2023 BMW iX M60 Is About EV Theater

2023 BMW iX M60 Is About EV Theater

Compared to a conventional internal combustion vehicle, an EV’s fewer moving parts, no exhaust emissions and firewall of automated isolation limit the possibilities for excitement. Standing out takes bold effort, especially for older automakers. BMW has not been shy about embracing that tack, first showing its funky side with the small i3 hatchback and most recently with the iX mid-sized luxury SUV. Now the brand’s M performance outfit has gotten their hands on the iX to create the new 2023 M60 model, although it mainly serves to enhance the model’s image with a gloss of $106,095.

The iX M60 is not the first electric BMW to get an M variant. (The relatively conventional i4 M50 sedan got that honor.) The iX M60 isn’t a fully vetted M model along the lines of, say, the M3 or the similarly sized X5 M. It’s half a step above the xDrive50 version, allowing for more power, a firmer chassis configuration and a higher sticker price. Visual differences are minimal, representing dark M60 badging on the 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 brims with technology and status, looking and feeling as expensive as it is futuristic.

The main draw of the M60 will be its increased electron count, which converts to a standard 532 horsepower and 749 pound-feet of torque — 16 horsepower increase and a big 185 pound-feet over the xDrive50 model. Shift to Sport mode and the ponies count jumps to 610, with a launch control feature that temporarily boosts torque to 811 pound-feet. We estimate that the M60 should cut 0.7 seconds off the xDrive50’s 4.0-second 60 mph time. The higher claimed top speed of 255 mph when fitted with optional summer tires (or 130 mph on the standard all-seasons) is less of a factor in markets without unrestricted autobahns.

Like the xDrive50, the four-wheel drive M60 uses BMW’s current AC motors without rare-earth permanent magnets. While both models have a similar front-axle motor, the M60’s power bump comes from a stronger rear drive unit plus a more powerful converter. The xDrive50’s lithium-ion battery (105.2 kWh usable capacity) remains, as does the 11.0 kW built-in charger. As a result, estimates of the EPA range drop from the xDrive50’s high of 324 miles to a maximum of 288 miles for the M60 on its standard 21-inch wheels; go for the 22’s like on the cars we drove, and it drops to 274 miles. That said, the xDrive50 delivered the second-best range we’ve recorded for an EV on our 120kph highway test, covering 290 miles, highlighting the efficiency of BMW’s EV engineering. The company says the M60, connected to a DC fast charger, can draw up to 195 kW and go from 10 to 80 percent in 35 minutes.

Hit the road in the M60 and it’s hard to tell if onlookers are looking at it with approval, disgust or just curiosity (we’re betting on a combination of all three.) But it’s definitely fast and pulls hard well into the triple digits . Still, the xDrive50 model’s already almost instant response to the accelerator makes it fast enough. Measuring the more powerful M60’s thump is a bit like measuring two similar kicks in the back. To further differentiate the M60, BMW collaborated with acclaimed film score composer Hans Zimmer on a model-specific soundtrack that is linked to the car’s Sport mode or can be selected via the customizable setup. Depending on your opinion, such sound profiles are invitingly invigorating or annoyingly gimmicky. But we did find that the M60’s synthesized hum was effective at conjuring up visions of speeder bikes going through the Star Wars universe. Additional theatrical arrangements – Expressive and Relax modes – are coming via wireless updates.

Much more impressive is the iX’s adaptive regenerative braking mode, which uses the car’s sensors, cameras and GPS data to choose the best way to conserve and recover energy depending on the situation. Release the right pedal on the motorway and the M60 will coast effortlessly with minimal lag, but it cleverly switches back to single-pedal control when traffic in city centers comes to a standstill. Combined with the iX’s ultra-quiet cabin, augmented reality navigation and the enhanced usability of BMW’s comprehensive infotainment display with curved dashboard, the M60 is a comfortable and reassuring way to cover the miles.

When those miles get twisty, the M60 also has slightly stiffer front and rear anti-roll bars compared to the xDrive50 model, giving it marginally better body control at a small cost for ride comfort, at least on the 22-inch wheels. But that’s the extent of the handling updates, as the standard M60 air springs and rear-wheel steering on the xDrive50 can become optional with the $1600 Dynamic Handling package (both models have adaptive dampers as standard). While the iX’s variable-ratio steering remains pleasantly direct, if somewhat muffled in conversation, the biggest helpers to the M60’s cornering ability are the optional summer rubber and inherently low center of gravity, caused by the low-mount battery.

The similarities between the M60 and the xDrive50, along with the $21,900 separating their base prices, ultimately give us pause on this new iX model. Granted, the top-end has more punch, a few extra tricks and more standard equipment. But it rides the same as the xDrive50, which has more range and can be dialed down to near parity (the loaded iX xDrive50 we tested costs $104,020). As much as we appreciate more speed, we wish the iX’s M badge would add more to the M60’s experience.

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