BMW has been ferrying automotive journalists from all over the world to Bavaria to test drive its new iX battery electric SUV. Fortune contributor Hannah Elliott was part of the press tour and has written about her experience in an article with this rather inauspicious title: “BMW’s new electric SUV is ugly and dull—but looks can be deceiving.” That is damning with faint praise, as my old Irish grandmother would say.
She follows that up with this assessment: “It’s not exciting to drive, like a sports car. It lacks the styling cues of even BMW’s X6M… But it does offer a well-built, thoughtfully appointed cabin and quick handling for its spacious size. The iX is like a just-plain-decent person you might try dating because, why not? It offers a competent way of navigating daily life for BMW-brand faithful who find themselves, against all odds, curious about getting an electric vehicle.”
Let me begin by saying my lust for BMWs began with the 2002 Tii that first appeared at the 1973 Frankfurt auto show. I fell for the company’s “The Ultimate Driving Machine” marketing slogan hook, line, and sinker. I watched the movie The Last Run over and over just to see and hear that gorgeous 1956 BMW 503 Cabriolet skimming along the back roads of Portugal. Suffice to say, I have always been a fan of the cars from Bavaria. So it is with a heavy heart that I watch the new cars from BMW appear on the scene.
I have been scathing in my disdain for the ginormous twin nostril grille featured on the iX, and I am not alone. A thread about the car at reddit has gotten 179 comments, most of them from people who detest the look of the new car. Only about 10% of those comments are from people who think driving a car that looks like Bucky Beaver is a good thing. The thread contains some Photoshopped pictures of what the car might look like with more traditional front end styling. Check it out.
Elliott writes, “I found that — despite its looks — the iX is a competent, practical crossover-style EV that fully delivers BMW’s excellent craftsmanship and quality.” She disliked the hexagonal shaped steering wheel and found the rear of the car looks a lot like a minivan. Other dislikes included the lack of an actual key. Entrance to the car is managed via a smartphone app. What happens if the phone gets lost or runs out of battery power? “That would be a problem,” the cheerful factory rep admitted.
Elliott liked that the dashboard retains some knobs and switches rather than relegating all the controls to a space on the touchscreen, a not so subtle dig at Tesla. She says the car accelerates with authority and steers like any other heavy vehicle with high ground clearance. She appreciated that the interior cossets the driver and passengers in supreme comfort befitting of BMW’s current image as a German luxury carmaker for wealthy sybarites.
Ultimate driving machine? Hardly. Where once the company made performance cars that stirred the soul, now it makes 4-wheeled BarcaLoungers that anesthetize the senses rather than delivering a sense of exhilaration when behind the wheel.
Some people will pay any price (just under $85,000 in the US) and bear any burden, just so long as that blue and white roundel is on the hood of their car when they park at the country club. But is that enough to keep the BMW bloodline intact? “We’ll see,” said the Zen master.