2023 BMW iX M60 Is about EV Theater

·5 min read
Photo credit: BMW

Compared to a conventional internal-combustion vehicle, an EV's fewer moving parts, lack of exhaust ruckus, and firewall of computerized insulation limit its avenues for excitement. Standing out requires bold effort, especially for legacy automakers. BMW hasn't been shy in embracing that tack, asserting its funky side first with the diminutive i3 hatchback and recently with the iX mid-size luxury SUV. Now the brand's M performance outfit has gotten hold of the iX to create the new 2023 M60 model, though it serves mostly to buff the model's image with a $106,095 shine.

The iX M60 is not the first electric BWM to get an M variant. (The relatively conventional i4 M50 sedan took that honor.) The iX M60 is not a fully vetted M model in the vein of, say, the M3 or the similarly sized X5 M. It's a half-step above the xDrive50 version, bringing more power, a firmer chassis setup, and a higher sticker price. Visual differences are minimal, amounting to darkened M60 badges on its tail, blue M-branded brake calipers, and specific wheel designs. But the iX's angular surface treatment and unmistakable grille already make it a peacock, so that's probably for the best. On the street, the M60 bristles with technology and status, looking and feeling as expensive as it does futuristic.

Photo credit: BMW

The M60's main draw will be its greater score of electrons, which are converted to a default of 532 horsepower and 749 pound-feet of torque—increases of 16 horses and a big 185 pound-feet over the xDrive50 model. Toggle to Sport mode and the pony count jumps to 610, with a launch-control function temporarily boosting torque to 811 pound-feet. We estimate the M60 should cut 0.7 second from the xDrive50's 4.0-second 60-mph time. The higher claimed top speed of 155 mph when fitted with optional summer tires (or 130 mph on the standard all-seasons) is less of a factor in markets lacking unrestricted autobahns.

Like the xDrive50, the all-wheel-drive M60 employs BMW's current-excited AC motors devoid of rare-earth permanent magnets. While both models feature a similar front-axle motor, the M60's power bump comes from a stronger rear drive unit plus a more powerful inverter. The xDrive50's lithium-ion battery (105.2-kWh usable capacity) carries over, as does its 11.0-kW onboard charger. As a result, EPA range estimates fall from the xDrive50's high of 324 miles to a max of 288 miles for the M60 on its standard 21-inch wheels; go for the 22s like on the cars we drove, and it drops to 274 miles. That said, the xDrive50 returned the second-best range we've recorded for an EV on our 75-mph highway test, going 290 miles, highlighting the efficiency of BMW's EV engineering. Hooked to a DC fast-charger, the company says the M60 can draw power at up to 195 kW and go from a 10 to 80 percent charge in 35 minutes.

Photo credit: BMW

Hit the road in the M60 and it's tricky to tell if onlookers view it with approval, disgust, or just plain curiosity (we'd wager a mix of all three.) But it is undoubtedly quick and pulls hard well into triple digits. Still, the xDrive50 model's already near-immediate response to accelerator prods make it plenty rapid. Gauging the more powerful M60's wallop is a bit like gauging two similar kicks to the backside. To help further distinguish the M60, BMW partnered with acclaimed film score composer Hans Zimmer on a model-specific soundtrack that's tied to the car's Sport mode or selectable via its customizable setup. Depending on your views, such sound profiles are either welcomingly invigorating or annoyingly gimmicky. But we did find the M60's synthesized whirring to be effective at conjuring visions of speeder bikes zipping through the Star Wars universe. Additional theatrical arrangements—Expressive and Relax modes—will come via over-the-air updates.

Far more impressive is the iX's adaptive regenerative braking mode, which uses the car's sensors, cameras, and GPS data to choose the best means for conserving and recouping energy, depending on the situation. Lift off the right pedal on the highway and the M60 will effortlessly coast with minimal deceleration, yet it smartly reverts to one-pedal operation when traffic snarls to a stop in city centers. Combined with the iX's seriously quiet cabin, augmented reality navigation, and the improved usability of BMW's expansive curved-dash infotainment display, the M60 is a comfortable—and comforting—way to cover miles.

Photo credit: BMW

If those miles turn twisty, the M60 also features slightly stiffer front and rear anti-roll bars compared to the xDrive50 model, providing it with marginally better body control at a small expense to ride comfort, at least on the 22-inch wheels. But that's the extent of the handling updates, as the M60's standard air springs and rear-wheel-steering system can be optioned on the xDrive50 with the $1600 Dynamic Handling package (both models feature standard adaptive dampers). Though the iX's variable-ratio steering remains agreeably direct, if somewhat muted in conversation, the biggest helpers to the M60's cornering ability are its optional summer rubber and its inherently low center of gravity brought by the low-mounted battery.

The similarities between the M60 and the xDrive50, together with the $21,900 separating their base prices, ultimately give us pause about this new iX model. True, the top-of-the-line version packs a greater punch, a few extra tricks, and more standard equipment. But it drives awfully similarly to the xDrive50, which has more range and can be optioned to near parity (the loaded iX xDrive50 we tested cost $104,020). As much as we appreciate more speed, we wish the iX's M badge added more to the M60's experience.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Car and Driver

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