Three decades ago, SUVs were, without exception, slow, utilitarian chariots, and the same applied to EVs until the last decade. Both these stereotypes have been flung out the window by BMW’s all-new iX M60 – a lofty battery-powered wagon that scorches from 0 to 100 kilometres per hour in 3.8 seconds, and hits 250kph flat out.
The National test-drove the iX M60 at its international launch in Berlin, but it doesn’t land in the UAE until later this year, priced from Dh635,000 (virtually on a par with the existing petrol-powered X5M Competition).
Apart from being BMW’s fastest and most powerful EV to date, the newcomer also holds the status of being the brand’s electrified SUV flagship, at least until the radical XM launches next year.
Designed from the outset as an EV, the mould-breaking iX M60 mates a 105kWh battery pack with a pair of electric motors that drive the front and rear axles respectively. Given the M60’s sporty aspirations, it’s been set up to be as dynamic as possible for a hulking, luxury-lined EV, with the rear electric motor thumping out 489hp and the front motor chipping in with 258hp.
The total system outputs are a titanic 619hp and 1,015Nm, and drive is sent to the wheels via a single-speed transmission (as is the norm for EVs).
The iX M60 is a lardy beast at 2,659 kilograms, with the battery pack alone contributing about 500kg of this bulk. On the plus side, the battery is housed beneath the passenger cell, so the centre of gravity is kept low.
It only takes a solitary prod of the throttle to ascertain that the M60 is mind-numbingly fast, so much so that the sunglasses perched on top of this driver’s head sailed into the back seat the first time my co-driver stamped on the “gas” during his stint.
Given the newbie’s "M" badging, one would expect the M60 to be more than a straight-line monster, and it is. Riding on four-wheel air suspension, it can be hustled around with greater vigour than might seem possible for a high (it’s 1,696 millimetres tall), bulky SUV, although it’s a little short on the tactility and emotion you’d get in a conventionally powered M model. I also found the hexagonal steering wheel to be a triumph of (dubious) form over function.
The oddball steering wheel isn’t the only piece of gimmickry ― the iX M60 also comes with a chintzy crystal iDrive twist dial, gear selector switch and seat adjustment buttons. These do an excellent job of dazzling the driver when the sun happens to be at a particular angle.
It doesn’t end there.
Because there is no combustion engine to generate noise, you can substitute for this via one of the synthesised soundtracks ― the handiwork of Academy Award-winning music director Hans Zimmer ― pumped out by the premium Bowers & Wilkins audio system. It’s an interesting novelty, but I preferred switching off the synthesised cacophony.
BMW has always favoured minimalistic cabin layouts, and that’s especially the case here. A large rectangular screen with a separate infotainment element dominates the dash, while rear-seat occupants get their own. huge, 31-inch theatre screen.
The iX has an expansive 3,000mm wheelbase (thanks to not having an engine up front), and the pay-off from this is that there’s acres of leg and headroom in the rear.
Aesthetics is always a highly subjective area, so you can make up your own mind as to how you feel about the iX M60’s unorthodox exterior styling. To my eye, it’s no classical beauty, but I don’t loathe it either. At least it stands apart from the horde.
It’s likely the iX M60 will be greeted by a receptive audience in EV-friendly markets such as Europe and China, and a steadily growing recharging network in the UAE suggests it may snare its fair share of buyers locally.
The battery-powered BeeEm’s immense straight-line grunt is intoxicating, but the rest of the package also gels well as a luxurious, ultra-refined SUV.