M-lite makeover gives flagship electric SUV, now driven in the UK, outrageous performance
If you ever thought that BMW’s previous, all-electric iX SUV range-topper – the BMW iX xDrive50 – was somehow under-endowed on the performance front, fear not, because the iX M60 has now arrived in the UK with even more power and commensurate revisions to an already competent chassis – along with a near-£9000 price premium.
With 611bhp and 749lb ft of torque from its dual-electric motor powertrain (adding 95bhp and 185lb ft to the xDrive50’s outputs), the M60 becomes not only the most powerful electric BMW, but the fastest-accelerating one, too. An uprated 355bhp motor driving its rear wheels, with additional cooling, plus a six-phase inverter replacing the xDrive50’s three-phase unit have been key to the M60’s performance uplift. The new model’s official range of up to 349 miles is still competitive but drops 31 miles compared with the xDrive50’s.
Since the M60 is now flirting with being in supercar-performance territory (0-62mph in 3.8sec, versus 4.6sec for the xDrive50), its suspension uses a thicker rear anti-roll bar, combined with 20% higher damper rates, plus revisions to both its air springs and steering. Then again, weighing a shade under 2.6 tonnes, it really needs all the help it can muster.
You might argue that the same goes for the M60’s design, but to these eyes, it does a commendable job of disguising its not inconsiderable 4953mm length and 2240mm width. Exterior changes versus the xDrive50 are restricted to ‘M’ badges on the rear and sides of the body, and the option of 22in M Aerodynamic bi-colour alloy wheels.
We’ve already tested the xDrive50 M Sport and, with only minor changes to its outward and inward appearance, much of what we noted still applies to the M60. Through doors with frameless windows, you access a light and spacious cabin, which feels still roomier thanks to the raised central console, leaving an open, flat-floored channel between the driver and front passenger. You sit relatively high, even with the driver’s seat adjusted to its lowest position, but with a low scuttle, visibility is excellent to the front and sides, although not so great to the rear.
When we drove the M60 in May on particularly forgiving German roads, we were impressed by its ride and composure. Surprisingly, on gnarled and pitted UK roads, with our test car riding on the optional 22in rims, the M60 still makes a strong case for itself, ironing out all but the worst imperfections, even at low speeds. That it does so with hardly a murmur from the suspension, makes for a remarkably refined and relaxed driving companion. The same is true at motorway speeds, when wind noise is exceptionally well supressed.
What isn’t, though, is the 2.6-tonne M60’s ability to gather pace. When you bury the accelerator pedal at 30mph, thrust is abrupt and violent, and there’s no let-up as speeds increase, either. All the time, it’s accompanied by a manic, Hans Zimmer-created wail, which I guess is the new EV equivalent to a Ferrari’s V12 at full chat. But setting aside full-bore accelleration, the M60’s performance delivery is as progressive and benign as you want it to be, and soon you become accustomed to how absurdly easy/safe it makes overtaking and joining motorways from slip roads.
The M60’s chassis dynamics defy perceptions of what you’d expect from a 2.6-tonne SUV. Attacking fast, twisty roads in the dry, you’ll need to be driving at wildly illegal speeds before you start to breech its grip levels, even when accelerating hard through bends. And this is combined with a level of body control that few combustion-engined SUVs (the Porsche Cayenne S being perhaps one exception), with their weight positioned higher, could compete with.
But subjectively, the M60 offers a rather one-dimensional driving experience. The steering – while linear, nicely weighted and precise enough through its unusual ‘polygonal’ wheel – is largely mute when it comes to driver engagement. And there’s little or no adjustability in the chassis for those keen to explore something more than just the thrill of guiding such a large vehicle at sub-sonic speeds down a favourite road.
There’s no doubting what BMW has achieved with the iX M60. For an over-600bhp, 2.6-tonne SUV imbued with such shattering performance to be this user-friendly, and possess all the attributes one would expect in this class in terms of material quality, rolling refinement and ride suppleness, is no mean feat. But how usable the incremental performance gain over the almost as fast and cheaper xDrive50 would be on public roads is open to debate.