2023 BMW iX M60 First Drive Review: Can i, X, and M Spell Success?

2023 BMW iX M60 First Drive Review: Can i, X, and M Spell Success?

05/25/2022

Can an electric vehicle be a “real BMW M car?” The company’s first try was the 536-hp i4 M50 Gran Coupe four-door hatch, which delivers blistering all-wheel-drive straight-line performance but couples it with a microdose of battery-mass-induced understeer. We described its desirability as falling between that of the regular M3 and its Competition stablemate and declared it “a legitimate electric M vehicle.” Might the same be true of BMW’s taller, heavier, second swing at an electric M, the 2023 BMW iX M60?

M’ing the iX—Powertrain

The i4 M50 shares its CLAR architecture (and basic styling) with the 4 Series Gran Coupe while the iX gets its very own carbon-fiber-intensive mixed-material monocoque-on-battery-skateboard architecture. Yet, surprisingly, these vehicles are built on the same assembly line and share their basic powertrain: a pair of industry-first brushed electromagnet-type AC synchronous motors. The base iX xDrive50 and the i4 M50 virtually share their front and rear motors, and now the 2023 BMW iX M60 retains essentially that same front motor (wiggling the specs slightly). But while the i4 derived its 60 percent M-power boost by simply adding a front motor, the basic iX starts with two motors, so the M team had to innovate to boost the new iX M60’s output.

Deriving more electric power from a motor means moving more electrons through it. So the M team stretched the rear motor’s rotor and stator by 0.8 inch to accommodate more copper to boost conductivity, and it doubled the amperage flowing through the stator by fitting a second inverter that could support another set of three electrical phases. Voila, 600 amps goes to 1,200 amps, and peak output for this motor jumps from 335 hp/295 lb-ft in the iX xDrive50 to 483 hp and 524 lb-ft in the 2023 BMW iX M60 (in Sport boost mode).

How Quick and How Fast Is the BMW iX M60?

Start up the 2023 BMW iX M60 in the default Personal mode, and you have 532 hp and 749 lb-ft of torque to work with. Engaging Sport mode cranks the horsepower up to 610. Launch mode then boosts torque by 62 lb-ft to 811 total, allowing this burly box to whir and whoosh its way to 60 mph in a claimed 3.6 seconds. That shaves a full 0.8 second off BMW’s claim for the iX xDrive50. The iX M60’s speed limiter also increases from 124 to 155 mph. Note: That’s with a single-ratio (8.77:1) transmission, which puts the motors right on their 15,400-rpm “redline” at top speed.

M Suspension Programming

Making the xDrive50’s air suspension and adaptive damping standard equipment means much of what differentiates the two variants is programming. The 2023 BMW iX M60 targets improved responsiveness by firming up the dampers more quickly when the steering wheel is turned to improve turn-in bite, or when encountering bumps and dips to control ride motions more tightly, for example. One crucial hardware revision: The anti-roll bars are stiffened by 10 percent in front, 20 percent in back to increase roll control in such a way as to improve front-end grip slightly.

Brakes and Tires

The brake hardware carries over (with Blue M-logo calipers), but the brake-by-wire programming is tailored to suit the M mission and modes. So while pedal feel doesn’t change much, the response rate delivers somewhat more bite in less travel. BMW iX M60 models only get the top two wheel/tire options from the xDrive50—two design options of 9.0 x 21-inch wheels wrapped in 255/50 rubber, with three optional 9.5 x 22-inch designs available (one exclusive to the M60) wearing 275/40s. These will exact some penalty on range, which BMW estimates at 280 miles (down from the xDrive 50’s 305 on 21s, and 324 on 20s).

Interior/Exterior Design

All 2023 BMW iX M60 models get bronze and black M and M60 badges and the xDrive 50’s optional Sport appearance package ($2,800 for the electrochromic panoramic roof, the hexagonal multifunction steering wheel, the curved display, and more). Inside, our test cars were loaded with glass controls and wood trim plus soft-close doors ($1,150), BMW i blue-accented seatbelts ($300), and a generally hip and futuristic vibe created by unique instrument graphics and seat-sew patterns that echo the angled lines of the M badge itself. The rear-seat environment is as posh as the front, with four A/C vents and four USB-C plugs (located in the front seat backs where they can power tablets grasped by accessory universal tablet mounts). Thigh support is excellent and welcome, given the higher floor.

How Does It Drive?

The 2023 BMW iX M60’s acceleration in Sport mode feels evenly matched with an X5 M, which we’ve clocked at 3.7 seconds to 60 mph. The electronic “soundscape” that accompanies this electric thrust heightens the sensation and sounds less cheesy than those in some other EVs (thank two-time Academy Award winner Hans Zimmer for that). But as in other EVs, you seem to hear roughly the same crescendo when you drop the hammer, whether accelerating from 30 to 50 mph, or 50 to 70, etc. Stay in it long enough, and it synthesizes sort of a shift to resume crescendo-ing from a different pitch—jarring in a vehicle we all know has one gear ratio.

Braking performance impresses with its total lack of any evident handoff between regenerative and friction braking, and BMW i’s adaptive regen feature might be the best we’ve experienced. Informed by sensor input, map data, etc., it intuitively coasts when coasting makes sense and decelerates when sharp curves, slower traffic, or an intersection looms.

The rear-wheel steering greatly improves maneuverability in tight quarters, but the hexagonal steering wheel never grew on us. Its thumb-rests seemed positioned too low, and on those occasions when you just want to let the wheel return to center, the corners feel weird passing through your hands. Our drive route offered precious few cornering opportunities, but the meaty 22-inch tires seemed to hang on with M-appropriate determination. The iX M60 floats a bit more over certain road undulations than seems brand appropriate, however, which serves to reinforce the subliminal suggestion you’re piloting a swift minivan that comes from viewing the low, flat front floor through the gap between the dash and the freestanding center console.

Is the iX M60 a Real M?

The 2023 BMW iX M60 driving experience is undoubtedly M-esque. The 610-hp/811-lb-ft rush of acceleration is pure M, and the cornering limits seem on brand. We also love BMW’s unique take on adaptive regenerative braking. But the iX M60 struggles to match the sound and other visceral thrills of a twin-turbo V-8 X5 M, and the nagging sensation that this is the world’s wildest electric minivan is hard to shake. Perhaps more than anything, that makes us reluctant to declare our full-throated M-dorsement—at least until we get one back in our hands for a more thorough drive and some instrumented testing.

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