put to the test-xdrive50

Left steering wheel spoke: The cruise control is activated on the left and the mode is set below that

BMW iX xDrive50: Range and assistance systems put to the test-range

The current speed limit and the current speed are displayed in Assisted Driving Mode. The system also recognizes the type of vehicle in front (here: a truck)

If there is a speed limit of 80 signs in the further course of the route, the speed is automatically reduced, even if you cannot see it yet. Similarly, the speed is reduced at intersections, roundabouts or tight curve radii, and the system also shows the reason in the form of a small symbol.

BMW iX xDrive50: Range and assistance systems put to the test-assistance

The adaptive recuperation not only takes into account vehicles in front, roundabouts and intersections, but also speed limits and particularly winding passages

In terms of electronics, the BMW iX is prepared for level 3 autonomous driving. The sensors would have to be upgraded for this, as the assistance system expert Reinhold explained to me. In particular, a lidar would then still be necessary. The car is already lavishly equipped with radar sensors at the front and rear:

BMW iX xDrive50: Range and assistance systems put to the test-range BMW iX xDrive50: Range and assistance systems put to the test-xdrive50

Nice additional features: indoor camera and approach monitoring

What was new for me was the indoor camera that the expert Elma demonstrated: it allows you to take a snapshot of the interior that can then be sent to friends. The feature can also be used via the app. A picture of the interior is automatically taken in the event of a break-in attempt. If you're lucky, the thief can be seen on it. Another possible use would be to keep an eye on the dog or sleeping baby left in the car while shopping.

A feature that I have not seen in any other car is the so-called start-up monitoring: The car prevents unintentional disasters such as driving into shop windows or breaking through walls. don't laugh, a few years ago that is exactly what happened in a bakery near our editorial office: an elderly driver mixed up forward and reverse gear and sped into the sales room. The iX prevents this and only drives off with a lot of gas when the track is clear. Unfortunately, the security feature is disabled by default. So the customers it concerns are unlikely to benefit from it.

Power consumption and range

We also focused on electricity consumption on our 236-kilometer test drive from Munich to Dingolfing and then on to Berchtesgaden: the on-board computer showed 19.1 kWh / 100 km until we arrived in Berchtesgaden. On the few kilometers up to the Hintereck (with a steep 24 percent gradient), however, it rose to 20.3 kWh / 100 km. For comparison: The WLTP consumption is 19.8-23.0 kWh / 100 km. So I was traveling sparingly.

Especially since the test car had the largest rims (22 inches) and was otherwise well equipped with a panoramic roof, air suspension and rear-wheel steering. However, fuel consumption benefited from the route, which was mostly on country roads – often with speed limits. I drove a maximum of 140 km / h on the autobahn.

At the start of the journey, the battery was 89 percent full, at the end it was 47 percent. 42 percentage points were thus used for 236 km; a full battery would have been enough for 561 km. The official WLTP range is 549-630 km.

Image gallery: BMW iX xDrive50 (2nd test 2021)

BMW iX xDrive50: Range and assistance systems put to the test-xdrive50

Less CO2 than with small fossil cars – even with electricity production

So the iX xDrive50 consumes 20 to 23 kWh: Is that a lot or a little? The Audi e-tron S, which is comparably strong with 370 kW, is specified with 26 to 28 kWh. Mercedes currently only offers the smaller and less powerful EQC 400 with 300 kW, but with 19-22 kWh, this is no more economical than the iX. So when it comes to consumption, BMW is ahead.

And compared to the combustion engine? My gut feeling told me: Maybe a small car with a gasoline engine is even more environmentally friendly than such a huge electric SUV, if you factor in the German electricity mix (which still contains a lot of fossil energy).

But I was wrong about that. A Ford Fiesta 1.0 Ecoboost, for example, has around 140 grams of CO2 per kilometer specified (according to WLTP). According to Statista, the production of 1 kWh in 2020 produced around 366 grams of CO2. So 22 kWh corresponds to around 8,000 grams of CO2. However, this is the value for 100 km, so it is around 80 grams per kilometer.

Even if you factor in the amount of CO2 released during the production of electricity, the iX has even lower emissions than the small car. The production of the big car remains hidden, which certainly requires significantly more resources (and CO2 is emitted) than in the production of a Fiesta.

Launch, prices, competition

The iX (like the i4) will be launched in November. Then there are two all-wheel-drive versions, the xDrive40 with 240 kW and the xDrive50 with 385 kW. Another M60 will follow later, which is announced with 440 KW.

The iX dXride50 is available from 89,000 euros, the Audi e-tron S costs 93,800 euros. In terms of range, BMW is very far ahead of the Audi with up to 630 km, which can reach a maximum of 372 km. There is currently no comparable competitor at Mercedes – we have to wait for the EQE SUV to be launched in 2022. The Tesla Model S Long Range for around 107,000 euros can hold a candle to the iX. The arguments for this model include the range of 590 km and the excellent Supercharger network.

Conclusion

The iX xDrve50 is a generously motorized SUV that never runs out of air, even uphill. In addition, the car sits well on the road, and you can even tow a 2.5-ton trailer – the trailer load is greater than that of any other current electric car.

The display equipment is okay, but there is no wow factor such as the giant displays from Tesla or Mercedes. Anyone who likes such effects will probably choose the Tesla Model X anyway, because there are spectacular wing doors here.

The BMW scores most with its long range. Audi really has to admit defeat here. In contrast, the Tesla Model X Long Range can be called a tough competitor, especially since I personally like the look. The only thing I find offensive about Tesla is the lack of transparency in terms of data – the Americans don't even state the system performance.

More about the BMW iX: BMW iX xDrive50: Range and assistance systems put to the test-xdrive50 BMW iX: Start of series production at the Dingolfing plant

BMW iX xDrive50: Range and assistance systems put to the test-systems BMW iX in comparison with Audi e-tron, Mercedes EQC, Tesla Model Y

BMW iX xDrive50

engine 2 current-excited synchronous motors, 190 kW at the front, 230 kW at the rear

power 385 kW

Max. Torque 765 Nm

drive all wheel drive

Acceleration 0-100 km / h 4.6 sec.

Top speed 200 km / h

length 4,953 mm

broad 1,967 mm

height 1,696 mm

Trunk volume 500 – 1,750 liters (no frunk)

Empty weight 2,585 kg

Payload 560 kg

battery 105 kWh net

consumption 19.8-23.0 kWh / 100 km

Electric range 549-630 km (WLTP)

Charging port CCS2, up to 11 kW AC, up to 195 kW DC

Charging time <11 h with 11 kW AC, 35 min (10-80%) with 195 kW DC

Market launch November 2021

Base price 98,000 euros

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