BMW iX M60 will arrive in Australia this year from $223k, and our first drive has us wondering if it is M enough.
The Telsa Model S driver noticed it immediately. The black Tesla propped as soon as it rounded the corner of the forecourt where a lone BMW iX M60 sat in pride of place next to the entrance to Lake Como’s Hilton. The Tesla was parked quickly – illegally – and the driver circled and circled the BMW. By his second tour, his phone was out and images were being snapped. By his third tour, he was on a FaceTime call giving whoever was on the other end a detailed run down of the iX M60’s design. By my count, he walked around it five times.
This encounter occurred several days after we’d sampled the iX M60 on the model’s international launch in Berlin. The event left from the Berlin airport hotel and the array of red or grey iX M60s that awaited the world’s motoring media were first swamped by commuters. It’s safe to say, then, that the bold – polarising – design of the iX M60 gathers attention. To be fair to its boldness, not a single passer-by made a negative comment about the iX M60, so perhaps it’s not as polarising as car enthusiasts think.
Set to arrive in Australia shortly (early in the second half of the year is the current guide), the $222,900 iX M60 sits at the top of the four-variant iX range. Both the iX xDrive40 ($135,900) and xDrive40 Sport ($141,900) use a 77kWh lithium-ion battery and deliver 240kW, 630Nm and a 0-100km/h time of 6.1 seconds. According to the ADR 81/02 standard, both models boast a range of 420km. The xDrive50 Sport ($169,900) uses a 111.5kWh battery, delivering 385kW, 765Nm, a 4.6-second 0-100km/h dash and an ADR 81/02 range of 620km.
The new iX M60 uses the same 111.5kWh battery but boasts a maximum of 455kW and 1100Nm – more on this in a tick. It’s also capable of a 0-100km/h sprint of just 3.8 seconds and, using the WLTP testing regime, has a maximum range of 566km. As does the xDrive50 Sport, the new M60 supports 200kW DC charging, which can replenish the battery from 10-80 percent in 35 minutes. Ten minutes of 200kW DC charging gives you a 150km top up. A 50kW DC charger takes nine minutes short of two hours for a 0-80 percent charge. Overnight charging on BMW’s 11kW AC three-phase i Wallbox Plus takes 10 hours 45 minutes from 0-100 percent.
The iX M60 uses an electric motor on each axle to deliver all-wheel-drive thrust and the motors don’t use permanently excited magnets in order to minimise the use of rare earth materials. Instead, the magnets are excited by incredibly precise and fast application of electric current. Further, BMW secures the required cobalt and lithium from controlled sources within Australia and Morocco.
The rear motor of the M60 debuts an M-specific design that features a double inverter and six-phase operation, resulting in the increased outputs and performance over the xDrive50 Sport. In normal mode (Personal), the motors combine to deliver 397kW and 1015Nm, which increases to 455kW/1015Nm in Sport and the full 455kW, 1100Nm for around 10 seconds in Launch mode.
The drive programme’s autobahn section was moderately trafficked but there was enough clear running to allow a quick squirt to the M60’s electronically limited top speed of 250km/h – 50km/h higher than that of the xDrive50. As with all high-power EVs, the iX M60 delivers neck-snapping acceleration. In fact, at one point during the early phase of the drive, I accelerated firmly (but certainly not with 100 percent ‘throttle’ opening) and both mine and my colleague’s heads thumped into the head rests.
If you wish, the vivid acceleration can be accompanied by a dramatic soundscape developed in collaboration with Academy Award winning composer, Hans Zimmer and BMW Group Creative Director Sound, Renzo Vitale. Named BMW IconicSounds, the system offers markedly different soundtracks in Personal (softer, more soothing) and Sport (deeper) modes, though regardless of mode, the sound increases in a linear manner with the position of the accelerator pedal, adding to the sense of acceleration and giving an aural indication of road speed.
As with the rear motor of the iX M60, the new car’s suspension features M-specific changes over the xDrive 50 Sport. The front axle features double wishbones, while the rear uses a five-link arrangement, with air springs at both ends. The air suspension can adjust the ride height at each corner of the car to compensate for uneven loading in the vehicle and is constantly adjusting damping force relative to longitudinal and lateral loads. In practise, the M60 does sit quite flat during cornering but doesn’t deliver an overly sporting feel either through the loads that are achieved or through feedback from the steering. The all-wheel-steering system (Integral Active Steering in BMW speak) does bring a level of agility to the iX M60 that its size and weight (circa 2400kg) suggest would be lacking. In low-speed operation, the front and rear wheels turn in opposite directions to improve agility, while at higher speeds they turn in the same direction to aid stability (in both cases by up to three degrees).
Because the delivery of power and torque is truly instantaneous, the M60, like many electric vehicles, tends to encourage you to drive relatively briskly. The drive route of the launch never tackled anything too demanding – primarily urban roads, sweeping semi-rural roads and the aforementioned autobahn – so it’s difficult to pin down a complete dynamic assessment. That said, it’s clear that the dynamic gains over the xDrive50 Sport variant are incremental rather than revolutionary.
Away from trying to engage with BMW’s newest EV on an M level, the iX M60 is clearly a fine SUV that offers ease of use, technology in the right spots and a sense of luxury to rival a traditional high-end limousine, such as BMW’s own 7 Series. The second day of the drive programme consisted of a tour of Berlin’s city sites that turned into a two-hour crawl thanks to road closures due to a NATO meeting. While it was boring to be sat in stationary or barely moving traffic, the M60 soothed away what could have been a very frustrating situation. Again, it’s hard to get an accurate gauge on the iX M60’s ride quality as German roads tend to be smoother than Australian race tracks, but what broken tarmac we happened across was smothered by the sophisticated suspension and isolated from the cabin and its occupants. And this despite the standard 22-inch wheels.
As you might expect for a $222,900 starting price, the iX M60’s standard equipment level is generous, extending to a Bowers and Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound System, heated front seats, BMW Live Cockpit with OS8, panoramic glass roof, BMW Laserlight, soft-close doors, Driving Assistant Professional and Parking Assistant Professional. A five-year unlimited subscription to the Chargefox network is also included. For $3500, the Comfort Package adds a heated steering wheel, front seat ventilation, and seat heating for the rear passengers (along with heating for the front and rear armrests and centre console).
As EV ranges expand, an M-badged variant is an obvious addition to sit at the top of each line up, and the iX range is no different. However, there appears to be some mixed messaging from within BMW itself as to whether the M60 is a true M model or something akin to an M Performance variant. The launch literature is unequivocal that this is a new chapter in the M Division (which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year) but M CEO, Frank van Meel was equally adamant that an electric M car was still some time away, citing that a true M car must carry motorsport DNA. My feeling is that it’s unfair to lump the expectations of a full-fat M badge on the M60, especially in a month that has also given us the M4 CSL. Instead, if you judge the new car as a step towards the future of a genuine M EV and as a current model in the style of the M Performance portfolio, the iX M60 makes plenty of sense.